Ashland’s celebration of women

Dr. Lucille Ford addresses the room after the Ashland County Community Foundation’s Women’s Fund event.

Avaerie Fitzgerald

Dr. Lucille Ford addresses the room after the Ashland County Community Foundation’s Women’s Fund event.

Avaerie Fitzgerald, MANAGING EDITOR OF THE COLLEGIAN

Applause filled the air as she took the microphone. Her voice filled with power and a tone filled with gratefulness and enthusiasm at seeing the crowd around her.

Dr. Lucille Ford stood next to her daughter, Joanne Watson, and greeted the room with a joke to lighten the mood. Laughter filled the room as the audience waited to see what Ford had to say to the 200 women in attendance, all in support of her idea and mission to educate women and help the community.

Avaerie Fitzgerald
Women gathered for this dinner event to support the women’s fund and learn about the accomplishments and mission of the ACCF.

The Ashland County Community Foundation’s Women’s Fund celebrated their fifteenth year at the Ashland University Convocation Center on Sept. 24. Generations of women gathered to celebrate a program that, according to their mission statement, exists to achieve three things – “encourage women to achieve self-sufficiency, educate women about community needs and encourage women to participate as donors and to build a permanent endowment.”

This event came at a pertinent time in history as 100 years of women’s suffrage draws closer.

In a speech addressed to the women of the crowd, Ford took her time to address all of those she was most thankful for and how far the women of Ashland County have come since the start of the program. Each year brings a new strength and a new era of women to take over the ideas of the last.

“I think anytime women can get together is empowering. To celebrate all the many years and the different traditions and styles is such a great feeling,” Mindy Scurlock, member of the advisory committee, said.

In the past, events like this may have been impossible, but now the community members celebrate each other, the history of Ashland and women all-in-one.

“When I think of each of you going on your way, and all the things you do, and all the things you love, and all the things you hope for and pray for continued with your heart I am so grateful,” Ford said in her speech. “Continue my dear, beautiful women. It is in you that I place my trust, my hope, my prayer, my everlasting thanksgiving.”

Avaerie Fitzgerald
A picture of Dr. Ford’s wedding along with dresses were among the many displays set up by the Foundation and Ashland Historical Society.

This event was held to celebrate women and 15 years of the program. It was titled, “Celebrating the Past and Envisioning the Future” and it showcased women’s items from the Ashland County Historical Society like hats, dresses and shoes.

The “Freedom from Selfishness” award was also received by Diana Brechbuhler who has done many philanthropic things for the community and the people of Ashland, according to the Ashland Community Foundation’s Committee.

Ford defines philanthropy, a key term of the night, as freedom from selfishness, which is what all strive to achieve.

Brechbuhler was described by the committee as “leader, researcher, dependable, creative” among other things, but she credited her drive to Ford, who sparked her ambition and motivation.

“Success has come from an effort of all who are with me,” said Brechbuhler.

Avaerie Fitzgerald
Diana Brechbuhler speaks on the motivation after receiving the “Freedom from Selfishness” award.

While the awards were one of the main events of the night, there were also plenty of artifacts to look at while waiting.

Cindy Kiser was standing off to the side of the room looking admiringly at the dresses and photos of the past. People went past and nodded, but Kiser remained stuck in her position — awestruck.

“This is my first time attending and I wanted to see what it was about. I’ve been admiring the dresses and pieces from the women of Ashland,” Kiser said. “I’m truly honored to be here among these great women.”

Women have achieved a great amount in the past 100 years, and hosting events like the Women’s Fund anniversary and award ceremony helps recognize that women have a place in helping others and reaching goals, both near and far.

A vote for women would end up changing the course of history and allowing many freedoms to follow, like education, work and getting involved in politics. This time opened up the ultimate door that would not be shut again.

Ashland University is hosting events all year to honor women and the anniversary of their freedom with book readings, discussion panels, dinners and recognitions.

A discussion on the women’s suffrage movement

A stack of books lay on the table in the office of Dr. Deleasa Randall-Griffths, professor of communication studies, as she prepares to share the story of the women’s suffrage movement with someone new. She leads a book discussion every other Wednesday at 12 p.m. in honor and celebration of the centennial of the 19th amendment.

The books she chooses are Sally Roesch Wagner’s, “The Women’s Suffrage Movement” and Elaine Weiss’s, “The Woman’s Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote,” which are being read this spring semester.

Randall-Griffiths credits her passion and interest in women’s studies on an experience she had 25 years ago during the 75th anniversary of women’s suffrage.

“25 years ago, I vividly remember being in a post office and seeing a stamp honoring the 75th anniversary of women getting the vote. I had no idea,” she said. “Ever since then, I’ve paid more and more attention to the topic and to the fact that it’s not talked about.”

Randall-Griffiths works closely with Chautauqua, an organization that takes old stories of historical figures pasts and puts on a show for the public to inform and teach in a living history performance. She happens to take the role of Chapman Catt in the performances.

Once she built up the courage and found time, she applied to a live history show. Her first performance took place in 2015 and she does not plan on stopping.

“You have to become the person in a way…” she said.

She will perform as part of the Symposium Against Indifference in the Hawkins-Conard Student Center auditorium on Tuesday, March 3. She will be performing as Chapman Catt at the McKinley Presidential Library & Museum in Akron and again in Shelby, OH.

Randall-Griffiths developed a deep interest in the women’s suffrage movement and Chapman Catt after she discovered a picture in an old, wooden frame depicting the second annual National League of Women Voters convention, which took place in 1921.

This image, stained yellow with age and blurred in the corners, shows hundreds of women gathered in the Statler Hotel in Cleveland with a banner in the background reading, “These United States of Ours.”

“It hangs in our living room,” she said.

Upon closer inspection, she noticed an older woman sitting in front of the banner wearing light clothing, nearly blended into the background. There sat Chapman Catt.

“The name that came up instantly was Carrie Chapman Catt because she started the league of women voters and she was President of the National American Woman Suffrage Association when the 19th went to pass.”

This realization helped inspire her to make the decision on which books to discuss in the group. They have an assigned reading and come together with ideas, quotes and questions to gain a common perspective based on facts from the book.

Avaerie Fitzgerald
A living history performance from the ACCF Women’s Fund event.

The group has discussed the vote, and how although ultimately passed, it took time and persistence.

Randall-Griffiths said that one of the most surprising factors that she came across while conducting her studies was how close the vote came to not being passed.

According to Wagner’s book, it was not a definite vote for women and faced intense pushback and judgment for years before normalization began. Despite women slowly starting to make their way into work and school, their voices were not prioritized in that era.

“The fact that we’re talking about it and celebrating a centennial is great, but it’s still only been 100 years. There are still some people that don’t even know that suffrage is a positive thing.”

The goal of the symposium and on-campus/off-campus celebrations is to educate and raise awareness for those that set a path to the freedoms that exist today.

“We are still battling some of the same pushback and stigma that they were back then, but we’ve made progress. If you have an idea and you feel like you don’t have a voice to express it because you’re a woman — that’s a problem,” she said.

The book discussions are the first step to teaching and making a change by sharing information, one person to another.

Randall-Griffiths used the example of a baton pass in a relay race to depict women passing responsibility and drive from one to another.

“Here we are, a campus full of women, some who may not be registered to vote, and that relay baton is being held out for each and every one of them to grab it and run,” she said. “If no one talks about the baton or offers it, they’re not going to realize that it’s their responsibility now.”

For more information on the book discussion and list of upcoming events, contact Deleasa Randall-Griffiths ([email protected]).