Women's Hall of Fame to honor area residents Five will be recognized for efforts to aid county

March 04, 1997|By Erin Texeira | Erin Texeira,SUN STAFF

When Ossie G. Clay went to China for the World Conference on Women in 1995, she brought back more than souvenirs and photos. She brought back a bright idea.

In Beijing, surrounded by women's leaders from around the world, the resident of Columbia's Wilde Lake village realized Howard County is home to some amazing women, and she vowed to spread the word about them.

Thus was born the Howard County Women's Hall of Fame, which will begin by giving out its first honors next week to five women whose work and ideas have changed the county.

"Many times in history, the contributions of women have kind of been left out of things," said Clay, a retired middle school teacher and member of the county's Commission for Women. "We need to be certain these types of things don't happen anymore."

On March 13, after more than 18 months of organizing, Clay and the commission will induct Leola May Moore Dorsey, Dr. Mary Rockwell Hovet, Jean F. Moon, Doris Stromberg Thompson and Celonia Banks Walden into the Women's Hall of Fame. A ceremony will be held at 7: 30 p.m. in the George Howard Building in Ellicott City.

There were 20 nominees, Clay said. They had to be born in Howard County or have lived here more than 10 years, have three letters of recommendation and have "made significant contributions" to the county, state or nation.

Seven other counties in the state have women's halls of fame and most will name their honorees this month as part of Women's History Month, said Joanne Saltzberg, executive director of the state Commission for Women.

The state has had a women's Hall of Fame for more than 13 years, she said.

Howard County's honorees are businesswomen, teachers and community activists.

"What really stood out was that with most of these women, their contributions had nothing to do with their career," said Clay, who chaired the Hall of Fame committee. "They were simply giving to the community."

Such women, said Saltzberg, are part of history: "And it is important for the history of any community to be written accurately," she said. "The better our history is, the better we are going into the future."

Background on nominees

The five honorees are:

Dorsey, who was born in Howard County and lived in Guilford all her life, has served the longest term of any member of the Howard County Community College board of trustees.

Active in civil rights for decades, she was the first black person to run for County Council and the first black woman to serve on the Howard County Republican Central Committee.

"She worked very early on in civil rights," said Grace L. Greenslit of Ellicott City, who nominated her. "She would very bravely go into places that blacks did not normally go.

"She is just a precious individual. Her name immediately came to mind because she has been in Howard County her entire life and, if there's anybody who has improved the quality of life for everyone here, it is she."

Hovet moved to Howard County in 1948 to supervise county high schools and by 1981 was assistant schools superintendent. She has served as an Elder -- the highest elected lay office -- at the Christ Memorial Presbyterian Church in Columbia and has served on more than a dozen community positions in the county, including the county Mental Health Advisory Board, the Maryland Low-Income Housing Council and, currently, the county Commission for Women.

Moon, a 25-year-resident of the county, started out as a free-lance writer at the Patuxent Publishing Co. and was general manager for more than 20 years. She was one of two women presidents of the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association, and today runs a public relations firm in Columbia.

In 1972, she taught Howard County Community College's first women's studies class, and started the Howard County Poetry and Literature Society and the Columbia Festival of the Arts. "The people whose lives she has touched just marvel at all the work she has done in so many different areas," says Barbara Lawson, who worked with Moon at the Columbia Foundation and nominated her. "She is a mother, teacher, nonprofit worker, businesswoman, and on and on.

"If I had a tenth of her energy, I'd be happy. She is inexhaustible."

Thompson was born in Ellicott City, lives in Guilford and has been active in county farm organizations for more than 30 years. She was on the county Planning Commission for more than 13 years, and helped write the first county General Plan.

Her daughter Ann Thompson Hogg, who nominated her, wrote: "At no time has she considered her gender a reason to not get involved in solving a problem or improving the local quality of life."

Walden retired to Columbia in 1968 after 24 years of teaching school in Baltimore. Today at 74, she is busier than ever, having recently returned from her fourth trip to Africa.

For 11 years, Walden served on the board of trustees of Howard County Community College and was the first and only chairwoman of the board. She founded the local chapters of several national service organizations, including the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women's Club Inc., The Links Inc. and Jack and Jill of America.

"It has all been volunteer," said Walden, who was nominated by members of three organizations. "But there is payment in other ways, you know? I always say, 'Service is the rent we pay for the space we occupy on Earth.' We have to help somebody. That's our reason for being here."

Pub Date: 3/04/97

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