Walk of the Heroines

Walk of the Heroines, a garden gathering place and interpretive center on the Portland State University campus, celebrates the lives and accomplishments of three centuries of women, including Mother Joseph.

At the June 17 opening event, more than 400 attended the reception, strolled the grounds to read the names inscribed on a memorial wall, and took pictures as keepsakes.

Sisters of Providence who were among the throng were delighted to walk along the Iris Rill Garden that is dedicated in honor of Mother Joseph. It features a natural waterway from east to west that symbolizes the journey that Mother Joseph and four other Sisters of Providence made from Quebec to Fort Vancouver in 1856.

Sister Karin Dufault, one of the speakers at the opening event, said the garden was a most appropriate choice for a tribute to Mother Joseph. “The seeds planted are reminders of the seeds she planted and nurtured in the Northwest.” In Oregon alone, the fruits of her labors include seven hospitals, 42 clinics and a center for medically fragile children, said another speaker, Russ Danielson, vice president and chief executive of the Oregon Region of Providence Health & Services.

The Walk of the Heroines also features Mother Joseph’s quote, “My sisters, whatever concerns the poor is always our affair,” carved in the stone walkway. Her bio and photo are included in an educational kiosk onsite and on the project website.

Former Oregon Gov. Barbara Roberts, emcee for the opening event, said the design for the project was approved back in 2002, and “recognizes three centuries of women, every creed and color, named and unnamed. Providence Health & Services is among the contributors who made this place of recognition of women possible.”

Roberts said $200,000 was contributed by the Associated Students of PSU in 2001. The $3.7 million project also supports a permanent fund for student scholarships and community programming through the Department of Women’s Studies at PSU.

At the time of the event, the project had 1,187 donors and the names of 500 women on the wall, with room for nearly 700 more. Fundraising is underway for the project’s second phase, including an Interfaith Friendship Garden. A tax-deductible contribution of $100 or more will allow the donor to honor a heroine on the kiosk and website.

You can find the Walk of the Heroines at the juncture of Portland State University and the South Park Blocks in downtown Portland, across from PSU’s Hoffman Hall.