Edith Nash

Under Edith Nash’s supervision, the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) of Akron grew from a small but thriving organization into a force within the city. It was under Nash’s leadership that Akron’s YWCA swelled in membership, built a new headquarters and introduced new services to the city. At the brink of her success, Edith Nash resigned and left the city.

Little is known of Edith Nash’s career before Akron. According to sketchy YWCA personnel records, Nash had been with the Oberlin YWCA before coming to Akron. At the time she was appointed general secretary of the Akron chapter (1917), she was in her early 30s.

Nash had great skill in administrative matters and soon took Akron’s YWCA into new directions. In 1918, Nash argued that Akron home owners were reluctant to rent to women workers coming into the city during the war. Soon after, underwritten by money from Henry Firestone, owner of Firestone Tire and Rubber and an important employer of women workers, the first dormitory for women workers was opened. By 1920, the YWCA patched together three homes on South Union Street, called the “Blue Triangle,” as a dormitory for women workers. That dorm would have to suffice until 1931 when the grand, new YWCA headquarters opened on South High Street.

Nash also supervised the expansion of the old Grace House headquarters to include a dining room and club house. In 1918, she oversaw the opening of the YWCA’s first summer camps for Akron girls and working women. In 1925, she negotiated the YWCA’s purchase of land on Lake Erie. That land was transformed into Camp YaWaCa, the YWCA facility used by Akron working women and girls for decades.

But perhaps the greatest testament to Nash’s capability was the grand, state-of-the-art YWCA headquarters, opened in 1931. With a supportive group of board members, including Mary (Mrs. O.C.) Barber, Grace (Mrs. W.S) Chase, Elizabeth (Mrs. George W.) CrouseLouise (Mrs. W.S.) Voris and Mary (Mrs. J.B.) Wright, Nash supervised the fund-raising campaign and the construction of an enormous building on South Water Street. The Beacon Journal praised the building and C.W. Seiberling, one of the owners of Seiberling Rubber, had only praise for the general secretary who seemed to make everything possible.

And then, Edith Nash resigned. After 14 years of enormous successes, Nash left Akron. She said she planned to travel and study the labor movement.

 

Photo of Edith Nash courtesy of the Beacon Journal.

–Kathleen L. Endres

Elizabeth Huston Musser, 1858-1944

Elizabeth Huston Musser played a role in founding many of the children’s health and welfare organizations of early 20th century Akron.

Born in Kankakee County, Ind., Musser attended Bucknell College in Lewisburg, Pa. She moved to Akron in 1887 when she married Harvey Musser, an attorney who went on to become a senior partner in the law firm Musser, Kimber and Huffman. Her husband’s position gave her a measure of affluence that allowed her to concentrate on her benevolent activities on behalf of the children of Akron.

Musser was involved early with the Mary Day Nursery and Ward for Crippled Children and is generally credited with being one of the figures credited with the establishment of Children’s Hospital. She was also a founder (along withElizabeth Saalfield) of the Children’s Charity, a kind of self-help program where Akron children donated money each year toward the purchase of needed hospital equipment at Children’s Hospital.

Musser was also involved in Akron social organizations. She was a member of the Akron Woman’s City Club and an early president of the Akron Chapter of the Needlework Guild of America. She was also a member of the Summit County Woman Suffrage Association, and held a life membership in the Ohio Woman Suffrage Association.

–Stephanie Devers

 

Katherine McEbright Milliken, 1850-1929

Katherine (“Kit”) McEbright Milliken, first woman to graduate from Cornell University, was a leader in Akron’s social and philanthropic scene during the Progressive period.

She was the daughter of Thomas and Nancy (Liggitt) McEbright. Her father had been a Civil War physician who moved to Akron in 1864. Her mother was the daughter of a judge in Millersburg, Ohio. Her father, especially, had a commitment to education. For many years he served as a member of Akron’s Board of Education. Both daughters, Katherine and Carita, graduated from college at a time when few women went on to higher education. Carita McEbright, who taught at Buchtel College (now The University of Akron), was another social and philanthropic leader in the city during the Progressive period.

Milliken was married to a physician/surgeon, Charles. The couple lived in the most affluent part of Akron at the time – East Market Street. They had no children.

Milliken never worked outside the home for pay; she was too busy with her volunteer activities. The Akron Alumnusmagazine referred to her as “a leader in Akron’s social and philanthropic work.” In many instances, she started the organizations that continue to endure in the city today.

For example, she and her husband started the Sumner Home of the Aged in West Akron and for many years she served on its board. In 1913, she was president of the Women’s Auxiliary Board of City Hospital. She was also given credit, along with Mary Gladwin, in starting Akron’s chapter of the Red Cross.

From 1919 to 1920, she was the chairman of theKatherine Claypole Student Loan Fund to assist worthy Buchtel College students. The committee was comprised of representatives from each of the four member organizations: the New Century Club, the Fortnightly Club, the Isabella Club and the Daughters of the American Revolution.

In 1896, she was one of the first members of the Akron Branch of the Needlework Guild of America. She was a charter member of the College Club of Akron, an organization for college-educated women in Akron. She was also a member of the Division of Literary Extension in the Department of Applied Education for the College Club.

When Milliken died in 1929, all of her assets went to her sister. But the will also stated that once Carita McEbrightdied, the remaining moneys should be used to establish a student aid fund at The University of Akron. She also wanted a memorial built to honor her husband.

–Stephanie Devers

Carita McEbright, 1865-1940

Miss Carita McEbright was a member of the speech department at The University of Akron and a devoted Shakespearean student. She was a founding member of the Mary Day Nursery and Children’s Hospital and devoted much of her time toward the development of it.

When she became a member of old Buchtel College (now The University of Akron) faculty in 1910, McEbright served as the entire speech department. The Beacon Journaldescribed her as “one of the most beloved figures on the university campus for 25 years.” She remained in the speech department throughout her career, which ended with her retirement in 1935.

Her father, Dr. Thomas McEbright, who was one of Akron’s leading physicians and president of the board of education, influenced McEbright’s interest in education and the hospitals. Her early work experience included teaching physical education and expression in Akron public schools and one year at Congregational College in Yankton, S.D.

As a young woman, McEbright studied under famed Shakespearean actor Robert Mantell and she produced the first Akron Shakespearean program at a Central High graduation. She produced many dramatic programs and participated in early amateur theatricals around 1900.

McEbright attended old Buchtel College as a student for three years and finished her studies at Cornell University in 1887. At Cornell she became a charter member of Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority and later served as faculty advisor for the Akron chapter of the sorority. She was also a member of the Akron Panhellenic Association.

McEbright shared the same commitment to community activities as her sister Katherine McEbright Milliken. McEbright held the position of secretary in “Daughters of the King” and she served on the original Mary Day Nursery board and as president of the organization. In 1905 she helped establish the Mary Day Nursery’s Ward for Crippled Children and from 1918-1919 she served on the Mary Day Nursery publicity committee.

Until her death in 1940, McEbright was a member of the Women’s Board of Children’s Hospital and she served as secretary of that board for a time. In 1911, she became a charter member of the College Club. McEbright was a founding member of the Little Theater movement in Akron and she served as honorary president of the Cornell Club of Akron as well. She was a member of the First Congregational Church throughout her life and she had membership in the Burns Club and the Art and History Class.

At the age of 75, McEbright suffered a stroke and died suddenly. She died in her home, 386 East Market St., which had belonged to the McEbright family since 1903.

Photo courtesy of The University of Akron Archives.

–Janelle Baltputnis

Sarah S. Lyon

Sarah S. Lyon was part of a new generation of women activists hired by Akron’s Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) to bring needed services to women in the city.

Little is known about Lyon before she came to the city – or after she left it. She was hired by the Akron YWCA in 1907 as its industrial secretary with the responsibility of strengthening the ties between the association and the working women in the city. According to a 1908/1909 report, she concentrated on the factory women, visiting the city’s factories every noon hour to announce YWCA-sponsored classes and socials.

By 1910, Lyon had been promoted to general secretary, responsible for all YWCA programs in the city. This was a time tremendous vitality and energy at the YWCA. In 1911, seeing a need for “some sort of college women’s association,” she worked through the YWCA’s student committee to organize the College Women’s Club in 1911. She held a tea for college women on Sept. 22 and one month later, on Oct. 22, the first meeting of the College Club of Akron was held. This organization outlived Lyon’s tenure with the YWCA.

In 1917 Lyon left the YWCA; she was replaced by Edith Nash.

When she lived in Akron, Lyon roomed with the Sylvanus E. Phinney family at 193 Merriman Road.

Photo courtesy of The University of Akron Archives.

–Janelle Baltputnis

Frances G. Hunsicker, b. 1876

Mrs. Frances G. Hunsicker served as head of the two most important women’s organizations in the city of Akron, Ohio, in the 1920s: the Home and School League and the Federation of Women’s Clubs.

Hunsicker served first as assistant secretary treasurer of the Akron and Summit County Federation of Women’s Clubs and was later elected president of the organization in 1926. For several years she was instrumental in the Federation’s annual Christmas Seal campaign. Hunsicker was elected as president of the Federation again in 1928 for a second term.

During the year of her re-election, Hunsicker served as the TB clinic chair of the General Federation and a story in the Akron Beacon Journal said that she “spent many weary hours when the building [TB Clinic] was in the process of renovation in consultation with lawyers, decorators, carpenters, plumbers and insurance men.” The newspaper also described her as a “clear-thinking and active citizen.”

After being treasurer in 1917, Hunsicker held the position of president of the Akron Home and School League for several terms, including the 1921-1923 term. In 1922, the president of the Central Home and School League asked other leagues to help in a project to assure that crippled children would have a means of transportation to the hospital. In 1926, the president of the General Federation said, “It seems to be Mrs. Hunsicker’s policy to do what she can in one life and then step quietly out and take up the next thing that offers itself.”

Hunsicker was also secretary of the Liederfel Ladies Society and a commissioner of the Girl Scouts Akron Council. In 1927, she was president of the Girl Scouts and in 1936, she was a board member for the organization.

Hunsicker was a member of the Fifty Year Club and the First Universalist Church. She was president of the Dandelions Club and active in the Fairlawn Civics Club.

She was married to Arthur Hunsicker, a builder and contractor; they had six children. The Hunsickers resided at 726 Sherman St.

Photo courtesy of the Beacon Journal.

–Janelle Baltputnis

Blanche Eugenie Bruot Hower, 1862 – 1952

Blanche Hower, social feminist and vocational education advocate, helped to further the equality of women in Ohio.

Born in Valentigney, France, Hower came to the United States with her family when she was very young. She attended a one-room school in Akron and married Milton Otis Hower, director and vice president of the American Cereal Company, in 1880.

During her life, Hower was exposed to successful self-made men, namely her father and her husband. She understood the importance of education and it was her duty-first, pleasure-second attitude that enabled her to assume the presidency of the Akron-Selle Company after her husband’s death in 1916.

An avid traveler, Hower brought treasures from all over the world home to Hower House, a beautiful Victorian mansion now operated as a museum by The University of Akron.

Hower’s community memberships included the Portage Country Club, Akron Art Institute, where she served as a trustee, and the Summit County Federation of Women’s Clubs. She served as vice president of the Fifty Year Club of Akron and was honorary president of the Italian Cultural Club.

In answer to the need for vocational training for young people, Hower donated space downtown for the city’s first trade school. The school was named in honor of her husband.

Although she preferred not to march in demonstrations, Hower did have a lifetime membership in the Ohio Woman Suffrage Association. The first time women were allowed to vote, Hower made sure that she and all the women who worked in her household went to the polls.

One of the most remarkable traits about Hower was her determination to effect positive social change. She began her political career at age 67, when she ran for Akron Board of Education. Hower won by a landslide because she stood firmly on educational issues, and because she was the only candidate to campaign over the radio.

Just when she was about to end her political career, Hower was nominated for Ohio State Representative and won the seat in 1935. She was the only Republican woman elected that term. Because she was so well received and respected by her fellow legislators, Hower was named “Mother of the 91st General Assembly,” and was presented with a flag for her service.

In tribute to her longtime local and state involvement, a quote from the Beacon Journal on October 21, 1953, says she was “one of the finest citizens in Ohio and the nation…and representative of the kind of women who should get into politics and politics would be better for it.”

Photo and campaign ad courtesy of The University of Akron Archives.

–Penny Fox

Mary A. Holmes, d. 1986

Mary Holmes and Akron’s Civil Rights movement grew up together. In 1918, she was one of the founders of the NAACP in the city. In the 1920s, she was a staffer for the African-American newspaper. In 1940, she made her way to president of the Council of Negro Women. By the 1960s, she was with the Summit County Community Action Council as a “housing adviser.”

She never planned on that life. “I never planned to get knocks on my head, but somebody’s got to get the knocks to get things done,” she told the Beacon Journal in 1975. “My biggest pleasure is doing something for somebody.”

Born in Buchanan, Va., Holmes attended high school in Charleston, W.Va. She moved to Akron in 1918. Conditions for African Americans in the city were bad. Everything seemed to be segregated. It was little wonder that Holmes would help found the city’s NAACP chapter as soon as she moved to town.

For a time, Holmes worked as a stenographer/bookkeeper for a small manufacturing company. In 1921, she, along with William B. Johnson and William Byrd, started theBlack and White Chronicle, a weekly newspaper covering the city’s African-American community. Holmes was bookkeeper/proofreader/reporter for the newspaper. Opie Evans remembered that Mary Holmes was vital to the newspaper’s life. “You know, that Mary Holmes was everything in that office. She really kept that paper going” (Beacon Journal, Feb. 11, 1991).

After the newspaper folded in 1927, Holmes held a variety of jobs from catering to domestic work and continued to be a leader in the African-American community. She was the secretary of the Colored Women’s Republican Club and president of the Council of Negro Women. She also served as the secretary of the Woman’s Auxiliary of the NAACP. In 1962 to 1964, when racial tensions were highest in Akron, Holmes was president of the city’s NAACP.

Holmes worked with the Summit County Community Action Council “for about as long as anyone can remember,” the Beacon Journal reported. In 1975, she was a “housing adviser,” helping set up the Emergency House for families displaced by eviction or forced out of their homes by disasters, and worked at the North Akron Neighborhood Center.

In 1975, she announced that she was retiring. When she looked back over her long career in Akron, she could see progress. As far as segregation was concerned, Akron was a better place to live. In 1978, the churches in the community acknowledged her role in the city by giving her the “Brotherhood Action Award.”

Holmes died in Akron on April 9, 1986.

 

Photo courtesy of the Beacon Journal.

–Kathleen L. Endres

Hermine Zipperlen Hansen, 1859-1942

Mrs. Hermine Zipperlen Hansen, described by her friends “as a tireless worker for Akron’s cultural and welfare development,” in the Akron Beacon Journal, left her $60,000 estate to various clubs and institutions in Akron.

When Hansen died on Jan. 8, 1942, most of her estate was left to the Edwin Shaw sanitorium and to a trust fund designed to assist “worthy but needy students” at The University of Akron. The rest of it was divided up among other Akron area organizations with which she was affiliated.

Hansen was the daughter of Civil War surgeon Adolph Zipperlen and was the widow of Hans Hansen. She was the sister of Mary Schumacher, second wife of Ferdinand Schumacher, the so-called “cereal king” of Akron.

During her life, Hansen was the chairperson of committees for the Woman’s City Club. In 1917, she served as president of the Woman’s Council, a citywide federation of women’s clubs from across the city. She remained active in the Woman’s Council, even after it was renamed the Akron and Summit County Federation of Women’s Clubs. One of the most important fund-raising efforts of the Federation was the sale of Christmas Seals, the revenues of which were used in the city for various health efforts. She handled the Federation sales in both 1923 and 1924. She was also given the responsibility of chairing the committee that organized the Ohio Federation of Women’s Clubs convention in Akron. She was an early president of the College Club of Akron as well.

Earlier in her life, Hansen taught school in Cincinnati.

She and her husband resided at 41 North Portage Path in Akron.

Photo courtesy of the Beacon Journal.

–Janelle Baltputnis

Catherine Garrett, died 1962

Mrs. Catherine W. Garrett was one of the early female members of the Akron Board of Education.

The first woman had been elected to the Akron Board of Education in 1896, but after that Akron public schools had gone 20 years without a woman on its school board. In 1918, Mrs. A. Ross Read was elected and four years later in 1922, Garrett joined her on the board. In 1925, both women resigned in protest when the four-man majority, said to be dominated by the Ku Klux Klan, engineered the hiring of a new superintendent in a secret session.

Garrett was heavily involved in local educational organizations even before her election. She was one of the founders of the Findley School Parent Teacher Association and a lifetime member as well. She also served as president of the Akron Council PTA.

In addition to her interest in education, Garrett also participated in other city activities. She was one of the founders of the Fifty Year Club and she served as a trustee for that organization. She was a member of the Monday Study Club, the Women’s Universalist Missionary Association, the Akron and Summit County Federation of Women’s Clubs, the Alumni Association of the Akron and Summit County Federation of Women’s Clubs and she was a chairman of committees for the Woman’s City Club.

In 1917, Garrett held the position of recording secretary of the Akron Home and School League and she served as president of that organization from 1919-1921. In 1931, she was the Universalist Women’s Club representative to the Akron and Summit County Federation of Women’s Clubs. She also attended the First Universalist Church in Akron.

Garrett, who was born in Liverpool, England, came to live in Akron when she was 1 year old. She married Charles W. Garrett, who was a broker. She was widowed in 1948. When she died in 1962, she left behind two daughters, Margaret and Jean. The Garretts resided at 3533 Bath Road.

Garrett died in Akron in 1962 after a short illness.

Photo courtesy of The University of Akron Archives.

–Janelle Baltputnis