Two towns’ celebrate the impact women make

MAPLEWOOD / SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — The women of South Orange and Maplewood are coming together to celebrate Women’s History Month during the month of March, with Maplewood Committeewoman Nancy Adams and South Orange Village President Sheena Collum leading the charge. Kicking off with a cocktail hour at the South Mountain Tavern on Thursday, March 8, events will take place in Maplewood and South Orange for women of all ages, culminating with a screening of “Hidden Figures” at the South Orange Performing Arts Center on Saturday, March 24.

“Sheena Collum and I talked about a year ago about how seldom it’s recognized, which was surprising to me,” Adams told the News-Record in a March 5 phone interview. “So we wanted to spotlight women, especially in this time of the ‘#MeToo’ and ‘#TimesUp’ movements.”

Adams is currently the only woman on the Maplewood Township Committee and Collum is the first female village president of South Orange.

“We’re surrounded by fierce females every day and don’t confuse our kindness for weakness,” Collum said in a Feb 23 press release. “Our lineup of events aims to combine empowerment, education and entertainment, and hopefully we’ll end the month having built stronger relationships with one another.”

Women and children were encouraged to wear white for a group photo taken March 3, in honor of the women’s suffrage movement. The color represented the National Women’s Party and the suffragist movement along with purple and gold, according to the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage.

The monthlong celebration, which begins with the International Women’s Day Cocktail Celebration at the South Mountain Tavern on March 8, from 7 to 9 p.m., will be followed by the Durand-Hedden House and Garden’s “Maisie Brews and Business – 1920s Tea Rooms” on Sunday, March 11, from 2 to 4 p.m., which offers a look at some of the first businesses operated by women.

Former Maplewood Mayor Ellen Davenport will be hosting a conversation at the DeHart Community Center on Thursday, March 15, at 7:30 p.m. during the Hilton Neighborhood Association meeting. Davenport was the first and only woman to serve as Maplewood’s mayor, from 1994 to 1997. She was on the Township Committee for 12 years.

“I think, since the 2016 general election, a lot of effort and focus has gone into,” support of women running for office, Davenport said in a March 5 phone interview with the News-Record. “More attention came to it because everyone was amazed at what happened. Unless you have forward-thinking people, change won’t happen.”

According to the former mayor, the more attention that is paid to encouraging women to run for office, the better.

“I think sometimes it’s a little off-putting; a lot of people think they don’t have time,” she said. “But you can do it. Many times it’s a small little thing that you get involved in and you run locally. We should encourage women to not only run for office, but vote. It’s women that can fix a lot of these problems.”

On Sunday, March 18, from 6 to 8 p.m. the Burgdorff Center in Maplewood will host “Shattering the Glass Ceiling,” an event that will see Marjorie Perry, president and CEO of MZM Construction & Management Company, speak of her experiences. South Orange Trustee Karen Hartshorn Hilton will also speak at the event about the steps women can take toward running for public office.

The Maplewood Memorial Library’s annual Ideas Festival from March 12 to 24 will also feature women, including three-time Olympic runner Hazel Clark, victims’ rights attorney Carrie Goldberg and Marina Budhos, the winner of the 2018 Maplewood Literary Award.

The film screening at SOPAC will close out the month of festivities. A night for all ages, from 4 to 7 p.m., “Hidden Figures” tells the story of a group of black female mathematicians who worked for NASA during the race to put a man in space in the 1960s.

“It’s such a powerful story about women we didn’t even know about,” Adams said about the movie. “We can show that spotlight so that young girls are shown that they can do that too. Women need to support each other and call out when they are being mistreated.”

Adams also said that the two towns working together will make the events stronger, because they already combine for so many events. Sharing a school district has allowed many residents from South Orange and Maplewood to know each other for years, and Adams hopes the district will encourage students to participate in Women’s History Month as well.

“I hope this will be an annual recognition,” Adams said of the two towns’ celebration. “It’s just a real show of solidarity, especially for women in public office positions. We want to make it known that women should be listened to because we have a different perspective.”

According to Adams, she is also beginning to see a change in the culture of competition that has been ingrained in women for so long.

“We want to get that culture changed and support each other,” she said. “Because there’s no reason to be competing with each other. There’s so much to learn from listening to these women who have gone through things that you don’t realize. We want to change that.”