Helen Beatrice Jenkins Davis: Columbus, OH

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Ms. Helen Beatrice Jenkins was born July 28, 1894, in Columbus, Ohio, the 12th of 13 children of Sallie and William George (Billy) Jenkins. Helen’s father was born into slavery in 1849. After the end of the civil war and slavery, William Jenkins moved to Jamestown, Ohio where he met and married Sallie.

Ms. Jenkins grew up on Spring Street, in an area that is presently part of Martin Luther King Drive. Helen graduated from the Columbus Normal School, in the top five percent of her class; and continued her education at Ohio State and Capital Universities. Discriminatory practices within the public educational system caused a delay of approximately two years before Davis’ appointment to a teaching position in the
Columbus Public Schools in 1918. She was among the first Black teachers, in the first integrated Columbus Public School, Spring Street Elementary. Helen B. Jenkins Davis’ teaching career spanned over 37 years; and she retired in 1954.

In January of 1932, Helen married Raymond Davis, a Physical Therapist. They built one of the early homes in the Lucy Depp addition, north of O’Shaughnessy Dam, on land that belonged to the freed slave Abraham Depp for over one hundred years. Their marriage ended in divorce after twenty-three years.

In 1976, Mrs. Davis was a star witness who testified in Judge Robert Duncan’s Federal District Court, in a discrimination lawsuit filed against the Columbus Public Schools. She spoke of the inequality of teacher assignments and the unequal distribution of books and supplies in predominantly Black Columbus schools.

Mrs. Davis was an extremely well traveled woman who believed in the possibilities of education and exposure. Helen regularly shared memories and her travels through photos, books and stories. A perseverant and spiritually uplifting woman, who appreciated and recognized the hard work of others, Helen was active member of the
Second Baptist Church, until her death. She was also responsible for organizing senior citizens to help stuff more than two thousand envelopes supporting a Columbus School levy.

Mrs. Davis is remembered for her love of children, keen sense of competition, strict discipline, and delightful sense of humor. There are those who knew her as their sphere of influence, encouraging them to complete their education and contribute to that making lives worthwhile. Helen Jenkins Davis encouraged young people to “Strive for Super
Excellence!”

Mrs. Davis lived an extremely healthy lifestyle, eating healthy, growing many of her own vegetables and entering them into Ohio State Fair competition, and studying the benefits of vitamins and herbs. Helen Beatrice Jenkins Davis’ healthy living served her well, as she
lived to be 93 years old. Mrs. Davis died on June 28, 1987.

Guest Author:

Gwendolyn C. Williams-Wade, B.Ed., M.Ed.

Professional Counselor

Project: Education Access

 

For more information about the scholarship or the organization contact Gwendolyn here.

(614) 560-1343
gcwwade820@gmail.com

 

 

An article about Ms. Davis in the Columbus Dispatch from one year ago.

 

 

 

 

Etsy Shop Just Opened

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Hello fellow women’s history lovers. I just opened up a store on Etsy where you can buy these wonderful history t-shirts for yourself, your friends and family. The shop is under OhioWomensHistory or https://www.etsy.com/shop/OhioWomensHistory

This is my first time working with Etsy so I hope it will be a successful adventure. Thank you in advance for being a part of the Ohio Women’s History Project by following us here and/or on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. You box won’t be bombarded with emails so don’t worry about that!!

Also, Friday, October 2nd, 2020; 9 am to 9:50, I will be speaking about Ohio Women at the Ohio History Alliance Conference here in Columbus, Ohio. The title of my presentation will be “Transformative Women Who Brought Us to Where We Are Today” and the Session Description: Join the Ohio Women’s History Project to learn to learn about women who have transformed Ohio and the county. We will highlight women’s contributions beyond the vote while recognizing the Centennial of Women’s Suffrage. If you love history you might like to be a part of this amazing conference!

Ohio Strong

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Hello fellow Ohioans!

Are we having fun yet? No, well, there are lots of reasons why we can be strong and tough right now. We have weathered many storms in the past and we will do the same right now. We have been through tornadoes/Xenia, blizzards/Columbus (other parts of Ohio I assume, I was a teen then). We have gone through concert crashing for the Who in Cincinnati. We have been through a terrible shooting at Kent State University. We have lost two policemen in Westerville a few years ago and I am sure that is not the first time policemen have been killed in action in Ohio. We got through all of this because we are Ohio Strong and we are tough Mid-western people who have ancestors from Europe, who were farmers, who are Appalachians from down south, we are strong spiritual people, we are from so many different backgrounds now and so we are a combination of strength, resilience, perseverance. We will look back on this virus very soon as nothing but a memory. We will talk about how we coped, we will show photos of empty shelves and we will tell people what we did during this very uncomfortable and annoying time.

I have been talking to people in my family to check-in – by phone (landline) and see how they are doing. Everyone is coping very well. Most of my family and friends are Hungarian and they have already migrated here after the revolution of 1956 or later. They have crossed borders in the coldest months of the year. They have left behind families and brought with them whatever they could carry to the U.S. I have a family member who took political asylum before the wall came down and had to live in Germany for a year before being admitted in the U.S. I have friends who came here more recently. Being raised in this mindset makes me one tough cookie. “Don’t vorry about us, ve are fine,” they will say to me and this is why I call them because it reminds me to stay strong.

Attitude is a little thing that makes a BIG difference. Winston Churchill

My cousin Maria/Marika, is at Children’s managing a unit in the infectious disease area. She tells me she is being like Churchill right now, commanding her troops and keeping them informed as well as empowering them to be tough and stand strong. I am a psychotherapist for a living. I am channeling Dr. Viktor Frankl who was a psychologist that survived Auschwitz. Dr. Frankl went on to write a great many books about being resilient in times of struggle and unrest. Who better than he could share the answers to this? I am teaching my clients to focus on well-being, safety, and to stay away from the news media and only pay attention to the facts on the science websites. I am encouraging them to look at this as temporary and that this will end soon. If we see a crisis as short-term and take it one day at a time; we can focus on being here and now instead of panicking about an uncertain future.

When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves. Dr. Viktor Frankl

Women have been in the trenches since time began. Not taking away from men’s roles or their contributions; but we have done this without freedoms. Without being able to have rights to ourselves or our children. We have been on battlefields nursing the wounded. We have been in impoverished areas tending to the sick. We have put the rights of our sisters ahead of our own families and traveled around the country and the world educating others about the rights of women. We have crossed the great divide while our husbands went in search of gold and maintained our families with no income – creatively figuring out how to make money. We have launched campaigns to protect women and children with our prohibition speeches. We have escaped slavery in order to help others escape. There is nothing women haven’t done in history in order to protect, serve, educate, fight, and this virus is not going to stop us now.

It is not going to stop any of us here in Ohio because we are Ohio Strong.

Tips for managing this world war where there is no escape. Though it will end soon.

  1. Don’t listen to the news media which is full of propaganda and fear mongering. Listen to Science websites and focus on the FACTS not the possibilities. You can only work with evidence not probabilities.
  2. Try not to focus on going into the Black Market business. Unlike WWI and II, we will not be struggling for years with this virus. The shelves will be re-stocked tomorrow. If you don’t need it, don’t buy it.
  3. Stay off of social media as much as possible because this is filled with conspiracy theories and fake news.
  4. Focus on the safety of your families and doing what is in their best interests. The panic will cause more conflict than the virus and there will be a surge in crime in the coming weeks no doubt. The unemployment rate is much higher and those without work are mostly those with the lowest paying jobs. This is unfortunate but you can’t be in denial. Takes steps to keep your house safe and walk in public with your head held high and very aware of everything around you. I learned this from living in L.A. and never had anything bad happen to me as a single woman.
  5. Use this time to be creative in your homes. Dust off your instruments and play some music, sing songs, get out the board games, take a walk in the parks – together, have cooking contests or bake-offs, learn to bake bread, pull out your sewing machine, learn a language online as a family.
  6. Wellness is key here and some old family herbs, vitamins, regimes are a good thing to allow to re-surface. Honey is a nice preventative medicine as is vinegar (both by tablespoon once/day). Echinacea is a good treatment when you are feeling a little low. Pull out grandma’s cures and remember her advice. A good pot of chicken noodle soup always does the trick.
  7. Prayer and Meditation will help with anxiety and fears. Having faith is one thing that has always kept people in balance.

With every ending comes a beginning. Each time we have faced a crisis things changed as a result. We will learn so much from this time period and we will grow as Ohioans. Let’s let this period be like no other. We will come out on top because again, we are OHIO STRONG. O-H-I-O Never forget and never give up!

Phoebe Ann Moses – Darke County, Ohio

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I have put off writing about Annie Oakley (born August 13, 1860 – November 3, 1926 Leo/Artemis) for some time now because I wanted to feature other Ohio Women in History that most people did not know about. Annie was one of the first superstars or famous actresses of her time. I read about her in a short biography by Chuck Wills for DK Biographies, so that it is more of a children’s reader. I’d love to find something more about her life but it appears that this was not her priority until after retirement and writing just wasn’t in her. She was only able to pen a few pages. Also, being a celebrity, more fiction was written about her than non-fiction.

In fact, I grew up watching a couple of movies about her life but now I have learned they were so far from the truth. The movies are simply movies with her name added to it. In reality, Annie was a down to earth rural Ohio woman. She was an elegant woman with good homespun values. She was a Quaker and they did not believe in killing but understood that people out on a farm had to do such things to survive.

Her father died when she was five and a half years old and by this time had only taught her trapping of small animals. When she was about 7 or 8, she took his gun down from the fireplace and it would seem she began to teach herself with a .40 or .50 caliber rifle. She was never higher than 5′ tall and weighed 110 lbs. as an adult. These guns were much bigger than she was and yet she learned to maneuver them. Her mother did not enjoy the fact that her young daughter was out in a man’s world but soon began to realize the necessity of this. After all, Susan Moses, her mother, was left with seven mouths to feed. The following advice is what she would later tell her students.

You must have your mind, your nerve, and everything in harmony. Don’t look at your gun, simply follow [the target] with the end of it, as if the tip of the barrel was the point of your finger.

Unfortunately, Annie faced a second early tragedy as her mother would have to send her and a brother to an orphanage (a poor house from that time). She would immediately be shipped off to a home known as “The Wolves,” which was not the families name but what she called them. They treated her like a slave and beat her and even tossed her out in the snow one evening for punishment. She escaped this plight one day by the kindness of a stranger who paid her train fare. Annie would have to return to the orphanage where the family who ran it, took her in. There she learned embroidery and this would serve her well with her costumes. Her second talent to shooting was that of the needle.

Annie continued to hunt and shoot and was able to earn her keep by bringing in game for a general store – who also supplied her with the gun and ammunition. She shot in competitions as well. She met her husband in one of these competitions and his name was Frank Butler who had come to her home town now called Greenville. Frank and Annie fell in love and were married and began to tour together. They were a vaudeville act. Both had deep respect and appreciation for the other. Frank soon began to willingly take a back stage to his wife; knowing she was the better shooter. They would go on to join the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show (which took on several names over the years) and traveled around the world for several decades.

No matter where Annie went, she delighted the audiences of all ages and classes. She would go on to meet many members of royal families from various countries. She was a very good friend, in the US, to Chief Sitting Bull. Annie had such depth to her personality and it was her ability to assert herself and set boundaries with people that endeared her to them. Rather than wearing revealing costumes; she made her own signature line. She did not wear make-up. Annie was not a “modern woman” per se, and yet she was not living the typical woman’s lifestyle of that era. Oddly, she did not believe in women’s rights to vote, which was occurring during her lifetime. I think I can understand this though as this was a new way of thinking for women at that time. The average woman was not as carefree and independent thinking as she was. She felt that only “good” women should vote. I would assume this to mean intelligent women who knew what they were doing. Another risky choice that Annie made was to not shake Prince Edwards hand, first, when she met him. She shook the hand of his wife, Princess Alexandria instead. The reason for this is that the Prince was known for his philandering which Annie did not believe in. She felt more respect for the Princess. The way Annie handled this was by explaining that in America, ladies come first.

Interestingly, Annie would die of Anemia in 1926, in her 60’s. Frank died 18 days later and it was said that he stopped eating (but he was also very sickly then as well). I say interestingly because I hadn’t know people could die of Anemia. However, it is reported that her death may have been more related to lead poisoning from all the buckshot and bullets she handled over the years shooting. She could also be remembered as a philanthropist throughout her life. She gave her money to women and children; who were as destitute as she once was.

 

Needless to say, I have been moved by her story and I began to feel a different level of respect by learning about her. Prior to writing about her, I have personally always been a pacifist and an anti-gun person. Not against the 2nd Amendment, but against my own personal handling of these weapons or using them. A friend of mine turned me onto these and I was fascinated with how quickly I became attached to using them on a range. Just yesterday, I went to a gun show here in Columbus for the first time in my life. I found myself amassed by gun enthusiasts and small time gun sellers. There were even some historical pieces that were on display and for sale, filled with the energy of times past. One particular rifle I saw was 200 years old and came complete with the initials and art work of the owners who once carried it. Like with Annie, I was moved to see this part of American life that for years I had assumed was something completely different (thanks to the negative stereotypes in documentaries). I think that it has been this new awakening that helped me to become more enthusiastic about reading her story. When I began to understand the woman behind the gun, I saw how she was able to keep her femininity and good ethics in tact.

The world of guns and gun ownership has been seriously injured by our society and horrible people (i.e., domestic and international terrorists) who have caused the country to be in an uproar. However, as I talk to responsible gun owners I learn more and more about their good values and the ethics necessary to have a concealed carry permit. It is interesting how serious these gun owners are to safety and responsibility.

Most people fear the level of power that comes with owning a gun. I think it is important to have this level of fear but to have knowledge and education to understand. As with all things, if you don’t have some humility toward a position of power, than you are lost as a person. We can’t depend on someone in power or with this power to have a level of humility. Therefore, we cannot control it either. I have always felt there are some guns that probably should not be considered legal though, I know that anything that is illegal can be purchased for a price nonetheless. As our society has become dangerously divided, similar to that of the Civil War and our nation is plagued with more and more domestic terrorists, the idea of being taught how to responsibly carry and use a gun makes a lot more sense.

Annie did not use her gun for harm but for sport and for the dining room table. She was once offered a position in the military, while travelling in Europe but declined the offer. Whatever the choice for using a gun, as long as it is with good and legitimate intentions and not intended to harm others (except in battle or for self-defense), we need to re-think the fear that we have about gun ownership and respect those who are a part of this lifestyle. This is a part of our country’s history and our culture.

Genealogy for Christmas

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Genealogy is a weird word to spell and I have to look it up every single time! Our language is weird period and I have heard it is one of the most difficult to learn. But, learning to speak French is even more bizarre to me, especially when you look at how they say their numbers past 40. C’est la vie! As we embark upon the Christmas holidays and, for me, four years into running this blog post, I felt it would be important to address genealogy and its importance.

Christmas is one of the top holidays celebrated around the world, next to the Day of

Mary E. Chase-Vail, she died the year this was taken so it was probably the last photo of her.

the Dead (which Americans call Halloween and don’t celebrate in the original style). While Christmas is a Christian holiday traditionally, many non-denominational people celebrate as well. It is just so much fun. It is a sacred family tradition one way or another and now, as families are splitting up and moving all over the place and mixing with various races, cultures and classes; the family tree has turned into a hybrid and has come a long way from where it began.

This is why it is important now to do a DNA and collect the family data so that your descendants will have some idea of what their roots are. Christmas is when Ancestry.com slashes the costs in half and you can get your DNA kit for a lower price while the season lasts. Christmas is when you often have a ton of people together and can ask the questions, write the names on the back of the photos and start scanning them in the computer and attaching them to your tree.

I use Family Search – it is free. I use Ancestry.com because I started there and have most of my data on there (before I learned about the former). There are lots of other databases but I think these two can be used together. Both for research though I don’t believe it is possible to take something from one and send to the other. Nonetheless, it is a tool to begin your work.

A secret still buried with the last guy who is next to my Grandma.

Genealogy is a lot of fun because you begin to understand YOUR whole picture. You see what your ancestors looked like; demographics or photos, financial aspects, jobs, etc…one way or another you can get a story. I have actually written stories about each of the people on my tree that I knew well. I want their memories to remain alive so that others will have a sense of who they were (from my perspective naturally). When I go to a gravesite and see an ancestor, I feel their spirit reaching out and sense the connection (say the name out loud and open yourself up to their presence). I imagine what the funeral might have looked like.

My Great Grandmother with my mother and uncle.

It is important to also do a psychological profile if you can (for mental health family trees) and a medical profile (which you can gather from your DNA report). With a psychological profile, you want to write down what the person’s diagnosis was or you think it was (make a note of whether or not they were diagnosed or this is your belief). Write down what they did for a living. This is important as it can give clues to why they might have had the mental health issues that they did. For example: veteran – PTSD or TBI possibly, coal miner – lung disease or cancer but this might have also led to mental health issues. Write down things such as whether or not they were divorced or had multiple marriages. Collect and write any pertinent information that might be relevant – even if it seems strange. After you have gathered as much as you can about various members of your family, you will begin to see a pattern. On my paternal side of the family there are about five generations of single mothers which is highly significant when you look at depression or personality disorders (as a possibility). It then says something about their children’s mental health issues.

By day I am a psychotherapist and I often support people (especially adoptive clients) into doing their DNA. Often people report they are scared. They feel that they are opening a can of worms – which they will be. Their stories however, provide answers and give closure. This helps them to build empathy. One person found long lost relatives and saw what they (the client) looked like. One person found they were very healthy which pleased them to no end. Sometimes they are shocked – a presentation that I went to of young people doing their genealogy – a boy learned that his grandfather was not blood related. That is sad but then he found out who he really was at the same time. History doesn’t need to cause you to stop loving someone. History opens up a window to show you a whole new world of knowledge that you can do with as you choose. Choose wisely though as these are your ancestors.

My maternal grandfather’s mother was divorced when she died. Her own grandchildren had no idea of this because they had never met her. This didn’t bother me as much as it did them because I had no attachment to it. In fact, it was just one more secret to add to the list we already had and helped me to understand my psychological picture on a much broader scale. I am not surprised about anything anymore.

The fun thing I learned is that I am related to Daniel Boone through his brother Charles and then it stopped with his niece because as a woman, her name ends. I used to watch this show as a kid and absolutely loved Fess Parker (the actor who played him). I even stayed at his (Fess Parker’s) hotel in Santa Barbara once. There are these intricate moments that are symbolic and add to the richness of who you are.

My stepfather (who adopted me at 9) next to his mother in Hungary.

As a word of caution in our Politically Correct world of ancestry destroyers, be proud of who you are. It doesn’t matter that your ancestors were slave holders or Nazis, because this does not define you now. Unless you personally are involved in human trafficking or anti-semitic actions in this day in age, you are not bad because they did something bad. Would you blame yourself if you were related to Attila the Hun? What if you were related to Pontius Pilot? Some people find that type of history exciting but it is no different. You were not there, you did not make those actions occur.

Sarah Winchester (in San Jose, The Winchester Mystery House), spent the final years of her life plagued with nightmares about her (husband’s) families gun legacy, who’s fortune she inherited. She was a little closer to this knowledge but she still was not to blame. Her family was not to blame either for an invention that people used for good and bad reasons. Many people fed their families hunting with a Winchester Rifle. Unfortunately, her unconscious mind only focused on those who perished in battles. It is not confusing to me though because when she began to have these dreams, she had left the east coast for the west. This was after her child and husband died. She was grief stricken and a lonely woman in the end. She became obsessed with a compulsion to remodel her home, based on the dreams she had. In reality, she had construction workers around her house 24/7, so she was never by herself. She was a philanthropist in the community and well known and loved by locals then. Her mental health is often the butt of jokes but I felt that the woman who lived there was very sane. Being a woman who lives alone, I can empathize and resonate with what her life might have been like. Being a therapist, I do understand racing thoughts and how some people, when vulnerable, and without a professional to speak with can allow their minds to overpower them.

My birth paternal grandmother and step-grandfather. Lots of secrets with the Dunigan side of the family.

There is always a story. There is a path to understanding these stories if we are open to researching this. History was about choices based on the society that the person lived in. Today is about choices based on our environment now which will be judged one day when our descendants look back at us – I guarantee you. You may think you live a great life but they may think you are a fool – based on whatever society is like then. Live your life consciously and in a way that makes sense to you, as long as you bring no harm to others (intentionally). Take that DNA test and begin your adventure today. You will be richer for having done so no matter what you find.

Jewish Women and the Columbus Jewish Historical Society

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Founders of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society

Recently, I had the opportunity to meet with Toby Brief, when she talked to the American Association of University Women, about the Columbus Jewish Historical Society and showed us around their little museum in Bexley.

The mission of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society is to collect, preserve, and publish materials on the history of the Jewish people of Columbus and central Ohio; to encourage projects, celebrations, and activities which spread authentic information concerning Columbus and central Ohio Jewish history; to create a Society concerned with the past, present, and future; and to enlighten the membership of the Society, the Jewish community and the general public on the achievements of our people and the growth of Jewish community life from the days of the early settlers.

They began this organization in 1981 but the work toward Jewish refugees began after the 1830’s when Jewish people first came to the Columbus area. Anti-Semitism was not as huge in Columbus as in other cities, so they were able to start businesses (such as the Lazarus Department Stores), rent and purchase homes without much issue.

In around 1910, organizations began to develop to support the hundreds of thousands of Russian Jews (and other Eastern Europeans) that were now surfacing in the Columbus area. These organizations made sure that these people did not go on welfare and could find jobs and learn the language. Jewish women were politically

Pauline Permutter Steinem

active but their focus was mostly on birth control and poverty with regard to the refugees. While suffrage was the main focus of women around the nation, their priority was to their people’s needs first. This does not mean that they neglected suffrage however, as there were many Jewish women involved. In Ohio we had Pauline Perlmutter Steinem from Toledo (aka Gloria’s Grandma).

There are other Jewish Historical Societies within Ohio including the Maltz museum (Beachwood, Ohio) and the Skirbal museum which is at the Hebrew Union College (Cincinnati, Ohio). Toledo and Dayton are currently working on museums as well. If you can get a chance to get down to Bexley and visit this museum, their exhibits rotate every six months. Currently, they are featuring a Prohibition collection featuring Jewish people who were involved locally in this this era. In the past they had an exhibit about women and their hats which apparently was quite an elegant and well received show. The Bexley museum is in the Esther C. Melton building around the corner from Jewish Family Services. They are open to the public, Monday through Friday from 10-3:30 or you can make an appointment for groups. Please note that all of the photos here are from CJHS or their website, with the exception of the Pauline Steinem photo which came from a google search.

Prohibition Photo (CJHS)

Prohibition Photo (CJHS)

 

 

 

 

 

 

CJHS

Columbus Jewish Historical Society (CJHS)

 

 

Author’s Note: Acculturation has been an important aspect of welcoming refugees to our country until more recently when the push has been to assure they have welfare and not much attention is paid to learning English. Now, it is easily perceived by many as having no concern for acculturation at all. It is a great disservice to our country and creates a lack of respect toward newer immigrants. This is sad to me, as I grew up in the Hungarian-American community where they continue to help immigrants settle in the Ohio area. It seems strange to think we wouldn’t want to focus on acculturation as this would assure success for all of us.

 

 

Prominent Columbus Black Women from Second Baptist Church

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Recently, I met with Sandra Jamison who is a member of Second Baptist Church and part (board member?) of the James Preston Poindexter Foundation. Second Baptist Church is the oldest Black Baptist Church in Columbus and Reverend Poindexter was a very outspoken and prominent leader for this parish and community. Ms. Jamison and I met at the Ohio Local History Alliance Conference last weekend and shared with me a list of these wonderful women who once attended her church. The list was created by another woman in her church and she handed me a copy of it. I am listing these women here and sharing photos and notes if I can find them. If you are aware of any information on these women, I invite you to contact me with more information. Also, don’t hesitate to post on my FB group Ohio Women in History.

Blanche M. Van Hook – She was a society columnist featuring black women as well as working for the city. She was also known for writing about the Lucy Depp Park neighborhood. She was born in approximately 1896 in Ohio and died here in 1970.

Helen Carter Moses – She was a composer, organist and teacher (Sandra said that she learned to play piano from her).

Daisy Hall Rice – Beautician

Helen Jenkins Davis- She was born in the 1880’s and lived until the 1980’s. She was one of the first black teachers in Columbus. She graduated from her teaching college in 1916 but it would not be until 1921 that she was able to find a position because of her race.  In 1976, she was the first witness to be called in regard to a school segregation case that would eventually lead to the Supreme Court making a decision on this once again. She is mentioned in the book Beyond Busing: Reflections on Urban Segregation, the Courts and Equality. There is now a scholarship in her memory and a FB group.

Jessie Stephens Glover – Is the first black female to graduate from the Ohio State University in 1905 with a B.A. in Modern Languages. For awhile she lived in Florida and taught German and English at what is now Florida A&M University. She later moved to Virginia to teach at what is now Virginia State University before moving back to Ohio for marriage and to raise their two daughters.  She became an activist and volunteered to be a probation officer for the Domestic Relations court. She was born in 1882, in Ohio, the daughter of former slaves and lived until 1966. Her biography is featured in Profiles of Ohio Women 1803-2003.

Edna Bryce – She was a club woman and entrepreneur who owned a flower shop.

Isabella Ridgway – Founder of an “old folks” home for blacks, in the early 1900’s. It is named after her and continues to this day. There is also a foundation in her name which began in 2016.

Constance Jean Nichols – Born in Marietta, Ohio and a graduate of the Ohio State University. She was a devoted activist, was one of the founders of the Vanguard League— an organization dedicated to eliminating discrimination against African Americans in Columbus. She was also responsible for helping to get the Ohio Theater integrated.

E. Carrie Coles – Was a member of the Housewives League.

Nell Moffett – Was once a Principal at Mt. Vernon Avenue Elementary School.

Cora Jordan White – Executive Secretary at the Blue Triangle Branch Y.W.C.A.

Anna Hughes – Administrator, Ohio Avenue Day Nursery

Belle Carter – She was a Pioneer Teacher, Social Worker, and a Probation Officer in the Court of Domestic Relations.

Mayme Artis – Piano Teacher

Anna B. Jones – She was born in about 1871 and became a Philanthropist and Community Activist

Interview with Tracy Lawson, Ohio Writer

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This is my first interview, here on Ohio Women’s History Project and I am starting with Tracy Lawson, whom I met at the recent Ohio Local History Alliance Conference. Tracy is an Ohio based writer who is known for her most recent work “Pride of the Valley,” which is a historical account of her ancestors. Tracy won “Best Non-fiction History,” in 2012 from the Ohio Professional Writer’s Association. In 2013, she was selected to present at Ohioana Book Festival. She also holds a 5-star selection from Reader’s Favorite Book Reviews. Tracy has written in several genre’s which you can find on Amazon and by clicking the book photo above. The following is the Q&A format I submitted to her:

  1. How long have you been a writer and what made you choose to go in this direction?

I always wanted to be a writer, from the time I learned how to read. But I finally found the time to try when my daughter was in high school. My first book was published in 2012, and since then I’ve published six more, and have two in progress.

  1. What plans do you have for your next book?

My next book is historical fiction, based on events in the life of my 6x great grandparents. I’ve written nonfiction history books, and also thriller novels, so this is like the perfect mash-up of what I like to write—a thrilling tale of a woman thwarting a conspiracy that could have changed the course of the American Revolution.

  1. What struggles did you face while working on your books?

I sometimes wrestle with writer’s block or, perhaps it’s better called writer’s insecurity. First drafts can be messy, and often the story doesn’t fully develop until it’s been through a few drafts. It can take a while for the story that’s in my head to emerge on the page.

  1. What woman in history has inspired you and why?

When I was younger, I found the story of Anne Sullivan, Helen Keller’s teacher, fascinating. It showed just how vital it was to be able to communicate, read, and study to develop one’s mind. I’m also a huge fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder, both as a pioneer and as an author.

  1. What woman in your ancestry inspired you and why?

Anna Asbury Stone, the subject of my current work-in-progress, inspired me      because she was willing to risk her safety—not only to come to the aid of her husband and brothers, but to deliver a dispatch to General Washington while she was being pursued!

  1. What advice would you give young women about tackling their future?

Don’t be afraid of hard work and don’t expect to land in your dream job right away. Study something that will allow you to earn a living and support yourself. My daughter loved dance and theater—but she majored in economics in college, and is now in grad school and planning to be a college professor.

  1. When you think of the upcoming 100th anniversary passing the 19th amendment, what sticks out in your mind?

Wow this is a tough one. I wonder what the women who fought for our right to vote would think if they could see the candidates we have to choose from. I think they’d be disappointed.

Tracy Lawson

Eliza Hill Helps Settle the Ohio Frontier

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While researching and writing my book Pride of the Valley: Sifting through the History of the Mount Healthy Mill, one of my goals was to profile each of the six generations of families that owned the business during its one hundred thirty years of operation.

I discovered many discrepancies and the understandable muddling of facts that happens over time, and felt compelled to set the record straight wherever possible–and especially when it came to the women in the story. Of course the women of the first two generations–Eliza Hendrickson Hill and Rachel Maria Hill Rogers–were the hardest to get to know.

It saddened me when the names of the women were incorrectly reported, for the women I mentioned in my book didn’t hold jobs that distinguished them in the community. They didn’t leave wills or journals, and the first surviving photograph of one of them dates to 1866. Their mention in historical records is seldom more than a report of to whom they were married. I figured the least I could do was make sure their names and their spouses were sorted properly.

Throughout much of history, a young woman’s first duty was to marry; her family often wielded more influence over the choice of husband than she did. Eliza Hendrickson was eighteen years old when she married Jediah Hill in 1815. Rachel Maria Hill, Jediah and Eliza’s only child, was a mere sixteen years old when she married Henry Rogers, who was ten years her senior. I’ve often wondered if that marriage came about because Jediah decided Henry, who was his hired hand, was the man he wanted to take over operation of his mill one day, and offered Rachel’s hand as part of the deal.

As it turned out, I would locate much more detailed information about the women in the four subsequent generations, but in this article, I’d like to focus on Eliza Hendrickson Hill, the family’s matriarch.

When Jediah and Eliza migrated to Ohio with their three-year-old daughter, Rachel, in 1819, Eliza made the first essential contribution to establishing the little family’s home and business. They left a well-established community in New Jersey and started from ground zero on the frontier.

While we may marvel at Jediah Hill’s acumen in siting and building a water-powered sawmill, women like Eliza were no less skilled. Trained in household management from an early age, by the time a woman was old enough to marry, she had vast stores of practical knowledge essential to their family’s survival.

Though they lived only a mile from the town site, Eliza likely would have been responsible for managing all her daily tasks—food preparation, laundry, planting a garden, minding their toddler, and more—without help.

On a typical day, Eliza may have set out to accomplish one major task—perhaps laundry. But she would still have to begin that day by stirring up the fire, cooking breakfast, washing dishes, airing bedding, and caring for her child and the stock—perhaps horses, chickens, cows, pigs, and sheep—before tackling the larger job. Laundry required hauling buckets of water to heat, scrubbing the clothing with homemade soap, and then boiling everything to kill any lice or fleas in the fabric.

There was no spin cycle, so everything had to be lifted, dripping wet, from the rinse water, wrung out by hand, and hung up to dry. Depending on the size of the family and the number of hands to help, this labor-intensive enterprise could take all day, bearing in mind, of course, that the lady of the house must budget the time to cook the midday meal for her family.

Should she finish before it was time to start supper—one wonders what she might choose to do with her leisure time. A bit of mending? Adding a few lines to the letter she was writing to the home folks? Helping one of the children learn their letters? Weeding the kitchen garden? Drying herbs to use for seasoning and for treating illness?

The old saying, ‘Man’s work is from sun to sun, but women’s work is never done’ surely rang true for nineteenth-century women everywhere.

Once the supplies she had brought from New Jersey ran out, Eliza would have needed to grow or make more—not just to sew the family’s clothes, but likely to grow the flax and raise the sheep that would provide the raw materials, spin the thread, and either weave the cloth herself or take it to the nearest webster.

As the community grew, the division of labor allowed both men and women to specialize in what they did best. What a blessing it must have been to be able to purchase items in a general store!

There is evidence that Jediah took his wife’s needs into consideration when building the large family homestead, which was likely completed in time for their daughter Rachel’s wedding in 1832. In the stone-floored cellar, Jediah dug a well so it was not necessary for his wife to go outside to fetch water.

As the family’s business prospered, Jediah and Henry, his son-in-law, sought to expand the sawmill to grind flour and cornmeal. In August 1838, all four family members took a working vacation to New Jersey. Though travel in antebellum America was distinctly unpleasant, I am so glad Eliza and Rachel went along on the trip, for it would have been a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Henry kept a journal of the trip, and mentioned someone in the family having an upset stomach or headache nearly every day. Traveling in a wagon, they suffered through both the heat of late summer and cold temperatures as summer turned to fall.

Thankfully, the trip was not all misery. Henry mentioned seeing the sights in Columbus, Zanesville, Philadelphia, and Trenton, and paying extended visits to family in three different cities. He noted that Eliza and Rachel had written ahead to a dressmaker in the city to have new gowns made, and that they had taken their bonnets to the milliner’s to have them trimmed in the latest fashion. Everyone in the family enjoyed shopping at the extensive market in Philadelphia.

You can learn more about the family’s experiences on their trip. Henry’s journal is the subject of my book Fips, Bots, Doggeries, and More: Explorations of Henry Rogers’ 1838 Journal of Travel from Southwestern Ohio to New York City.