Wonderful Women of Norwood

In celebration of Norwood’s 150th Anniversary, the Norwood Historical Society would like to pay homage to the “wonderful women “ of our town’s history.  These women contributed to the building and formation of Norwood in less visible ways than those of their male counterparts; but their contributions were invaluable.  They are the “quiet heroes” of our town.

We will be celebrating these figures of our town’s history throughout the sesquicentennial year, adding to this page each month.

Anna Smith Day

Anna Day was born in 1836 in South Dedham to Lyman Smith and Melinda (Guild) Smith.  She was educated in local schools along with her brothers Charles and John.  Her father, Lyman, and Joseph Day learned and worked in the leather trade in Norwood.  Joseph’s son, Lewis, and Anna attended the same church and knew each other their entire lives.  In 1856 they married; and in 1864, their son Fred was born.

In 1859, they moved into their new home — a mansion that Tyler Thayer had built at 93 Day Street called “Bullard Farm”.  This is the present day site of the Norwood Historical Society.  By this time, Lewis was running the Day family business and was one of the wealthiest men in South Dedham.

Anna was known as a generous and kind person.  She was liberal minded and unprejudiced and had a philanthropic philosophy.  She worked at the North End Union and was a trustee of the Westborough Insane Hospital.  She also supported many other charitable organizations.  

Because of their standing in the community and their civic mindedness, the Day Family were at the forefront of significant town events.  The 1872 reception commemorating Norwood’s founding was held at the Day House.
In 1903, the Day Family donated the chapel of St. Gabriel the Archangel in Highland Cemetery as a tomb for their family and as a chapel for the town.  The last wishes of Anna were that all of her remaining assets would be used to fund a home for the aged.

Although this never came to be, the remaining money was donated to local institutions for the care of the elderly.
Anna died in 1922 and is entombed in St. Gabriels, alongside Lewis, in the chapel they dedicated to their parents.

Ann Tanneyhill

To commemorate Black History Month and to honor the first Black woman from Norwood who achieved professional status and recognition in the Urban League, it is with pride that we present Ann (Anna) Elizabeth Tanneyhill.  Ann was a civil rights activist before her time—she was called “The Urban League Jewel of New England”.

In 1906, there were two Black families living in Norwood—the Diggs family and the Tanneyhill family.  Mrs. Diggs and Mrs. Tanneyhill were sisters.  Anna was born January 19, 1906, in Boston to Adelaide (Grandison) Tanneyhill and Alfred Tanneyhill.  She was named for Anna Day and her paternal grandmother, Elizabeth Weems, and chose to be known as “Ann” in her adult life.  In 1917, she was a member of the Norunda Camp Fire Girls of Norwood.  She grew up and was educated in Norwood—graduating from Norwood High School in 1923.  Alfred was a coachman and butler to the Day family.  Her mother was a typesetter at the J.S. Cushing Company. Anna’s maternal grandfather was one of the first Black trade union members in the country and the first Black to attend Dalhousie College in Halifax.

As a young girl, Ann worked with Fred Holland Day collecting material for a genealogical study of the Day family and a history of Norwood.  She attended Simmons College on the advice of and with tuition assistance from Fred Holland Day and graduated in 1928.  

Her first job was with the Urban League (UL) in Springfield.  Ann started working at the UL in New York and began her master’s degree in vocational guidance and personnel administration at Columbia University.  In 1938, she was the first Black to receive this degree and the first woman at the UL to acquire professional status.

From 1931-1946, Ann directed the Vocational Opportunity Campaign for Young Blacks.  She felt that Black boys and girls should be encouraged to enter any field they have the interest, aptitude, and ability for. Ann wrote booklets, speeches,radio scripts, and organized seminars.  She worked for Black employment on the subways, the Telephone Company, and the defense industry during WWll.  In the 1960’s Ann continued to work and bring pressure on various industries—particularly in the insurance field.  In 1961, she was appointed Assistant Director for Public Relations.  

During her 50-year career, Ann was a mentor to thousands of Black students and teachers.  One of these young students was Coretta Scott who became the wife of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Ann served on the board of the National Vocational and Guidance Assoc. where she fought to abolish the segregated chapters.  In 1970, the Ann Tanneyhill Award was established by the UL; and in 1971, she received the Simmons College Alumnae Award.  In 1971, Ann retired from the UL but continued on as a special assistant.

Ann retired to Mashpee where she lived next door to her sister, Gertrude.  She and her brother, William, operated a service station and general store in town.  She was chairwoman of the Mashpee Historical Commission where she collected material and artifacts on the American Indians.  The present-day collection is named in her honor.
Ann (Anna) Elizabeth Tanneyhill passed on May 15, 2001, in her 95th year.

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