CoGreene Celebrates Local Women of History – CGCC

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black and white photo of actress dressed as Peter pan

CoGreene Celebrates Local Women of History

As we celebrate Women’s History Month as a nation, Columbia-Greene Community College is taking the time to recognize local women of note who’ve made an impact on our communities across many decades.

C-GCC faculty and members of the C-GCC Library and Media Services team were charged with scouring both stacks and syllabi for women who hailed from Columbia and Greene counties and beyond, and it took no longer than an afternoon to compile a list of historical heroines, including:

sepia photo of woman from 1800s with her bicycleEsther Sweet

In a letter from Ghent, N.Y., to a friend dated June 6, 1893, Esther Sweet wrote: “You will forgive me when I tell you I am learning to ride a bicycle. Am getting along nicely too. I create quite a sensation as my suit reaches just below my knees. Long corduroy leggings reach to the knees. Wish you could see the dash that I cut.”

Esther was a teacher at Whiteman’s Telegraph School and Railroad Business College, operated in Ghent by Frank Whiteman, and she was right in step with the times.  Around the time this photo was taken, a Pennsylvania newspaper, The Columbian, wrote of women and bicycles that “it is undoubtedly true that she is riding to greater freedom, to nearer equality with man, to the habit of taking care of herself, and to new views on the subject of clothes philosophy.”  No doubt Esther created a bit of a stir pedaling around Ghent with the shape of her ankles in plain view.

~ submitted by Gregg Berninger, professor of English

Elizabeth Freeman

Also known as Mum Bett, Freeman was one of the first slaves to win a “freedom suit” in court. She was born into slavery around 1742 in Claverack, N.Y., and was soon after purchased by John Ashley of Sheffield, Mass.

After fleeing the Sheffield residence and refusing to return, Bett urged lawyer Theodore Sedgwick to help her gain freedom. Bett chose to work in Sedgwick’s household after the ruling and soon became a well-known and sought-after midwife and nurse.

~ submitted by Nicole Childrose, Ph.D., professor of History

black and white photo of actress dressed as Peter panMaude Adams

The first notable woman that came to mind from the Mountaintop area in Greene County is Maude Adams. She was a notable actress in her day, as well as being a well-known philanthropist. Below is a quote from an article written by her in the Catskill Tri-County Historical Views:

“Maude Adams was the most prominent American theatre actress from the late 1880s until the 1920s, a muse for Sir James Barrie’s career as playwright, and inspiration for the character and story of Peter Pan. With her Catskills home in Tannersville serving as a major influence, in 1905 she originated the role of Peter Pan in America.”

~ submitted by Elyse Browne, technical assistant, C-GCC Library

Hannah Van Buren

Hannah Van Buren was born in 1783 in Kinderhook, N.Y. raised in an isolated, rural Dutch community, and married
her childhood sweetheart, Martin Van Buren. They soon after moved to Hudson, N.Y.  She contracted tuberculosis
and after giving birth to a fifth son in January 1817, she was unable to recover any strength. Knowing that she would not live much longer, she requested that some of the money to be spent on her funeral instead be used to buy
food for the needy in Albany. Van Buren is also one of several women featured in Women’s History in the Hudson Valley: Ten Stories from Dutchess and Columbia Counties, a compendium presented by the Office of Assemblymember Didi Barrett.

~ submitted by Nicole Childrose, Ph.D., professor of History

Dorothea “Dede” Allen

Dede Allen (1923 –  2010) was an editor of films such as The Hustler (1961), Bonnie and Clyde (1967), Dog Day Afternoon (1975), and Reds (1981), among many others. She was nominated for an Academy Award three times for best editing.  Her first film, Odds Against Tomorrow (1959) starring Harry Belafonte and Shelly Winters, was partially filmed in Hudson, N.Y.

~ submitted by Carl Nabozny, multi-media coordinator and film instructor