Influential Women of Buffalo’s Past at Forest Lawn Cemetery

By Visit Buffalo Niagara

Published on | Last Updated

One of the most beautiful outdoor landscapes within the city of Buffalo, the grounds of Forest Lawn Cemetery, the city’s largest, beg to be explored no matter the season. Aside from the marvelous natural sights, like reflecting ponds, a forest of trees, picturesque bridges and even a family of deer, the cemetery, founded in 1849 across 269-acres, is the ideal place to literally walk through Buffalo’s past. And as spring approaches, tours or private walks have us yearning to learn more about Buffalo’s rich history.

During Women’s History Month, we take a look at six women who had a tremendous impact on Buffalo, the region and beyond:

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Mary Burnett Talbert, Civil Rights Leader

Born in Ohio, Mary Burnett Talbert moved to Buffalo with her husband in 1891. An already accomplished social activist, she continued her work in Buffalo, helping form the Niagara Movement in 1905 which was a catalyst for the formation of the NAACP in 1915. What’s more, Talbert served as nurse in France during World War I. Talbert was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 2005 and Talbert Hall on the University at Buffalo campus is named in her honor.

Shirley Chisolm, United States Congresswoman, Educator, Author

“Fighting” Shirley Chisholm was the first African American woman elected to Congress in 1968, even winning re-election in 1970 before making a bid for the presidential seat in 1972. Although she did not win the election, Chisholm received an impressive 151 delegates. Posthumously in 2015, Chisholm was awarded the highest civilian honor, presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States – the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Kathleen Howard, Opera Singer, Actress, Magazine Editor

A Canadian citizen, Howard spent her childhood years in Buffalo. She created the role of Zita in Giacomo Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi at the Metropolitan Opera in 1918 and was also memorable as Amelia, the wife of W.C. Fields in the film It’s a Gift. She appeared in two other films of W.C. Fields – You’re Telling Me! and Man on the Flying Trapeze. She told of her life as an opera singer in an autobiography, Confessions of an Opera Singer.

Margaret L. Wendt, Philanthropist

Daughter of William and Mary Geis Wendt, founders of the Buffalo Forge Company, Margaret L. Wendt lived on to become a widely known charitable contributor. To the present day, the Margaret L. Wendt Foundation continues to provide funding for organizations across the area in the spheres of education, arts, social services, public interest and youth agencies.

Katherine Pratt Horton, Leader, Public Figure

Before Buffalo hosted the Pan-American Exposition in 1901, Katherine Pratt Horton assisted in planning as a manager of the Board of Women before, during and after the event. As the years passed, Mrs. Horton was named president of the City Federation of Women’s Clubs and Regent of the Katharine Pratt Horton Daughters of the Revolution Chapter in Buffalo, in addition to Daughters of the War of 1812 chapter. The Daughters of the Revolution was provided her namesake and continues to this day.

Dorothy Goetz Berlin, Public Figure

While Dorothy Goetz Berlin may not have been the composer, she was the inspiration behind many of, her husband, Irving Berlin’s songs. The most touching of the songs, “When I Lost You” was written by Irving following Dorothy’s passing in 1912.

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Forest Lawn Cemetery, 1990 Main St, Buffalo | (716) 885-1600

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Visit Buffalo Niagara

Visit Buffalo Niagara gives you the insider’s perspective on our surprising city -- Buffalo, New York. Ask us for recommendations about family friendly activities, art, architecture, history, theater, nightlife, sports, dining and more in the Buffalo and Niagara Falls area.