I was thinking about some Miami County history this week … imagine that! Anyway, I was ruminating on some of the people who have been very influential in the county, or even beyond the county. That led to contemplating some of the women who have made an impact in the county.
There are several people who come to mind. Ladies such as Frances A. Johnston, who studied nutrition and wrote several books on the subject. Also, Betty (Elkins) Lund, wife of famed aircraft aerobat Freddie Lund. She became a well-known stunt flyer in her own right and during World War II flew planes from the west coast to the east coast in preparation for shipment to Europe. In addition, there was Clara Anderson, one of Piqua’s first African-American public school teachers in the 1870’s, who forged a trail for others. There was also Belle (Buchanan) Evans, who became a physician, returned to Piqua in 1883 and specialized in diseases of women and children, and eventually organized a dispensary downtown. You could name people like Nancy Currie-Gregg, who was enshrined in sculpture last week, or Dr. Sarah (Furnas) Wells of West Milton, who became a doctor and a medical instructor in the 19th century.
There were also many others in West Milton and Tipp City who impacted lives, sometimes just quietly behind the scenes by their love and influence in the lives of husbands and children.
Of course, it is not possible to cover the many women throughout Miami County’s history who have positively impacted their home in a short article such as this, but please allow me to briefly mention three women who continue to ‘give’ to their communities although they have passed into eternity.
In Troy, Mary Jane (Harter) Hayner has influenced the community through the gift of her home to the Troy Board of Education. When Mrs. Hayner died 76 years ago, little did the community know what an impact her gift would have, initially, as the public library, a place of learning, exploration and adventure; then, as the Troy-Hayner Cultural Center. In the latter capacity, it is both a museum and a living activity center with numerous types of classes being held for art, history, ballet instruction, music, poetry, etc. Countless people have been able to enjoy displays or talent musicians, or even perform because of the availability of the former home. She truly gave to her community.
In Piqua, Viola (Bowdry) Clemons, who moved to the city in 1925, was very active in helping others. She was a seamstress at the Piqua hospital, then during World War II, she took the Red Cross’ nurses training and volunteered hundreds of hours in the hospital. During the same period she was also very involved in ending segregation in the restaurants and theaters of Piqua. She operated her own business, served on the board of the YWCA and served the community in many other capacities. In 2001 she was awarded the Order of George recognition as acknowledgement of her contributions to making Piqua better.
Another person of influence was Lucia (Hobart) Bravo, who advocated for the restoration, upkeep and preservation of downtown Troy in the 1970s and 1980s. She spent numerous hours preparing and making presentations to community groups and leaders in order to raise awareness of the need for action. Another area of influence was as a board member of numerous organizations such as the Troy-Miami County Public Library, the Mental Health Association and the Family Abuse Shelter.
As previously noted, this article is too short to cover in great detail the lives of these women. In fact, the information could be made into a small volume about the many ladies, both past and present, and how they have helped our communities in this county, and I am sure this exercise could repeated throughout the Miami Valley. I would be interested in hearing from some of you if you would like to know more about one of these women, or another you have read about and would like to learn more.
Patrick D. Kennedy is archivist at the Troy-Miami County Public Library’s Local History Library, 100 W. Main St., Troy. He may be contacted by calling (937) 335-4082 or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org