Celebrating Women's History

In the Community and Beyond

 Link to information about previous GGRWHC programs and news here.

MEMBERSHIP RENEWAL TIME: Do you need to renew your GGRWHC membership? Use this link now!


Greater Grand Rapids Women's History Council
Annual Reception and Program

Before and Beyond the Bricks and Mortar:
The 1908 Blodgett Home for Children and the Programs It Has Housed
Presented by: Cindy Laug & Diana Barrett

Wednesday, March 29, 5:00 – 7:00 pm

ICCF Assembly Hall (the former Blodgett Home for Children)
920 Cherry Street SE


On Wednesday, March 29, walk through the Corinthian columns of the most significant building in Fairmount Square for GGRWHC’s celebration of Women’s History Month 2017! A short reception will begin at 5:00 pm. Very close to 5:30 pm we will conduct the world's shortest annual meeting before a program honoring nineteenth-century women who organized the children’s programs behind the 1908 construction of the Blodgett Home for Children—currently the ICCF, our host building for the day.


The early children’s programs proliferated into the twentieth century when Mary Free Bed took over the building for its rehabilitation projects. Appropriately, the GGRWHC event offers an opportunity to visit a building beautifully rehabilitated itself—and we will toast the recent 125th anniversary of the Mary Free Bed Guild, whose founding and current members were inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame in 2016.


Held in a room originally designed as an assembly hall for the children in residence, the evening’s reflection on the women of its past will be conducted by GGRWHC local historians and feature amazing period photographs. Cindy Laug will guide us from an early history of nineteenth-century children’s aid groups into the twentieth century, when the Blodgett Home for Children transformed into a foster care provider. Diana Barrett will rehearse the history of Mary Free Bed in this space and provide a brief account of the fall and recent rebirth of the building itself.

Join us for a heart-warming spring evening with GGRWHC friends, old and new, and with Cindy Laug (also Grand Valley State University & Coopersville Historical Society) and Diana Barrett, (also Grand Rapids Historical Commission). Admission is free. Please join us, but please reserve: 616-574-7307 or info@ggrwhc.org.


Directions: The ICCF Assembly Hall is on the third floor of the current Inner City Christian Federation at 920 Cherry Street SE in Grand Rapids, west of Diamond. Parking is free on the street or at the side and back of the building. Enter either through the grand front door on the north side of the building or the back door on the south, where there is also a handicapped entrance and elevator. If necessary, call 336-9333 for help or send someone to the information desk on the second floor.



Michigan Women's Hall of Fame Seeking Nominations and Judges: Due March 21

It's a new year at the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame, which means that the process has begun for selecting the 2017 class of Michigan Women's Hall of Fame inductees. If you have a woman in mind for selection to the Hall of Fame, now is the time! Nominations are due March 21st.

Nomination forms can be found on our website and can be submitted via email, post, or in person. Be sure to get them in by the due date! We send all submitted nominations to the judges immediately after the deadline.

Speaking of judges...have you thought about serving as one? It's not an easy task, but judges for the Hall of Fame are members of the public (staff has no part in selection!) who get to read each nomination and select who they believe is the most qualified to be in the Hall of Fame. There are two rounds of judging for both categories (Historical and Contemporary). You can choose which category and round you want. To volunteer to be a judge, just fill out the form on our website and we'll be in touch! 

Questions about the process or need help with the nomination form? Call Caitlyn Perry Dial, interim executive director, 517-484-1880 ext. 200 or send an email.

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. 

The Mary Free Bed Guild will be featured at the GGRWHC March 29, 2017 Annual Reception and Program. More information and rsvp at this link.


GGRWHC in the Media and More

Link here for more headlines and stories.

Ruth Stevens, GGRWHC Board Member, has published an article, "Assistant US Attorney Ella Mae Backus: 'A most important figure in the legal profession in the Western District of Michigan.'" Ruth is an Associate Professor at GVSU where she is a Professor of Legal Studies and the Legal Studies Coordinator. Ruth received her BA from Harvard University and her JD from the University of Michigan Law School. Link to the full article here. 



WACs, WASPs, SPARs, and Marines: Nicknames, Recruiting, and the Wartime Experience of Servicewomen from Grand Rapids: presented by Will Miner on November 10, 2016

Link here for additional program notes and information on women in military service.

And listen to Will's interview with Shelley Irwin on the WGVU Morning Show: Women in the Armed Forces

The Greater Grand Rapids Women’s History Council was pleased to provide the November 10th program of the Grand Rapids Historical Society. The Grand Rapids Public Library’s Will Miner highlighted the WWII experiences of local women Marines to illustrate the first large-scale employment of women in the United States armed forces. 


WZZM takes a look back at the women's suffrage movement in Grand Rapids. Ruth Van Stee was interviewed by WZZM's Juliet Dragos earlier this year.   

Ruth is a board member of the GGRWHC and the publisher of the organization's newsletter. A graduate of Calvin College, Ruth retired from the Grand Rapids Public Library where she worked in the Children's Library, Local History, and Special Collections. She is also the newsletter editor for the Grand Rapids Historical Society.



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.