Three Marys of the Western Addition

Since it was Girls Night at the West Bay Conference Center and I was surrounded by dozens of pre-teens and teens, it was only right to speak about some fascinating women.

Mo’Magic has been doing these events to bring the young ladies of the neighborhood together and their first one of this year happened to coincide with Women’s History Month.

Three models for them to aspire to all have connections to their neighborhood: Mary Ellen Pleasant; Mary Catherine Stewart and Mary Helen Rogers.

Pleasant is honored with a memorial grove of trees at Post and Octavia.    It caught the girls attention when I mentioned that she was worth $30 million in the 1880s.  They also reflected that $30,000 was a lot of money, even now.  That’s how much Pleasant took John Brown in 1857 to fund the raid on Harpers Ferry.

Mary Catherine Stewart also raised a lot of money for her time from the black community to support soldiers during World War I.    She set up a black United Service Organization here.  After the war ended, she used the $50,000 left over to create the Booker T. Washington Community Center, now in its 90th year.

Mary Helen Rogers was an activist who resisted the demolition of the neighborhood between 1958 and 1970 for redevelopment, including laying in front of a bulldozer.   In 1968, she was the plaintiff in the Supreme Court case that established a right for renters to receive relocation assistance when government agencies seized the property where they lived.

These are three women that today’s young ladies would do well to emulate.

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