In recent months, the Gardner Historical Museum has featured an exhibit about the first women who blazed the trail through many walks of life, ranging from medicine, sports, government, women’s rights and education.
In celebration of Women’s History Month, the exhibit has primarily focused on local women, but it also includes other Kansas women, who made their mark – from aviator Amelia Earhart and suffragists Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony.
The timeline of women’s trailblazing history in the area begins during the Civil War with the first female local doctor from Spring Hill, Celia Ann Dayton.
Dayton and her son, Hiram, traveled to Kansas in 1859 after she practiced medicine in New York, Michigan and Vermont.
Kansas was still a territory, and Spring Hill was only 2 years old. Kansas became a state in 1861 and then became involved in the Civil War as a “Free State.” Dayton’s son Hiram was a Civil War scout in the 7th Kansas Calvary and was killed in 1862 after being discovered as a Union Spy. He is buried in the Spring Hill Cemetery.
Dayton divorced her husband, which was unheard of at the time. She never remarried and was also buried in the Spring Hill Cemetery next to her son since her death at the age of 80.
Celia Dayton Park and Dayton Creek also honor her memory.
Other women featured in the display are Elizabeth E. Punches Fraser, the first woman bus driver for the Gardner School District, Phyllis Thomen, the first female mayor of Gardner from 19811989, Mary F. Beets, first woman publisher of the first Gardner newspaper, and Susan Shelby Magoffin, one of the first women to travel the Santa Fe Trail.
The Gardner Historical Museum will be celebrating its 20th anniversary in September. They were listed on the National Historic Santa Fe Trail in 2005 and the Kansas State Register of Historic Buildings in 2007.
The museum’s goal is to preserve the history of Gardner and the surrounding area, while striving to increase awareness of the historical significance of the area and its people.