Historical Markers
Mira Lloyd Dock Historical Marker
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Mira Lloyd Dock

Hershey/Gettysburg/Dutch Country Region


Marker Location:
North Front Street near Reily St., Harrisburg

Dedication Date:
August 30, 1996

Behind the Marker

Black and white photograph of Mira Lloyd Dock in checkered dress, black hat, and gloves, sitting in a back yard or garden.
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Mira Lloyd Dock, circa 1910.
Before ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1919, women could not vote in the state of Pennsylvania. Unable to hold public office, and with limited opportunities in the professions or business, they influenced the political process behind the scenes and in voluntary positions. Progressive-era reform movements, however, created new opportunities for the women of Pennsylvania. Among the most influential of these new women professionals and civic activists were two sisters from Harrisburg: Mira (1853-1945) and Lavinia Lloyd Dock (1858-1956).

The daughters of a successful Harrisburg businessman, they both, along with their three other siblings, received private school educations. In 1884, Lavinia went to New York to become a nurse, a profession in which she enjoyed an illustrious and celebrated career. One of the founders of modern professional-nursing education she wrote Materia Medica for Nurses (1900), the first manual of drugs for the profession, and the four-volume A History of Nursing (1907-1912), and served as an editor of the American Journal of Nursing.
 Two black and white photographs sit side-by-side. The first shows a back yard in neglect and disrepair. The second photo shows a number of boys working a nice garden in the same backyard space
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Glass slide of a back yard lot before and after cleaning and planting, Harrisburg,...
She also worked for the elimination of prostitution and venereal disease, was an early supporter of birth control, and called for improved working conditions for women.

While her sister pursued a career in nursing, Mira stayed at home, for after her mother's death it was her responsibility, as the oldest daughter, to take of her father and younger siblings. After her father died in 1895, Mira studied botany at the University of Michigan, then returned home and became a founding member of the Civic Club of Harrisburg. Attending the International Congress of Women at London in 1899 as a representative of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Dock studied efforts to beautify English and European industrial cities and was there inspired to do the same in her home city.

 Harrisburg's Eighth Ward, unpaved Tanner's Alley, looking south
Unpaved street in the 8th Ward (Tanner's Alley), Harrisburg, PA, circa 1900....
In the 1890s, Harrisburg, like cities across the Commonwealth and nation, was a dirty, squalid place, with few public amenities. Upon her return home she began to give lantern slide lectures promoting the idea that public parks were not only beautiful, but when supplemented by playgrounds, beaches, and baths would contribute to the health and improved moral behavior of the poor and thereby attract businessmen to areas with healthy workers and a pleasant environment.

In the early 1900s, Dock teamed up with Harrisburg businessman and civic reformer marker J. Horace McFarland, and with him led a campaign that mobilized the Harrisburg business community and voters. By 1915, the Harrisburg plan, which culminated in the construction of a water-treatment plan and sewer lines, 900 acres of new city parks, public lakes, athletic fields, playgrounds, and sewage control, had won national attention.

As president of the American Civic Association, McFarland became a national leader in the City Beautiful movement that revitalized American cities, including Philadelphia, which tore down hundreds of buildings to construct the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and the museums and library that line this spacious boulevard.
Head and shoulders photograph of McFarland
J. Horace McFarland

While Dock was working on beautifying Harrisburg, Governormarker William Stone in 1901 appointed her to the State Forest Reservation Commission, created four years earlier to purchase tens of thousands of acres of former forest that had been clear cut and then abandoned by logging companies. Working with Chairman markerJoseph Rothrock, she became one of the most active members of the commission.

The first woman appointed to a Pennsylvania state government position, Dock spent the next twelve years traveling around the state inspecting lands and recommending their purchase. In 1903 she began to lecture on botany at the newly opened State Forestry Academy at Mont Alto, a school she had helped found by lobbying for its creation. She would continue to teach there until 1929, using her own textbook, which described all the trees that grew in the state and where they flourished the best.

After stepping down from the Forest Commission in 1912, Dock was active in a broad range of causes, including the movement, led by McFarland, to preserve Niagara Falls, and the local campaign for women's suffrage.
Group photograph of a men and women in front of a lodge, posing on the porch and steps for a photo.
Gathering of the Pennsylvania Forestry Association at the Graeffenburg Inn in...
On the national stage, her sister Lavinia, now in her fifties, became an active and vocal participant in the national suffrage movement. After joining the National Women's Party, Lavinia, now in frail health, was arrested three times for picketing at the White House, and spent forty-three days in jail.

Dock's final incarceration came in 1918, after her sixtieth birthday. Cantankerous as ever, she used her fame as one of the nation's most celebrated nurses, to speak out for the movement.
View along the river
Riverfront Park, Harrisburg, PA, circa1914.
Why picket for women's suffrage? "The old stiff minds must give way," she wrote in The Suffragist in 1917. "The old selfish minds must go. Obstructive reactionaries must move on.marker The young are at the gates!"

In the early 1920s, Lavinia returned to Harrisburg and lived with her sister, who continued to grow plants and promote gardening in her Front Street home. First as a leader in the emerging profession of nursing and then as a suffragist, Lavinia Dock received many accolades during her lifetime. Less well-known than her sister, Mira Dock's legacy can still be seen in the forests of Pennsylvania and the beautiful Riverfront Park that now graces the waterfront where she lived most of her life.
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