Women's panel seeks more firsts

March 17, 2003|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

A year after beginning its quest, the Washington County Commission for Women has some answers, but wants more.

In the spring of 2002, the commission put out a call for "famous firsts" - accomplishments by pioneering local women.

The list is to be published under the name "Working Women of Washington County: First in Their Fields," probably as a book or a pamphlet.

Catherine Cushwa Schoen, the president of the commission, said she wasn't just seeking history that would give girls role models. Her goal was also finding history "that would engage the community and make it have a positive view of women," she said.

The commission hoped to have the publication ready this month, which is Women's History Month, but decided to postpone the deadline.


Submissions now are welcome for the rest of the year. The commission hopes to finish the book by March 2004.

Schoen said the commission has about 24 complete entries and another 77 in different stages.

"We got a good response from the public and it just kept coming in ..." she said. "People heard about it from other people."

Last year, before the commission received any nominations, Schoen came up with a list of about 50 professions for which she hoped to get female firsts from the public.

A few she thought she knew.

In one case, though, she apparently was wrong. Schoen figured that her grandmother, Mildred Teague Schoen, a former local resident who worked at newspapers in Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and New York, might have been the first journalist.

Instead, it appears to be Phoebe Herbert, who worked for the Washington Spy in 1795-96, she said.

Other probable female firsts are:

  • Barber: June Wright

  • Captain of school patrol: Hazel Fraker

  • Radio announcer: Beatrice Phillips

  • Pilot: Helen Cox Bikle

  • Graduate of the Air Force Academy: Beth Llewellyn Chriss

  • Architect: Eleanor Lakin

Schoen said the commission would like to hear from anyone who can verify the above firsts or who has other ideas, and especially photographs.

Women must have lived in Washington County, even briefly, to be eligible for the list.

Nominations and any supporting documentation may be mailed to Washington County Commission for Women, County Administration Building, 100 W. Washington St., Room 226, Hagerstown, MD 21740.

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