By Candice Buchanan, Greene Connections Archivist
Originally published March 8, 2017. Revised March 8, 2019.
Women’s Day reminds us to focus, honor, respect, and remember the obstacles women have overcome and still endeavor to achieve. In family and local history we look at the women of our ancestry and communities who labored to birth, raise, and improve the lives of generations past, present, and future. There are so many stories that deserve to be shared. These are three of those that I honor today. I hope you will add yours to this list.
Very often, I have written about my local history hero Margaret (Bell) Miller. As a young teacher, she was specifically selected to come from Washington to Waynesburg and lead the female education component of Waynesburg College, at its establishment. At that time, with the first classes in 1850, women were taught separately from men. Evidence indicates, though, that Margaret was brought in particularly to lead the controversial move toward coeducation resulting in equal Bachelor’s Degrees for women. This she did. By 1857, Waynesburg graduated women with male-equivalent Bachelor’s Degrees and classrooms were mixed as early as 1851. This makes Waynesburg College arguably second in the United States, only after Oberlin College in Ohio, to offer such educational opportunities. Additionally, Margaret taught, directed, and inspired the ladies; led the school administratively with the man she later married; and gave birth to 8 children. She died at age 47 following a stroke. Her youngest child was still a toddler; her oldest, a daughter, had just started Waynesburg College. Margaret was an advocate of women’s rights, abolition, suffrage, and other causes of her day. She was quite a woman to have blessed our little community.
This whole column could be dedicated to her, but instead, I want Margaret to set the tone and theme for the women in my own family who I also honor today. As they entered the world roughly a century later, Margaret touched their lives too. Her influence and legacy impacted their education and community as they grew up in Greene County, Pennsylvania.
Margaret’s story may be further studied by visiting:
In the theme of education and leadership, I would like to honor my two grandmothers.
Grandma Sara (Livingood) Buchanan [1917-2009] was herself a Waynesburg College graduate with the Class of 1938. Though Waynesburg had a long history by this time, it was still very early in terms of social norms and acceptability for women to receive an advanced education. Grandma proudly engaged in the education of her family ever after and saw many graduate from her alma mater. (See her Memory Medallion.)
Grandma Donna (Leasure) Kennedy, to whom I am able to pay a living tribute, was born in 1942. Incredible to someone of my generation, she was forced to leave high school when she became pregnant with my mother, who was born in Summer 1959. A hard worker, Grandma carried on and ultimately raised 9 children. As her youngest entered school, Grandma decided to complete her education. She actually returned to high school as an adult student, graduating in 1981 with one of her sons as a classmate. She earned honors and awards while doing so and set an amazing example.
There are so many stories this Women’s Day! Who will you honor?!