Nichols Sisters and Their Domestic Staff Honored During Women’s History Month

Since it became a museum in the 1960s, the Nichols House has highlighted women’s history, decorative arts, and everyday life through stories of the Nichols family and their contemporaries in late 19th and early 20th century Boston.

It is only fitting that these women be particularly honored during the month of March, which was proclaimed Women’s History Month in 1980 by President Jimmy Carter. And that is just what’s going on at the museum this month, according to Executive Director Linda Marshall.

Nora H. (Burke) Hurley (left) in Windsor, Vt. near where she worked at the Nichols family’s summer home in Cornish.
Rose Nichols (center) and Margaret Nichols (far left) in the garden of Mastlands, their summer home in Cornish, NH, ca. 1895.

Raised in the family home at 55 Mount Vernon Street, the three Nichols sisters each challenged the norms and expectations of their time in their own ways, Marshall said. The oldest, Rose Standish Nichols, was successful in many arenas: she is remembered as a professional garden designer, writer, collector, craftsperson, suffragist and pacifist, historic preservationist, and museum founder. Marian Nichols dedicated her life to state and local politics while Margaret, among other things, opened a furniture business and taught carpentry lessons.

However, as Marshall points out, the sisters aren’t the only women who made their mark on the house. “The majority of domestic staff employed by the family, both live-in and day workers, were women,” she said. “These individuals cooked, cleaned, and otherwise made the lives of the family possible in addition to living full lives of their own.”

Recent research has uncovered the stories of three of these individuals. One is Nora H. (Burke) Hurley who immigrated from Ireland and shortly thereafter worked for the Nichols around 1910. Her sister, Kate Burke, had previously worked at 55 Mount Vernon, likely encouraging Nora to join her. Nora married Charles Hurley a few years later and raised their five children in Jamaica Plain.

The Museum kicked off a series of Women’s History Month events on March 8 with six hourly tours of 55 Mount Vernon Street at no cost to the public.

Upcoming programs include Women of the Nichols House Museum on March 18th, and Remember the Ladies, Women’s History Walking Tour on

March 25th. To support women’s history all year long, become a member of the museum during the month of March to access special programs and discounts. Visit for further details.

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