This Women’s History Month, join us in celebrating the extraordinary contributions of Weeksville’s pioneering women. From educators and activists to community leaders, their stories illuminate the resilience and strength that have shaped our community for generations, and generations to come.

Joan Maynard

Joan Maynard, an artist and educator, spearheaded the preservation of the Hunterfly Houses, rallying support from P.S. 243 schoolchildren, community activists, educators, and historians. Her leadership as the longtime executive director of the Society for the Preservation of Weeksville and Bedford-Stuyvesant History ensured the enduring legacy of Weeksville for generations to come.

Photo Credit: Weeksville Heritage Center

Photo Credit: Ellen Holly
Sarah Smith Tompkins Garnet

Sarah Smith Tompkins Garnet, a pioneer in education and civil rights, broke barriers as the first African American woman public school principal and founder of the Equal Suffrage League. Born in Weeksville, her commitment to suffrage and leadership in education left an indelible mark on history, inspiring generations to come.

Dr. Susan Smith McKinney Steward

Dr. Susan Smith McKinney Steward, the sister of Sarah Smith Tompkins Garnet, shattered barriers as one of the first African American female doctors in the nation. Valedictorian of her class and a pioneer in medicine, she established the Brooklyn Women’s Homeopathic Hospital and Dispensary in 1881, leaving an enduring legacy of healthcare accessibility and excellence.

Photo Credit: Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Photographs and Prints Division, The New York Public Library

Photo Credit: Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Photographs and Prints Division, The New York Public Library

Sarah A. Tillman

Sarah A. Tillman spearheaded the establishment of the Howard Colored Orphan Asylum, the first black-run orphanage in New York City, relocating it to Weeksville in the mid-1860s. Under her leadership, the orphanage thrived with an entirely African American staff and board, supported by a robust network of community volunteers who ensured its sustainability through initiatives like the fall sewing circle, uniting women from across Brooklyn in a shared mission of care and support.

Maritcha Lyons

Maritcha Lyons, a dedicated civil and women’s rights activist, served as a longtime assistant principal at P.S. 83 in Weeksville, where she pioneered integration in education and supervised student teachers, shaping the next generation of educators. Lyons’ national renown stemmed from her tireless advocacy for African American and women’s rights, rooted in her family’s history of aiding fugitive slaves from her childhood home, a center of Underground Railroad activity.

Photo Credit: Harry A. Williamson Photograph Collection

Photo Credit: Percy F Moore Collection

The “Unnamed” Women of Weeksville

It would be remiss of us not to highlight the innumerable “unnamed” women of Weeksville whose contributions were fundamental to uplifting the Weeksville community. The women of Weeksville actively engaged in political and community activities, advocating for social causes and rallying support for vital institutions like the Zion Home for the Colored Aged, all while managing households. They prioritized education, seeking out academic opportunities to enhance their knowledge and skills. Though their names may not be recorded, their impact is felt, and continues to shape the legacy of Weeksville to this day.