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June 9: The Founder of Wolf Trap

June 8, 2015

catherinePhilanthropist Catherine Filene Shouse was born in Boston on this date in 1896. She grew up as the heiress of Filene’s Department Store and Federated Department Stores; her father was also the founder of the Boston Symphony while her mother founded the Boston Music School for Underprivileged Children. Filene Shouse herself founded the Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts in 1966, on 100 acres that she donated in the Washington, DC area. She was the first woman appointed to the Democratic National Committee (in 1925), worked as a labor researcher with the U.S. Department of Labor, and was also a significant prison reformer, establishing job training and rehabilitation programs as chair of the Federal Prison for Women under President Calvin Coolidge. Filene Shouse was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 1994 and inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 2007, twelve years after her death at the age of 98.

“In 1982, the main amphitheater [at Wolf Trap] burned to the ground, but Mrs. Shouse led the drive to resurrect it, and a new theater, the 7,000-seat Filene Center (half the $18 million cost came from a Congressional appropriation), opened in 1984. It is now visited by some 500,000 people annually.” —New York Times