Nine women honored for civic-minded work Event held at APG's Officer's Club HARFORD COUNTY

March 07, 1993|By Sherrie Ruhl | Sherrie Ruhl,Staff Writer

JoAnn Wigglesworth looked out over the more than 200 people gathered at the swanky lunch yesterday and spoke of unheralded accomplishments of real-life heroines:

The woman who worked as a crossing guard for 23 years, always hugging and encouraging children on their way to and from Bakerfield Elementary. The retired school teacher writing her autobiography to pass on her experiences. The woman who donates every spare moment to her church and turns her job into a daily witness for her religious faith.

"Too many times women think they have to walk on water in order to be heroines, and that's not true," Mrs. Wigglesworth, chairwoman of the Harford County Commission for Women, said yesterday at a luncheon honoring the volunteer work of nine women.

"In this room is a wealth of people -- our mothers and grandmothers, our sisters and daughters who have made significant contributions, which have gone unheralded," she .

said.

The event at Aberdeen Proving Ground Officer's Club, sponsored by Deborah Leaner's downtown Aberdeen clothing store, commemorated Women's History Month and included a glittery fashion show. A portion of each $20 ticket is to be donated to the United Negro College Fund.

"I wanted to make this an opportunity to show sensitivity to the women who have made a contribution to their community and given me such inspiration," Mrs. Leaner said.

Janice E. M. Grant, a social studies teacher at Havre de Grace High School, was honored for her work with minority students. She is organizing a black male self-esteem group at her school and has established several scholarship funds for minority college-bound students.

"We have to give younger women a reason to think ahead," said Mrs. Grant, who is also active in the local chapter of the NAACP and ministers with her husband to inmates in the Baltimore County Detention Center.

"I have to give the honor to God. My accomplishments are mine because God gave them to me," she said. Many of the other women agreed, saying they did not feel they had done enough or were "important" enough to be recognized.

Christine E. Tolbert, a volunteer at a nonprofit career counseling center who also was honored, said too many contributions of women have gone unnoticed.

"We need to bring these contributions to the forefront so our young women can become women with pride," she said. Mrs. Tolbert, who worked for many years in Harford County schools as a teacher, guidance counselor and supervisor, also founded Aberdeen High School's Black Heritage Club and is a member of the school's Minority Affairs Committee.

Recognition of women's history began as a one-week event in California in 1977 and became a national event, celebrated for the month of March, as a result of a congressional resolution passed in 1987.

Like Mrs. Grant and Mrs. Tolbert, most of the honored women live in or around Aberdeen. The women have taken many different paths in life, as homemakers, educators, missionaries, wives, mothers, grandmothers. But all have been active in their communities and churches, Mrs. Leaner said. Each had to be at least 55-years-old to qualify.

Mrs. Leaner said the nine women were selected informally, by asking members of the community for names of noteworthy women. "This was not a contest. We were looking for women who had given of themselves to the world around them," said Agnes Minor, a program analyst for the test and evaluation command at Aberdeen Proving Ground.

Mrs. Minor and other professional women, including entrepreneur Mildred McNeil, who owns Sizzler Restaurant and International House of Pancakes in Edgewood, meet frequently to discuss ways black business women can help one another. "It's an unofficial advisory club right now. We talk about ways we can network," said Mrs. Minor, chairwoman.

"We see ourselves as role models for young women starting out," said Mrs. Leaner, adding that the group supported her when she opened her 1,100-square-foot clothing store two years ago.

In addition to Mrs. Grant and Mrs. Tolbert, the other honorees, and a few of their many accomplishments, are:

Freda Eleanor Collins Brown, chairwoman of the pastor parish relations committee of Clarks United Methodist Church and a housekeeper at the Bel Air Nursing Home; Dorothy J. Davis, an Aberdeen crossing guard for 23 years at Bakerfield Elementary; Mable Elizabeth Hart, a volunteer at Mount Zion Baptist Church and a retired teacher from Roye-Williams Elementary; Mary P. Law, treasurer of the local chapter of the NAACP; Martha Taylor Lester, choir member of New Hope Baptist Church; Willie R. Scroggins, president of the usher board at Mount Zion Baptist Church, a foster parent and hospital volunteer; and Mazie R. Taylor, a retired teacher and co-founder of Black Youth in Action for students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

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