Meet the Women Who are the Keepers of Hampton’s History

Published March 30, 2021

Women’s History Month is a time for us to celebrate the achievements of women in Hampton and across the world. Hampton’s history has been formed by many women since its early years, and is now continuously shared through the keepers of Hampton’s history. This month we are featuring the women that share Hampton’s history with visitors and the community. Throughout their work, these women highlight, commemorate and celebrate the history and heritage that make Hampton the city it is today. 

Meet the Women who are the Keepers of Hampton’s History: 

Dr. Françoise Bonnell – Director of Museums, Education, and Interpretation; Fort Monroe Authority

Dr. Françoise Bonnell

An Army Veteran with 22 years of military service, Françoise Bonnell joined the Fort Monroe Authority staff in August 2020. Retiring from the military as a lieutenant colonel, she recently earned a spot in the Army Women’s Foundation Hall of Fame after her service records at her previous position as the director of the U.S. Women’s Army Museum in Fort Lee. 

As director of Museums, Education, and Interpretation at Fort Monroe, Bonnell shares Fort Monroe’s history through school and youth group programs, and develops interpretive programs for visitors. Through her work, the history and legacy of Fort Monroe continues to be shared with visitors from all generations. 

The Fort Monroe Visitor & Education Center allows visitors to learn about Hampton’s more than 400 years of unique history, before taking their tour of the fort. Discover the fort by taking the Fort Monroe walking tour. Be on the lookout for group tour opportunities in the near future, as the Fort Monroe Visitor & Education Center reopens to visitors in the spring!  

Luci Talbot Cochran – Executive Director, Hampton History Museum

Luci Talbot Cochran

Working as Hampton History Museum’s Executive Director, Luci Cochran shares Hampton’s history “through diverse programming, projects and exhibits, that help deepen the understanding of past choices, present circumstances, and future possibilities.” Through her work, she encourages visitors to learn more about Hampton’s history and why it is important to the future of our community. Cochran is passionate about sharing history and says, “History or our collective memory is how we become a community as we share our diverse stories, ideas and beliefs and come together in the process”.

During a visit to Hampton History Museum, you will discover over 400 years of history while learning about the achievements of women that paved the way for our future. Call ahead to schedule an appointment and dive into a world of discovery.

Dr. Vanessa Thaxton-Ward – Director, Hampton University Museum

Vanessa Thaxton-Ward oversees museum activities, events, and exhibits as director of Hampton University Museum. She manages the growth, preservation, interpretation and exhibition of notably the oldest African American museum in the United States. She has dedicated over 25 years to the art community, and champions telling diverse stories through art. 

“At the Hampton University Museum we celebrate many female artists and art historians who made a lasting impact,” said Thaxton-Ward. “Our fine arts collection features women artists such as Elizabeth Catlett, Hampton Graduate, Dr. Samella S. Lewis, Margo Humprhey, and Native American artist, Terri Greeves (KIOWA) and former student, Susan LaFlesche Picotte, the first Native American doctor.”

Take a Virtual Tour of Hampton University Museum

Margaret Wilson – President of the Historical Foundation of Aberdeen Gardens, Aberdeen Gardens Historic Museum

Margaret Wilson

As the Historical Foundation of Aberdeen Gardens president, Margaret Wilson keeps the story of Aberdeen Gardens alive. Born and raised in Hampton, Aberdeen Gardens has always been her home. After traveling the world with her husband, Wilson “chose to return home to Hampton and Aberdeen Gardens because that is the only place to be.” Wilson is passionate about sharing the story of Aberdeen Gardens with visitors and the community.  

Aberdeen Gardens Historic Museum celebrates the history, heritage and future of historic Aberdeen Gardens. Built for and by African-Americans as part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, the neighborhood provided modern homes to African-American workers.

Hampton is lucky to have these women sharing its history!

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