Dorchester’s Anna Clapp Harris Smith subject of New Musical Composition

Dorchester’s Anna Clapp Harris Smith subject of New Musical Composition

Francine Trester, a Professor of Composition at Berklee College of Music, and Mary Smoyer, a founding member of the Boston Women’s Heritage Trail, recently alerted HBI to a new musical composition by Francine about five Dorchester women, including the early 20th century animal rights advocate Anna Clapp Harris Smith. Ms. Smith, who founded the Animal Rescue League. Smith was a life-long resident at 65 Pleasant Street in Dorchester, a house that dates to the 1805 and was the subject of a rehabilitation project by HBI between 2012 and 2014. HBI’s partnership with North Bennet Street School saved the house from demolition and restored it for sale to a first-time homebuyer in 2013.

Mary and Francine prepared this summary of how the composition “A Walk in Her Shoes” came to be.

What do Historic Boston, the Dorchester Women’s History Trail, the Boston Women’s Heritage Trail, Codman Square Academy, Berklee School of Music and the Boston Landmarks Orchestra have in common? Admiration for Anna Clapp Harris Smith, founder of The Animal Rescue League of Boston.

Here’s the story: Smith, a lifelong resident of 65 Pleasant Street, Dorchester, founded the Animal Rescue League in 1899 when she saw the plight of stray animals and beasts of burden on Boston streets. It still continues today: in 2018 the League assisted over 16,000 animals and 93% of them were adopted or returned home.

In 2005, with a grant from the History Channel, and support of the Boston Women’s Heritage Trail, a group of students from Codman Square Academy met on Saturday mornings to blaze the Dorchester Women’s History Trail. They interviewed people, walked the neighborhood, searched the internet, read, did archival work at the Dorchester Historical Society, and designed and printed a brochure. One of the women they picked to honor was Anna Clapp Harris Smith.

About a year ago, composer Francine Trester was looking for a subject for a composition she wanted to write for Boston Landmarks Orchestra. With the idea of “landmarks” in mind, she went online and discovered the Boston Women’s Heritage Trail. One of the branches of this Trail that particularly captured her imagination was the Dorchester Women’s History Trail. Several of the women along this trail became the subject of her composition, “A Walk in Her Shoes.”

In addition to Anna Clapp Harris Smith, she learned about Geraldine Pindell Trotter, Alice Stone Blackwell, The Clapp Family Farm, and two women known only as “Ann and Betty.” Crafting her own poetry from these several histories, Trester then set her poems to music – a composition for soprano, mezzo soprano and orchestra. Applying for a Berklee College of Music Faculty Fellowship, she then approached Boston Landmarks Orchestra about premiering the work.

With underwriting from Berklee College, “A Walk in Her Shoes” will be premiered at the Hatch Shell on the Esplanade on August 19, 2020 in a concert that will honor the centennial of the passing of the 19th Amendment.


“A Walk in Her Shoes (score)”

“A Walk in Her Shoes (text)”

ii. Anna Harris Smith

“When I’m grown up
I’m going to turn
My daddy’s big barn
Into a nice warm home
For all the kitties
And doggies in the world”

Well she grew up
Anna Harris Smith did
Followed through
On her words as a kid

“Kindness Uplifts the world”
Was her motto
“Kindness Uplifts the world”
And she got to
Thinking of the ways

We could rescue our friends
Staggering, stumbling
On four feet
So much rests on our heart
And depends
On how we treat
How we shelter
From the street

The lost
And stray
Find a home
Find a way

Something else
Anna H. Smith knew
When we rescue
The animals
We too

Rescue ourselves
Lift up the world
Raise, stand tall
Big and small
There’s plenty of room
In her Daddy’s big barn
For all
The kitties and doggies in the world
“Kindness uplifts the world”
Was her motto
“Kindness uplifts the world!”

Copyright © 2020 Francine Trester