March is Women’s History Month: Take a walk in Tucson’s downtown

A Tucson Walking Tour in Women’s History, presented by the Arizona Women’s Heritage Trail, draws from the significant involvement of Jewish women in the city’s history. Take the former residence of Theresa Marx Ferrin at the corner of Meyer and Cushing Streets. Ferrin and her family lived in the back of their store, which was located on the corner. She became known as the “angel of Tucson” through her work as a practical nurse and herbalist. Ferrin assisted Dr. John Handy, Tucson’s only physician at the end of the 19th century, and also cared for patients independently.

Ferrin belonged to the Jewish Ladies Benevolent Society, which spearheaded the fundraising drive for the first Reform synagogue in Arizona, Temple Emanu-El, located on Stone Avenue from 1910 to 1949. The site at 564 S. Stone Ave. has housed the Jewish History Museum since 2008.

Walkers can take a slight detour from the tour to visit the museum.

“Theresa was the mover and shaker of the day,” says Eileen Warshaw, executive director of the Jewish History Museum. “She was a Renaissance woman who came here at the end of the 19th century. There was no organized Jewish religious practice at the time.”

Another important Jewish woman of her era was Eva Mansfeld, who “in the early 20th century picked up where Ferrin left off with the building” of Temple Emanu-El, says Warshaw. “On exhibit now is one of the dresses Mansfeld might have worn to shul.”

At the museum, “we like to say that Jewish men opened the West. Jewish women civilized the West, especially in Tucson,” she says.

Other walking tour sites that helped to “civilize” Tucson include the Temple of Music and Art founded by Madeline Dreyfus Heineman Berger, El Teatro Carmen theatre and El Presidio. The trail has two optional routes, a short walk that includes eight sites and a longer walk with 12 sites. For more information, visit www.women sheritagetrail.org. The Women’s Foundation of Southern Arizona funded this community outreach project.