Celebrating Women's History

In the Community and Beyond

 Link to information about previous GGRWHC programs and news here.

Topic: Find the Midwife! Discovering midwives in online records and other sources
Presenter: Janet Sjaarda Sheeres
(A program presented by the Western Michigan Genealogical Society)Saturday, March 4, Grand Rapids Public Library, 1:30 p.m.
More information at the Western Michigan Genealogical Society website.

To date, Janet Sjaarda Sheeres has located over forty-five immigrant midwives who served in Dutch colonies across the United States. Since her findings are pertinent to the discovery of midwives from other early ethnic communities, she will conduct a workshop for the Western Michigan Genealogical Society. Using a case study in this WMGS session, Janet will share practical research tips to overcome the difficulties of finding these women who were often sidelined in early historical and census records. 

In January, Janet presented her research on hard-to-find Dutch immigrant midwives in Grand Rapids for History Detectives (link here); in 2012 Janet offered a program for the Greater Grand Rapids Women's History Council on other invisible Dutch women, single women who immigrated alone between 1880 and 1900. 

An independent scholar and author, Janet Sjaarda Sheeres is also associate editor of Origins, the the journal of the Calvin College Archives. Since she began writing about thirty years ago, she has published over 70 articles in national and international historical and genealogical journals. Her biography, Son of Secession: Douwe J. Vander Werp, was published by Eerdmans in 2006. The Not-So Promised Paradise: The Dutch Colony in Amelia, Virginia 1868-1880 was published by Eerdmans in 2013, and her edited and annotated synodical minutes of the Christian Reformed Church,  the 1857 to 1880, was published in 2014.  

Parking and the program are free.  

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

Wednesday, March 29th, 5:00 – 7:00 pm
ICCF Assembly Hall (the former Blodgett Home for Children)
920 Cherry Street SE


We will honor the nineteenth-century women’s organizations that created and managed the children’s programs behind the 1908 construction of the Blodgett Home—currently the ICCF, our host building for the day. Guided by local historians Cindy Laug and Diana Barrett, we will see how those programs proliferated in the twentieth century and led to the Mary Free Bed take-over of the building for its rehabilitation projects.

Appropriately, our event on March 29th will offer an opportunity to visit a building beautifully rehabilitated itself. We will also toast the recent 125th anniversary of the Mary Free Bed Guild, whose members were in 2016 inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame. Free admission and free parking. Please join us, but please reserve: 616-574-7307 or info@ggrwhc.org.

"A Simple Question"  by  Randy Wyatt
Performed by Ebony Road Players
Thursday, February 23, 2016
7-8:30 PM, Aquinas College Wege Center Ballroom 


Co-sponsored by the Jane Hibbard Idema Women's Studies Center at Aquinas and the Center for Diversity & Inclusion at Aquinas

The half-hour performance will be followed by a discussion with Randy Wyatt, author; Edye Evans Hyde, founder of the Ebony Road Players, and Latoya Booker, director of the Aquinas Center for Diversity and Inclusion.

A Simple Question celebrates the landmark court case overturning miscegenation laws, and how things have (or haven’t) changed in fifty years. This thirty-minute five-woman ensemble piece is a kaleidoscope of stories about interracial love and marriage in America, beginning with Richard and Mildred Loving and flashing forward to real experiences in the present day. Listen to the experiences of West Michigan women, of their relationships and their racial identities as they let down their guards by answering one simple question: “If your experience was a vehicle, which would it be?”  Their answers--rugged motorcycles, waveboards, hot air balloons, UFOs and more—tell us volumes about the interracial experience in our country today.

MISSION STATEMENT OF THE EBONY ROAD PLAYERS:  To inspire, educate, and engage the cultures of our community with high quality professional performances with a focus on the black experience.  The vision is to create a platform where the dialog of race and culture are boldly explored and all voices are heard.

For more information, contact Amy Dunham Strand, Director
Jane Hibbard Idema Women's Studies Center, Aquinas College
amydunham.strand@aquinas.edu or 616-632-1992

2017 Giants Award winners honored on February 4, 2017
Edith Evans Hyde received the Ethel Coe Humanities Award

Link to Mlive here. 

Prior award winners and award information here.

Edith Evans Hyde, executive director, Ebony Road Players

Inspiration: Art for art's sake has always been my inspiration. Having a purpose for being creative is creativity all by itself. My inspiration also comes from people who have a story to tell and from people who want to hear those stories. I provide a conduit for those voices to be heard either through theater or music. Sometimes tales are funny, sad, inspirational, historic, or political. In any case, it always inspires me when I have an opportunity to connect to the human spirit.

 Life Lesson: Never give up on a dream, and never be too afraid of how big the dream is.

 Challenge: The most challenging aspect of my work is the constant pull to retreat into the mainstream for social or financial protection. 


Notice of Two Important Events

March 2: Envision Our Future 

5:30 - 7:30 pm, Meridian Mall, Okemos (near Younkers Men's and Home Store)

 The Michigan Women’s Historical Center & Hall of Fame is saying goodbye to the Cooley-Haze House, our home of 34 years, and is entering a new chapter in our story.  In our search for a new location, we thought outside the box, really outside the box.  We’re moving to the mall!  Meridian Mall in Okemos will be our new location for the next year.  While the mall is definitely an unconventional place for a museum, it makes sense.  We will have much greater access to our primary audiences – women, families, school children, and seniors – and much higher visibility in the community.  As this is a temporary location, we will have to modify our approach and get creative in the use of space.  We will rotate exhibits more often and put a greater emphasis on programming and outreach.

We invite you to join us for a reception in the new space and see it in its raw form. You’ll see that we’ve got our work cut out for us in transforming an empty retail space into a museum.  Please come with your ideas and your checkbooks.  We know that we will need to purchase new carpet, paint the walls, install appropriate lighting, add display cases, and create additional wall space for exhibit installations.  We’ll also be taking ideas and suggestions for how we can improve the space and what kinds of programming you would like to see.  Please check our website, www.michiganwomen.org, to see a list of renovation sponsorship opportunities. Hor d’oeuvres and beverages will be served. 
Please RSVP by Monday, February 27, 2017 by calling the Center at (517) 484-1880 or emailing info@michiganwomen.org 



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.