In praise of women in Valley

By Ernie Brown

Without a doubt, our country would not be as great as it is without the significant contributions of women.

It is hard to believe that at one time women in this country could not vote, own property, or manage their own wages. In fact, it was frowned upon in our society if women traveled by themselves.

In 1987, Congress declared the month of March Women's History Month to recognize the contributions women have made to America and to promote the teaching of women's history.

Most Americans are aware of the contributions of Eleanor Roosevelt, Amelia Earhart, Shirley Chisholm and Susan B. Anthony. Oprah Winfrey is one of the richest women in the world, and Hillary Rodham Clinton has a chance to be her party's standard-bearer for president in November.

But I would like to dedicate this column to the women in our community who fly under the radar. These are the women who make significant contributions to improve our way of the life in the Mahoning and Shenango valleys, but who are not looking for a pat on the back or any formal acknowledgment.

They do what they do because it needs to be done, they are in a position to do it, and it is important for them to help out the best way they can.

So kudos to the women in our local churches who make the pirogi for sale, who are on the kitchen committees at their churches preparing meals for numerous church-related events, and who stay long hours after those events to clean up.

Congratulations to the women who spearhead soup kitchens, who have street ministries to feed the homeless and who volunteer their time to make sure the less fortunate among us have some of their basic needs met.

Here's a shout-out to women who get together to make quilts for senior citizens, or who hold events to raise money to purchase blankets, mittens and shoes for poor children.

Thanks to the Junior League of Youngstown, the Junior Civic League of Youngstown, the Links Inc., the League of Women Voters for all that you have done, continue to do and will continue doing for our community.

I thank all the women in our community who have made the decision to be stay-at-home moms and dedicate themselves to raising their children, making sure their homes are warm and secure, and reducing the stress for their husbands. Their value is immeasurable, and they are often either overlooked or taken for granted.

Women remain the strong backbone in the black church community. The bottom line is this: Many churches in the black community would cease to exist or would be severely hampered in ministry if not for the courage and will of the women in those churches. I don't mean that to be a slap at black men, but honesty is still the best policy, and the truth is many men aren't stepping up to leadership positions in the church, and women are not standing idly and waiting for men to do what they should be doing.

The majority of our teachers in the public and private schools systems are women, so I honor you for many times going the extra mile to provide educational materials out of your own pockets so our children can get the best education that can be provided.

Some of the best teachers I had growing up were Matilda Wren, Martha Graban, Flo DiRenzo, Mrs. Calcagni (sorry, Mrs. C. I have forgotten your first name), and Olga Kragel. They taught me the value of discipline, responsibility and accountability. They honed my grammar and English skills and encouraged me to become the best person I could be.

I'm sure I've missed some women's organizations out there doing quality work for the community, but by now I hope you get my point. Women's history, like black history, should be celebrated yearlong.

The National Women's History Project, an educational nonprofit educational organization established in 1980, has a good deal of information about women's history and the contributions women have made to our society. The Web site is

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