Memorable women


There has been a fair amount of fuss this month for National Women’s Day on March 8: women wearing red, gathering to speak out about issues they feel strongly about.

Perhaps it wasn’t much different than the first National Women’s Day in our country in 1909, a peaceful gathering of women. In November of that same year, women working in the New York City garment district organized the shirtwaist strike to protest the conditions they worked under. And they stayed out until the next February, when management finally agreed to their demands regarding working conditions, pay, and hours.

In our country, March is National Women’s History Month, meant to highlight the contributions of women to history as well as to our contemporary lives.

Some years back, I attended a women’s club meeting in February. The roll call was to name a woman who was important to your own history. My answer was Amelia Earhart, whose story has always interested me.

Most of the other women answered roll call that day in a similar fashion, giving the name of a woman they had probably studied in history class. What I remember, though, is the lady who answered with the name of the woman who ran the telephone switchboard in her small Hamilton County hometown while she was growing up.

I suppose we all have people like that who we remember, those who certainly didn’t do anything as grand as discover a cure for the common cold but who contributed in a simple way to their communities and to what we now call our quality of life.

Like Hazel Johnson, who had a gift shoppe (as it read on her sign) in Stanhope. Hazel–a peer of my grandmother–was always helpful, pleasant, and patient with her customers, especially young ones like me with not much money to spend. Adults could go into her little store to put their dollar on a wedding shower gift whenever such was being held for a new bride in the community. And then Hazel wrote all those names on a card that went with the gift to the shower.

Hazel’s Shoppe was rather fascinating to me, maybe especially because I didn’t get to go there often. The variety and amount of stock she carried always intrigued me, as well as the fact that she knew everything she had in that store.

So I wonder just who would be a memorable woman in your life, outside of your family. Teachers of the school, piano, or Sunday School variety? A female coach? A friendly neighbor? It is something to consider in this Women’s History Month.