A prominent figure in Buffalo's progressive movement, Harriet A. Townsend founded the Women's Educational and Industrial Union of Buffalo in 1884. The organization was dedicated to promoting "the material, moral and intellectual welfare of the women of our city," and did so with lectures, classes and vocational training at the original Townsend Hall on Niagara Square in downtown Buffalo.

After the Buffalo chapter folded, in 1915, Harriet Townsend, the founder and longtime president, donated the building to the University of Buffalo, which named the hall for her. The name Townsend Hall (the University of Buffalo night school since 1923) survives.

Illustration source: "Views of Buffalo," Pub. Exclusively for S. H. Knox. Portland, Maine: L. H. Nelson Co. p 16