Over 140 years after Naperville was first settled by Joseph Naper’s team from Ohio, some of the city’s historic structures had fallen into disrepair or become obsolete. St. John’s Episcopal Church was one such structure. Jane Sindt was the impetus for organizing and raising funds to save the chapel. Her actions formed the basis of the new Naperville Heritage Society, where she served as first leader from 1969 to 1976.
Naper Settlement has benefited from strong female leadership for most of its history. In 1979, Peg Yonker, the president of the Naperville Heritage Society, hired Peggy Frank to be Naper Settlement’s first paid employee as curator and director. Frank oversaw the growth and development of Naper Settlement, retiring as Naper Settlement Executive Director in January 2013. For the past six years, Macarena Tamayo-Calabrese has served as president and CEO of Naper Settlement. Prominent female leadership has been supported by many women and girls in staff and volunteer roles throughout the grounds.
Women have been the foundations of many traditions at Naper Settlement. Founded in 1969, the Weed Ladies started as a group of civic-minded woman looking for ways to financially support the new Naperville Heritage Society. They design floral arrangements and wreaths with dried and silk flowers and succulents which are sold during their seasonal sales. Their beautiful work is on display at the Daniels House on Naper Settlement grounds.
Last year, the Naperville Heritage Society celebrated its 50th anniversary. The preservation of history in Naperville would not have been the success it was without the tireless effort of multiple generations of women leaders, historians, teachers, volunteers, and supporters.