Accomplished women of Greene County

By Cookie Newsom

Because we have now arrived at the beginning of March, it is now time for some Women’s History. We have produced or hosted a lot of accomplished women here in Greene County and this is a good time to get to know some of them a bit better.

Interestingly enough one of the first things you encounter when doing research about women in Greene County is their prominence in the Temperance Movement (1820-1920) which was designed to limit or prohibit the consumption of alcohol. Women led the charge in this effort, a lot of them being convinced that many of the problems of families, including, but not limited to, domestic violence against women, were caused by drunken men. These women were the catalyst for what eventually became Prohibition, at least briefly.

Evidently the women of Greene County targeted saloons in Xenia, particularly one colorfully named The Shades of Death” and in 1873 they picketed and demonstrated so much that the owner, one Steve Phillips, gave up and promised to close the saloon. The ladies all celebrated on Whiteman Street, then promised him that if he ever started another more reputable business they would definitely patronize it.

Our later shining lights did not seem so concerned with hooch.

Many of us have heard of Helen Hooven Santmeyer of Xenia and her epic novel “And Ladies of the Club” that followed a group of female friends and chronicled their lives for 80 years. I have never read the book, but it has gotten high praise in some quarters. She was named to the Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame in 1984. She was born in 1895 and died in 1986.

There are very few people who have not heard of author Virginia Hamilton.She wrote 41 books, including M. C. Higgins, the Great for which she won the U.S. National Book Award and the Newberry Medal making her the first black author to win the latter. She also won the International Hans Christian Andersen Award and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, National Book Award, the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award, the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award and The New York Times Outstanding Children’s Book of the Year. She was a native of Yellow Springs her maternal grandfather having been brought to the area as an infant via the Underground Railroad. She was born in 1936 and died in 2002.

Precious Jewel Freeman Graham of Yellow Springs was an educator, social worker, and attorney. She was professor emeritus of social work and legal studies at Antioch College, Yellow Springs, Ohio. She was the second black woman to serve as President of the World YWCA. She was named to the Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame in 2008. She was born in 1925 and died in 2015.

Finally Hallie Q. Brown, for whom the library at CSU is named . A dedicated educator who graduated from Wilberforce College in 1873, she began opening and teaching at schools all across the South. Her mission was twofold, she wanted to educate black children who had mostly been denied education during slavery and she wanted to teach older blacks to read so they could read the Bible. She continued her work until things began to get bad for black people in the region about 1874-75 as Reconstruction began to be abandoned and white supremacists regained control. She came back to the area returning to work at Wilberforce University. She traveled extensively for the college giving lectures, talks, and publicizing the college to encourage students to attend. She was named to the Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame in 1988. She was born in 1849 and died in 1949.

So, we have some big shoes to fill if we would like to continue the work of these accomplished women. Knowing a lot of the women of Greene County I am fairly confident we are up to it.

By Cookie Newsom

Cookie Newsom is a Greene County resident and guest columnist.

Cookie Newsom is a Greene County resident and guest columnist.