Swansea Historical Society

Grace Hartley Howe


Grace Hartley Howe portrait
Grace Hartley Howe was the first female Postmaster in Fall River and in the United States.

Grace was a 1893 graduate of Fall River High School and a 1897 graduate of Vassar College.

Grace married Colonel Louis McHenry Howe, private secretary and friend to President Franklin Roosevelt. Following her husband’s death, Grace was appointed as the Postmaster of Fall River by President Roosevelt. She held the position for 15 years until her death in 1955. She was 77 years old.

During the depression, Grace Howe was credited with setting up numerous programs to help the poor who were struggling in Fall River. She set up the Work Progress Administration in Fall River and she organized the first school lunch programs in the area. She also set up programs for unemployed seamstresses to work for the government repairing tents, blankets and uniforms during WWI.

Luther Store Museum
In 1937 Maude Parlin a friend of Grace's, asked her to join the team to save the Luther Store. Grace Hartley Howe arranged for the Works Progress Administration (WPA) to move the Luther Store back 30 feet. This halted the demolition of the Luther Store and the Luther 4 corners became safer for cars to pass. Like Maude Parlin, Grace Howe was very active in the restoration of the Luther Store.

She was responsible for the restoration and preservation of many historical homes and buildings in the Fall River Area.


Grace passed away on June 14, 1955 and is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery in Fall River, MA. (source: findagrave.com)