In the 1880s and 1890s, a number of prominent cliff
dwellings in southwest Colorado were partially
excavated, and many artifacts were removed from
the area. The removal of those artifacts angered the
public and inspired the first efforts to protect Mesa
At the time several prominent women, including Lucy
Peabody and Virginia McClurg, engaged in a
continuous campaign to inform the American public
and members of Congress about the need to preserve
the cliff dwellings and protect the rich cultural
resources of Mesa Verde, McClurg even enlisted the
aid of the Federation of Women's Clubs and
established the Colorado Cliff Dwellings Association
to further the cause.
Due in large part to their efforts on June 8, 1906,
President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Antiquities
Act. Their work culminated on June 29, 1906 in the
subsequent signing of the bill that created Mesa
Verde National Park.
Mary Tileston Hemenway financially supported the
first archeological research in the southwest. In
1907 Edgar L. Hewett, then an archealogist for the
Archeological Institute of America, proposed naming
this Soda Canyon cliff dwelling in her honor. Although
Mary Hemenway never visited Mesa Verde, this site
memorializes her contribution to our understanding
of the Ancestral Puebloans.
Mary Tileston Hemenway (1820-1894)
was a Massachusetts socialite who
supported a number of educational and
historical projects after the Civil War.
She promoted industrial-vocational
schools and opened the first kitchen in
a public school to ensure children were
well-fed. Hemenway was keenly interested
in American history and provided funds
to support the research of the United States
Bureau of Ethnology under Frank H. Cushing
and later Dr. Jesse W. Fowkes.
-Photo CIW38-5-517 courtesy of the President & fellows
of Harvard College, Peabody Museum, Harvard University
Virginia McClurg (1857- to 1931). McClurge enlisted
the aid of the Federation of Women's Clubs, with a
national membership of over 250,000 women, to support
the establishment of Mesa Verde National Park.
-Photo courtesy of National Park Service