Women’s Club honors three women

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The Essex County Board of County Commissioners celebrated Women’s History Month by recognizing the Women’s Club of Glen Ridge and three women.

The ceremony was Wednesday evening, March 13, and held at the club. The emcee was Carlos Pomares, the county commissioners’ president.

“This is a pretty nice place,” he said in his welcoming remarks, surveying the ballroom. “We should come here more often.”

About 80 people attended and Glen Ridge Mayor Debbie Mans was introduced. She thanked the club for its commitment to women adding that the borough council now has a majority of women members.

“Because we cannot make it alone,” she answered. “Ask God to bind people together to attain the equity women have never had.”

She mentioned the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848, which began the suffragette movement and culminated with the 19th Amendment, ratified in 1920, giving women the right to vote. Sammler-Michael also noted that a loophole in the NJ Constitution of 1776 allowed women owning property to vote. An 1807 statute repealed this right.

“We celebrate the women we know and don’t know; the women who worked through loopholes,” she said.

Brandi Chavonne Massey, a Broadway performer, sang the National Anthem. Pomares introduced Carmen Theresa Morales and Michael Venezia. They represent Glen Ridge in the state Assembly.

“I’m an educator and I love to share a little history,” Morales said. “It wasn’t until 1988 that Women’s Week became a month.”

Getting women’s voices heard has always been a fight, she said.

“We get a month now, but it doesn’t stop there,” she continued. “I’m one of 10 women legislators in Essex County. There are 12 legislators. Ten are women.”

The audience applauded.

Venezia said he personally knew two of the honorees.

“They are very hard working and deserve a place at the table,” he said. “I’m a father of two girls. Every decision I make is going to be about them.”

He added that of the 10 women assemblywomen, 9 were women of color.

The first honoree was Bloomfield Councilwoman Jenny Mundell. She is a vice-president of development with RWJBarnabus Health. As a council member, she initiated the CARES unit of the Bloomfield Police Department, which created a response team linking the BPD with the township’s human services division.

Accepting the award, she said the work is never done by one group, but everyone at the table. She thanked the two Bloomfield councilwomen who were in attendance, Sarah Cruz and Monica Tabares, and Morales and Venezia for “cheering me on.”

“The people about whom we are making the decisions must be heard,” Mundell said. Partnerships in families don’t necessarily go along gender lines, she followed.

“The work of families is the work we all do,” she continued. “This is an important lesson for our daughter and sons.”

Sandra Lefkovist, its president, accepted the club’s award. The club was founded in 1905.

“We are indeed a space where everyone can come, especially women,” she said. “We strive to maintain the building not only for the membership, but also the community.”

Commissioner Brendan Gill said recognizing women for their achievements normalizes for young men that women should be in leadership roles. He told a charming story about the night Hilary Clinton became the Democratic nominee for president. His young son began to cry because he wanted his little sister to be president.

Introduced by Gill, Leslie Ingram Lewis was honored. A certified fitness instructor, Lewis is the owner/operator of Mind, Body, Spirit, Personal Training, in Bloomfield.

“Without health, there is no wealth,” she said. “A lot are dying too young. We have to get on board for health.”

Lewis said she has helped Black and Hispanic individuals with fitness issues, but also how to prepare for interviews and find employment.

“We have to unite as women,” she said.

The county commissioners’ vice president, Tyshammie Cooper, introduced Millburn Mayor Annette Romano, the final honoree. Romano is the NJ Transit regional manager in government and community relations and the product of the Millburn school system.

“If I was told as a kid I’d be mayor, I’d say no way,” she said.

There are currently five Essex County municipalities with women mayors, she pointed out, and it may soon be seven. The county has 22 municipalities.
Sammler-Michael gave the benediction.

“In the spirit of solidarity that comes with the recognition of our ancestors, we can move this work forward when we move together,” she said in conclusion.