Powerful Women: A Bethlehem Tradition

Throughout the month of March, the achievements of women are recognized nationwide. This celebration is of great importance to the Downtown Bethlehem area, since influential women formed the roots of our historic town hundreds of years ago. In honor of Women’s History Month, we will be celebrating our past and present female powerhouses that made the Bethlehem community the wonderful place it is today.

Benigna von Zinzendorf

At age 16, Benigna visited the Moravian settlements with her father, Count Nicholas von Zinzendorf. Much like the Moravians, she believed that everyone had the right to an education. Her passion led to the creation of the first girls’ boarding school in America in May of 1742. In 1863, around the same time as the men’s college and theological seminary was created, the Bethlehem Female Seminary was chartered to grant baccalaureate degrees. Benigna’s school became known as the Moravian Seminary and College for Women in 1913. It wasn’t until 1954 that the women and men’s institutions merged to form one single coeducational college. Today that school is known as Moravian College.

Priscilla Payne Hurd

Priscilla Payne Hurd was a local philanthropist who supported many community needs, including the local institutions for higher education. She generously donated to St. Luke’s educational programs, and made her influence visible throughout Moravian College in its restored buildings. Her impact can be seen at the school’s south campus and their main academic building, which carries her name. Priscilla also supported private individuals. She was very business-oriented, which is apparent in her positions as the first woman board member and chairperson at St. Luke’s Hospital, Moravian College, and the National Museum of Industrial History. Priscilla broke barriers for women in the Lehigh Valley, and was devoted to keeping the industrial heritage of our community alive.

Linny Fowler

Linny Fowler was a stained-glass artist and philanthropist who devoted her life to the children, arts, and education within the Bethlehem community. She was approachable, unassuming, and saw the best in everyone. Linny did not just write checks, but transformed lives. Linny supported private individuals and large organizations alike. She was an ardent support of ArtsQuest and also co-founded ArtsQuest’s Banana Factory Arts Center, which was part of her vision to provide access to the arts for the entire community. In a video created in her honor, former mayor John Callahan commented that, “without Linny’s support there would be no ArtsQuest”.

Without these three influential women, the Bethlehem community would not be what it is today. The tradition of powerful female influencers continues to this day, with nine dedicated and ambitious female DBA Board Members, all of who are devoted to the advancement of Bethlehem.

Lisa Girard (Co-Chair) | Moravian Book Shop

Deborah Carey (Treasurer) | Merchants Bank

Amy Saul (Secretary) | Moravian College

Amy Burkhart | City of Bethlehem

Kari Keyock | Imagevolution

Cara Paredes | Cachette Bistro & Creperie/Flying Egg/Tapas on Main/Peculiar/Urbano

Elaine Pivinski | Franklin Hill Vineyards

Ann Marie Supinski | AM Luxe Apparel

Adrienne Washington | Lehigh University

The women listed above hold positions of power not only on the board, but also as business-owners, managers, and as administrators at collegiate institutions throughout Bethlehem. They are all dedicated to bettering our community, and are an inspiration to both Bethlehem and young women everywhere! To honor these brilliant women, we created a video with a few of our board members that chronicles their experience as females in the business world. We also asked what women empowerment means to them, and how they continue the tradition of powerful woman in Bethlehem. Check it out to hear Kari, Elaine, Ann Marie, Lisa, Deb, and Amy share their experiences and advice!