Marking Time highlights one of the more than 2,500 markers that have been installed throughout the state since 1914 as part of the Pennsylvania Historical Marker Program, operated by PHMC's State Historic Preservation Office.

Anna Howard Shaw was an early activist and leader of the women’s suffrage and temperance movements. From the 1880s until the time of her death in 1919, she campaigned across America at the grassroots level for these causes and was noted for her compelling lectures.

Born in England in 1847, Shaw moved with her family to America in 1851. The family first settled in Massachusetts until 1859 and then moved to Michigan, where Anna spent her teenage years in the largely unsettled wilderness. Although she received little education in Michigan, she became self-taught by reading all the books she could get her hands on. She became a teacher at a frontier schoolhouse in her teens.

After the Civil War, Anna moved in with a married sister in Big Rapids, attended high school, and became involved in the Methodist Church. At age 24, she decided to prepare to enter the ministry. After attending Albion College in Michigan for two years, she transferred to Boston University Theological School, completing her degree in 1878 and serving as a pastor for several years. She was one of the first ordained Methodist woman ministers in America.

Anna Howard Shaw in 1914.

Anna Howard Shaw in 1914.
Library of Congress

Shaw’s thirst for knowledge led her to pursue and receive a medical degree at Boston University in 1886, but she never practiced medicine. She had met Susan B. Anthony (1820–1906), with whom she began a lifelong friendship, and became involved in the temperance and women’s suffrage movements.

Shaw was soon hired to work with the Women’s Christian Temperance Union on the national level for several years. In 1890 she was appointed national lecturer for the National American Woman Suffrage Association and served as the organization’s president for more than a decade.

During World War I, Shaw became involved in the home front war effort. In 1916 Congress established the Council of National Defense, and the following year she became chair of its Women’s Committee, which coordinated all women’s societies and communicated governmental orders regarding defense activities to the nation’s women. Following the war, Shaw received a Distinguished Service Medal for her work with the Women’s Committee, becoming the first woman to be honored with this award. In 1919 she was an advocate for the League of Nations covenant.

Shaw had become a resident of Pennsylvania in 1908 when she purchased a property in Moylan, Delaware County, where she built a house. She continued her activities at this home until 1919, when she died there of pneumonia just prior to the passing of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that gave voting rights to women.

Shaw’s memory is honored at the Anna Howard Shaw Women’s Center at Albion College and the Anna Howard Shaw Center at Boston University School of Theology. In 2000 she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. On May 17, 2014, the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission installed and dedicated the Pennsylvania Historical Marker for Anna Howard Shaw in Media, Delaware County.


Karen Galle is on the staff of PHMC’s State Historic Preservation Office and has been the coordinator of the Pennsylvania Historical Marker Program since 2005.