The Christ Church Burial Ground, in addition to holding the stories of five signers of the Declaration of Independence and 10 mayors of Philadelphia, also holds the stories of many women whose lives were just as consequential.
The grave of Benjamin Franklin, in the Christ Church Burial Ground on the corner of 5th and Arch, is one of the most visited sites in Philadelphia. But the thousands of tourists who wander through that two-acre green space in Old City often don’t realize that, in addition to holding the stories of five signers of the Declaration of Independence and 10 mayors of Philadelphia, it also holds the stories of many women whose lives were just as real — and consequential.
Lifting those stories from the earth this year is the work of John Hopkins, who has been in charge of the burial ground since 2004. He first constructed a Revolutionary Women tour in 2007, but this year, with the help of Hannah Wolff, an actor and aspiring playwright recently transplanted to Philadelphia from New York, he is doing it differently. This month, in honor of the Democratic National Convention and a new historic Philadelphia first — the first female major party presidential nominee — the Christ Church Burial Ground is presenting the Founding Mothers tour.
The tour takes the form of a developing conversation between Hopkins, playing a version of himself as the modern burial ground director, and the spirit of Elizabeth Graeme Ferguson, played by Wolff. Ferguson, who is buried just outside the doors of Christ Church, was one of the most famous and educated women of colonial and revolutionary Philadelphia. At a time when only property-owning white men could vote, Ferguson hosted the most prominent intellectual salon in the largest and most prosperous city in North America, leading mixed conversations of men and women that included some of the foremost intellectuals of the time. In fact, she knew so many people on both sides of the revolution that she could comment from experience on many of the most famous people buried in the burial ground, as visitors will get to hear.
Ferguson is only one of the complex and compelling figures whose story is told on the tour. Visitors will also learn about the two women who were the most successful private fundraisers during the revolution, and the first woman to fight in the U.S. Army. All of them are either buried in the burial ground or directly connected to people who are.
The Founding Mothers tour runs about forty minutes, and will be given at 5:30 on Friday, July 22 and Friday, July 29. Admission is $10. (Additional dates may be added by special arrangement.) An abbreviated form given by regular burial ground guides is available on the half hour from 11:00 to 3:30 daily through the end of July. The abbreviated tour costs $7.