Women’s Way Murals: Harriet Woods Hill’s Ribbon Cutting

On September 1st, GGRWHC along with the Downtown Grand Rapics Inc., The City of Grand Rapids, Lions & Rabbits and numerous community partners, came together to host the ribbon cutting for the Harriet Woods Hill mural, located at at the Grand Rapids Police Department’s alley at 1 Monroe Center NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503. Harriet Woods Hill in 1955 became the first African American female officer in the Grand Rapids Police Department. Her career began in the Juvenile Division, and she later trained new recruits about the challenges faced by children. Hill, in 1977, was named the first female detective in the department’s 106-year history. “I came there to do a job, and I wasn’t going to allow [anyone] to force me to quit working because [of their] prejudices,” she said. “Once the door was opened, I never allowed it to become closed.”

“Harriet Woods-Hill was resilient and humble. Symbolism flows through this piece as waves pay ode to Harriet’s hometown leading to the old-time Grand Rapids cityscape. Lotus flowers symbolize her growth out of muddy waters, all the while soaring above.” – Statement by Mural Artist Jasmine Bruce.

(The above description of Harriet Woods Hill and statement by the artist were taken from https://www.womenswaygr.org/)

Along with the ribbon cutting there was a welcome speech from DGRI and GGRWHC’s Sophia Brewer, a performance by local artist DJ Venus Flyytrap, a video on Harriet Hill Woods, and speeches from James Hill (Harriet Woods Hill’s son), Jasmine Bruce (the artist of the mural), GRPD’s Chief Payne, and Lions and Rabbits. There were snacks and refreshments provided by Mosby’s! Scroll on to see photos from the event!

If you were not able to join us at the Harriet Woods Hill’s ribbon cutting – don’t worry there will be four more events to join in on the fun! Every Wednesday in September the community members listed above will be holding a ribbon cutting to feature each completed Women’s Way Mural in downtown Grand Rapids. Along with the ribbon cutting these events will also include local artist performances, a video on the background of the women of the murals, and time to mingle with food and drinks! For more information on the upcoming events please see our events calendar.

Three work colleagues of Harriet Woods Hill’s.

Crowd gathered at the ribbon cutting.

James Hill (Harriet Woods Hill’s son) on the left with the scissors, ready to cut the ribbon!

The crowd seated beneath the mural for the presentation.

Sophia Brewer speaking for GGRWHC.

Jasmine Bruce (the mural’s artist) giving her speech.

Thank you for celebrating Women’s Equality Day with GGRWHC!

A big thank you to all of those who came out to honor and celebrate the local women we featured for this year’s Women’s Equality Day! Thank you to those who posted their visits on our Facebook page and to those who visited and did not post – we still noticed your presence and are grateful for that.

This year the GGRWHC featured four women in two different cemeteries to remember and continue their legacy of suffrage efforts and equal rights activism. Those who were able to participate visited one or more of the following grave sites:

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more information on Clara Comstock Russell click here and to learn more about Etta Comstock Boltwood, click here! For a synopsis of our oral history interview of Lillian Gill, click here and to read more about the life of Ethel Beverly Burgess, click here!

Women’s Equality Day and the GGRWHC were featured in local press coverage throughout Grand Rapids! On August 25th, Susan Coombes, a board member of the GGRWHC appeared on Shelley Irwin’s WGVU Morning Show (88.5/95.3 FM) to talk about the GGRWHC’s plans to celebrate local women on August 26th through our “Here Lies a Suffragist” self-guided tours as well as the four women we featured this year. If you were not able to make it out on the 26th, fear not! The gravesites of local suffragists and activists can be visited on any day of the year; to learn more about how to find them, visit our self guided tours page here. Some of the pictures shared on our Facebook page of GGRWHC members celebrating Women’s Equality Day were also shared in a Fox 17 piece on the reflection and commemoration of the anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment on Women’s Equality Day. Watch this short video here to learn more and to see if you can recognize the GGRWHC members! To see the WZZM’ 13 On Your Side feature on the Comstock Sisters, click here.

For those who were unable to participate in this year’s event, scroll on to see more of the celebration and remembrance at the Fulton Street and Garfield Park Cemeteries.

We hope to see you on the next Women’s Equality Day!

 

From Melissa Fox at the Gravesite of Lillian Gill.

 

Lucy and Tom Fox at the Gravesite of Etta Comstock Boltwood.

 

The Fox Family visiting Clara Comsotck Russell in the Rain.

 

Diana Barrett at the gravesite of Clara Comstock Russell.

 

Diana Barrett at the gravesite of Etta Comstock Boltwood.

 

From Kristen Laham Wildes and her visit to the Gravesite of Ethel Burgess.

 

From Kristen Laham Wildes and her visit to the gravesite of Lillian Gill.

 

Holding Lucy Fox’s pennant for Lillian Gill’s gravesite, Jo Ellyn Clarey wrestles with balloons in the wind.

 

Ruth Van Stee honoring Ethel Beverly Burgess. Watch for Ruth’s work on the Burgess family!

Women’s Equality Day with GGRWHC

Celebrate Women’s Equality Day with GGRWHC! August 26, 2021

Help us to honor and continue the legacy of local women who progressed suffrage efforts and equal rights activism in our community by visiting the grave(s) of four women we are featuring for 2021.

This year, we will mark four gravesites with purple balloons to help you locate the four women we are featuring – see the suggested steps below to make the most of your visits!

  1. Visit our website page, “Here Lies a Suffragist,” for a full description of the event here: https://www.ggrwhc.org/here-lies-a-suffragist/
  2.  Please visit our new page this year for Garfield Park Cemetery to locate the gravesites of two more African American activists. Lillian Gill worked after the successful suffrage movement, but would have supported it. And the club life and public activism of Ethel Beverly Burgess suggests that she was a supporter. Meet them on the page here: https://www.ggrwhc.org/garfield-park-cemetery/
  3. For more information on the Comstock sisters and how to find their gravesites please visit the Fulton Street Cemetery page here: https://www.ggrwhc.org/fulton-street-cemetery/
  4. On August 26th, find the grave of one or more of our four featured suffragists and activists.
  5. Honor the individual’s grave with flowers, even a single stem, and record your visit by taking a photo of yourself and/or the decorated gravesite.
  6. Post your photo in the comments section of our Facebook post honoring the day. https://www.facebook.com/GGRWHC (If you do not use Facebook, please send it to our email address– [email protected])
  7. DON’T MISS THIS!

WZZM’s 13 ON YOUR SIDE will run a short feature on the Comstock Sisters at 11:00 pm Wednesday, August 25th and throughout the day on the 26th. Look for the link of this feature on our Instagram and Facebook pages!

Note: Note: If you choose to leave any flowers, we will see that the graves are cleaned up later.

Thank you for participating!

 

 

 

Join us at the 2021 Hollyhock Lane Parade!

Join us at the Hollyhock Lane Parade on the morning of Saturday, July 3rd at the corner of Clavin and Alexander in Ottawa Hills! Line up will start at 8:00am and the parade will commence at 8:30am sharp. Here are a couple of helpful tips to make your trip out to the parade a little easier!:

If you get lost… You can call (616)574-7307 and the GPS address of where the GGRWHC will be located will be at 1335 Alexander.

Our dress code is… Just wear as much white as you can! The GGRWHC will be providing the “Votes for Women” signs as well as pennants and sashes. But it doesn’t stop there – we will also have lots of great heats for women and men to jazz up your parade outfit!

You should arrive early if possible… We will be marching at 8:30am sharp! This is a short parade, but it is packed full of fun and history.

Why we march… Our annual Hollyhock march reminds both us and audience of our mission to share what we know and to skewer myths about local women’s history in general

For more information see our latest newsletter here!

Meet the 2021 Board Nominees!

The Virtual Annual Meeting is coming up soon! Mark your calendars for Monday, May 10th from 5:30pm – 6pm. Make sure to get acquainted with this year’s board nominees before then! Read on to meet the 2021 nominees who will be voted on during this year’s annual meeting. 

A native of Seattle, Washington, Cynthia Browne was a transplant to Grand Rapids twenty years ago and has been fascinated by the women’s history of her chosen city. She is currently a circulation specialist in the library of the Grand Rapids Community College, where she has the unique ability to connect both non-traditional, older students and younger learners with resources and often to serve as their continuing mentor. Also at the GRCC, Browne has taken the lead in library initiatives, such as the Exam Cram food supply, student employee training, and a library food pantry. A lifelong-student, Browne graduated from Ferris State University in 2019 and is now interested to help the Greater Grand Rapids Women’s History Council unearth and preserve the stories of little-known local women who have impacted our past and to bring them into the city’s present. Her special interest is in African American women’s history and the many roles they have played in the area.

Will Katerberg is currently the curator of Heritage Hall, archive of Calvin University, and is editor of its print and online magazine, Origins. A professor of history, Will is also the director of the Mellema Program in Western American Studies and is actively working on a book on nineteenth-century Massachusetts senator Henry L. Dawes and his daughter Anna Laurens Dawes, who were both influential in promoting reform movements and legislation regarding the acculturation of Native Americans to U.S. life and values. His rephotography projects—comparisons of past and contemporary photographs—explore Dutch American and local history sites in West Michigan and throughout the state. Generously, Will has already been contributing to GGRWHC board life for much of the pandemic year.

 

Gabe LaGrand is a graduating senior in history at Calvin University, with minors in philosophy and German. Throughout his time at Calvin, Gabe enjoyed multiple women- and gender-focused courses starting with Kristin DuMez’s Women and Gender in U.S. History. From former board member Kristin, he first learned about GGRWHC. Then, supervised by Kate van Liere and Jo Ellyn Clarey, he began work in early 2020 as an intern on the Women Who Ran project and began learning more about the group. While Gabe was disappointed that his microfilm scrolling in GRPL’s archive and his official internship were cut short due to the pandemic, he has already begun continuing work on the electoral history project, which will continue during his time on the board. But he is also excited to engage with the organization’s other projects and pursuits. Bottom line, this Grand Rapids native is curious to learn more about his hometown and contribute to its history.

Sue Thoms is a writer and storyteller who has enjoyed over thirty years in journalism. In 2014, while writing for The Grand Rapids Press/MLive, she was captured by the story of the Grand Rapids women scientists who created the whooping cough vaccine and saved the lives of countless children. Thoms wrote a feature article pointing a spotlight at the groundbreaking work of these extraordinary women, which was in turn placed on the front page above the fold by the first female editor of the Press and our board member, Julie Hoogland. Together, they have kept up their work on Kendrick, Eldering, and Gordon, starting with a GGRWHC annual reception; then a GRPL exhibit; a Community Legends sculpture unveiling; and, most recently, a presentation for the Historical Society of Michigan. Thoms currently writes medical features for Spectrum Health Beat, the news site for Spectrum Health. She is especially captivated by stories that involve medicine and children and is the author of six children’s books, including The Twelve Days of Christmas in Michigan.

Remembering Joan Luedders Wolfe on Earth Day

On this 51st Earth Day we are remembering and celebrating the life and work of environmentalist Joan Luedders Wolfe who founded West Michigan Environmental Action Council in 1968 and was the first woman appointed to the Natural Resources Commission in 1973. Her work with WMEAC still impacts conservation efforts in Michigan today. Legislature such as the 1972 Inland Lakes and Streams Act, which continues to protect Michigan’s inland waterways from development and contamination and was made possible through the hard work of WMEAC under Wolfe’s leadership. Wolfe passed away on January 23, 2021, but leaves behind a legacy of trailblazing environmentalism. Learn more about her life and work in this recent WMEAC article.

March with us into Women’s History Month 2021!

Find full information on our March calendar about great virtual programming starting with the Kutsche Office kickoff opening the month to its ending at a celebratory program honoring our new web page Women Who Ran.

Be sure to catch the GGRWHC’s three main offerings—first, on March 24th, when Katelyn VerMerris takes a singular look at the paid labor and volunteer contributions of Grand Rapids women on the home front during World War I.

Women working the welding machine at the American Seating Company. Grand Rapids Herald, August 8, 1918.

On March 26th, celebrate the launch of Women Who Ran! A Grand Rapids Women’s Electoral History with a close look at a decade of upheaval, the 1910s. Grand Rapids women ran for public office in increasing numbers during this heady decade when they could leap onto any public stage they liked, even those of the Michigan State Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives!

“Women Voters: Five Women Are Candidates for State Offices.” Bay City Times, April 5, 1919.

Finally, on March 31st, join us for a fuller look at Grand Rapids women seeking Public office before the Nineteenth Amendment — and see how we can search 47 different women running 82 campaigns between 1887 and 1920 alphabetically, chronologically, by political office, occupation, marital status, reform activity, and party affiliation. Meet the local women running for City Comptroller and State Superintendent of Public Instruction in 1919 alone–and celebrate our new web page, Women Who Ran!

March Community Cup with Outside Coffee Co!


We are excited to announce that for the month of March the Outside Coffee Co is partnering with the Greater Grand Rapids Women’s History Council as a part of their Community Cup Program!

The March Community Cup is the hazelnut Latte and 100% of its profits will be donated by the Outside Coffee Co to GGRWHC.

If you are interested in trying the March Community Cup latte you can find the Outside Coffee Co at the following address:

Outside Coffee Co
734 Wealthy St SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
https://outsidecoffeeco.com/menu
Hours: Monday – Sunday, 7am – 7pm

Join us in celebrating Women’s History Month with great coffee!

A New Year with Unfinished Business

In the wake of 2020, the GGRWHC celebrates the new year for its possibilities. Beginning with our first board meeting of 2021, we will take an entirely appropriate backward glance and rededicate ourselves to remembering and acting on the lessons of the past year.

Anti-Racism Statement of the Board of Directors of the Greater Grand Rapids Women’s History Council:  Several tragedies throughout 2020 clearly exposed the effects of systemic racism in American society. Minorities have endured disproportionately the unequal effects of COVID-19, unemployment, poverty, and incidents of police brutality and injustice. This is especially true for African American communities. We recognize that the Black Lives Matter movement has led the way in bringing attention to these inequities, and we stand with them.

We, the Greater Grand Rapids Women’s History Council (GGRWHC), condemn the killing of George Floyd, and we mourn the many other lives that have been lost as a result of individual and systemic racism. We support and stand with Black Lives Matter and the protest of those who demonstrate to call out systemic racism and unjust practices in our communities. We denounce white supremacy and all forms of racism, discrimination and injustice.

GGRWHC commits to enabling diversity and equity, and we welcome people of all backgrounds who want to share the impact of women in our history. We will recruit and support people of color on our board. We will continue to research and share the stories of people of color in our community. We commit to continuous learning to advance our knowledge of personal biases while also learning ways to build anti-racist systems.

Initiating Women’s History Wednesdays!

Although GGRWHC’s programming to honor the 19th Amendment centennial has been interrupted by the coronavirus outbreak, we invite you to stick with us virtually into the foreseeable future. During the rest of 2020, we will not forget the centennial celebration; but we will widen our focus. Please stay tuned about August 26th’s HER VOICE HER VOTE! But, likely, we will persist with centennial celebration past the end of this year–when we sincerely hope to see you again in person!

For now, watch for Women’s History Wednesdays via our electronic newsletter (sign up here) and follow us on Facebook. We will offer a panoply of women’s history in bite-size pieces as well as fuller offerings in our monthly features in Women’s Lifestyle Magazine as well as in our hard-copy newsletter! Make sure our newsletter lands in your mailbox – click here to become a supporting member of GGRWHC!

Here’s a taste of Women’s History Wednesdays, which hit inboxes yesterday.

Union Benevolent Association Training School for Nurses

GGRWHC salutes health workers during our current crisis and gives a nod to the shoulders they stand on, the pioneering women of the past who took the lead in organizing institutions to care for the sick, the elderly, and the orphaned. Balancing benevolence and business sense, they undertook the development of local hospitals and nursing schools, here represented by the first graduating class in 1888 of the Union Benevolent Association Training School for Nurses. The UBA turned into Blodgett Hospital. Hats off!