Celebrating Women's History

In the Community and Beyond

WACs, WASPs, SPARs, and Marines:

Nicknames, Recruiting, and the Wartime Experience of
Servicewomen from Grand Rapids

by Will Miner,
Grand Rapids Public Library History and Special Collections

Thursday, November 10, 2016, 7:00pm
Ryerson Auditorium, Grand Rapids Public Library


The Second World War saw the first large-scale employment of women in the armed forces of the United States. Initially unwelcomed by the services, women were first accepted by the Army, later the Navy and Coast Guard, and finally the Marine Corps. This struggle for acceptance is reflected in how they were portrayed in the media, how they were recruited and trained, and even in the nicknames they were given. This presentation will include record of the struggle in Grand Rapids and examine how, though being the most resistant of all the forces, the Marine Corps ultimately became the most progressive branch of the armed services in its acceptance of women.

The Greater Grand Rapids Women’s History Council is pleased to provide the November 10th program of the Grand Rapids Historical Society--just two days after the historic 2016 presidential election and one day before Veterans Day. Honoring the latter, the Grand Rapids Public Library’s Will Miner will highlight the WWII experiences of local women Marines to illustrate the first large-scale employment of women in the United States armed forces. 

Co-sponsored by the Greater Grand Rapids Women's History Council, the Grand Rapids Historical Society & Grand Rapids Public Library.

More information about the program at this link.

A related treasure from the Greater Grand Rapids Women's History Council's oral history collection was featured in our most recent newsletter: 

Marie Jay Cady ((1903-1996) was a smart, outspoken woman best remembered for her long-time role as the executive director of the World Affairs Council in Grand Rapids. Cady’s vibrant early career in public relations provided the backdrop to many of her life accomplishments--in journalism, politics, and the Air Force, as well as the World Affairs Council. Read the rest of the article at this link.

(Audio recordings and transcripts, mostly from the 1990s, are stored in the Grand Rapids Public Library archives and are accessible to the public upon request. A list of interview subjects and transcript summaries can be found on the GGRWHC website at our-projects.  The following material has been shaped from one of the summaries, which are added to the website as they become available.)

Getting it Right: Best (and Worst) Practices of Oral History

A workshop sponsored by GVSU’s Kutsche Office of Local History

Wednesday, October 26,  3:00 PM - 4:15 PM

Mary Idema Pew Library, Multipurpose Room (Allendale Campus)

Oral history is a method that preserves the voices and memories of individuals from family members and community members to leaders of organizations and members of political or social movements. This workshop will discuss the importance and value of oral histories as method and examine (un)successful practices in conducting oral histories. James Smither, Professor of History at GVSU and Director of the GVSU Veterans History Project, will facilitate.

Please RSVP by noon on 10/26/2016: kutsche@gvsu.edu  or  616-331-8099

Jane Hibbard Idema Women's Studies Center at Aquinas College
Celebrates 30 Years!

Kudos to the Jane Hibbard Idema Women's Studies Center at Aquinas College on its 30th anniversary this year! Read the story and check out their calendar. GGRWHC has a circular connection to JHIWSC via board member Amy Dunham Strand, current director, and one of our GGRWHC founders, Jane Hibbard Idema. The JHIWSC honors Idema for her pioneering role in the women's movement in Grand Rapids. And so do we!

Not only was Jane Hibbard Idema (1921-2006) a founder of the Greater Grand Rapids Women's History Council in 1988--see our 25th anniversary history (see our story at this link)--she worked in the same arena as the local women WWII veterans featured in our November 10th program by Will Miner. She served in the American Red Cross in the European theater. CHECK OUT our program details above.


GGRWHC in the Media and More


Link here for more headlines and stories.

Mary Free Bed Guild members attend the October 19 Michigan Women's Hall of Fame Award Dinner at which the Guild was recognized. More here.





Katherine van Liere joins the GGRWHC Board! Kate is Professor of History at Calvin College. She holds a B.A. in History of Ideas from Williams College, an M.A. in History from Cambridge University, and a Ph.D. in History from Princeton University. Before moving to Grand Rapids taught at the College of Charleston (S.C.). She teaches courses on European and world history since 1500 at Calvin, with an emphasis on the Renaissance and Reformation era, religious history, and historiography. Kate publishes articles on early modern Spanish intellectual history. She also teaches part-time in the Spanish and Dutch departments and directs the History internship program at Calvin.

Kate provides leadership for the Calvin College Internship Program.​  She teaches an occasional class titled "Studies in History of Women & Gender" and she taught "History 294 at the Grand Rapids Public Museum" in which students collaborated with the GRPM in its ongoing efforts to digitize its museum collection. Welcome, Kate!


GGRWHC board member, Julie Tabberer, recently named the Local History Department supervisor with the Grand Rapids Public Library, was interviewed as a part of C-SPAN's Cities Tour, Grand Rapids series. Julie presented an inside view into the library's furniture design and rare books collections. See the full interview here. The GRPL's Furniture Design Collection is the second largest in the country. From the late-19th century through the first half of the 20th century, Grand Rapids was a major center of U.S. furniture production. 

Look especially around minute four of the video for a segment on women's early role in the furniture industry!

Julie holds an MILS degree from Wayne State University and has worked as a librarian and library assistant in the Grand Rapids History and Special Collections Department at GRPL. She previousl worked in the archives of Steelcase, Frederick Meijer Gardens, and Davenport University.

Longtime friend and member of GGRWHC, WGVU's Shelley Irwin is named the 2016 Athena Recipient: "Now in its 27th year in the greater Grand Rapids community, the prestigious ATHENA Award honors an individual who has demonstrated leadership in their professional field, mentored and opened doors of opportunities for women, and contributed time and talent to the community." 


Congratulations to GGRWHC member, Dixie Anderson, West Michigan World Affairs Council direction, on receiving the Foreigh Policy Association Medal this month at the Harvard Club of New York. The medal recognizes individuals who demonstrate responsible internationalism and work to expand public knowledge of international affairs. See the full Mlive story here.

Reprise: GGRWHC Annual Reception & Program

March 30, 2016

Program: Shattering Glass Ceilings—Women’s Elective History in Grand Rapids, 1888-2015  

Special guest: Mayor Rosalynn Bliss

One hundred-twenty people attended our annual  reception and celebration of Women's History Month on March 30 at the Women's City Club. The large group enjoyed an evening with drinks and wonderful hors d'oeuvres, prepared by the Women's City Club chef.

A link to the full program is here.