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January 17, 2012 > History: Women of the First Thirty Years

History: Women of the First Thirty Years

The First Thirty Years, published by the Mission Peak Heritage Foundation, is a history of the founding and the first thirty years of the City of Fremont. The book is dominated by the men who planned founded and operated the city for the first thirty years. It contains many accounts and photographs of these men, but also records information about some remarkable women.

The first woman mentioned in the book was Sherry Nighswonger who served as secretary of the editorial board. The book gives no more information about her, but she served as an officer of Mission Peak Heritage Foundation for several years.

Earlene Walker, who described conditions in 1949, is the next woman mentioned. Her picture was shown when she was secretary to the city manager.

Ellen Thompson was listed as a member of a Mission San Jose planning committee, but no information is given about her.

Winifred Bendel and Amelia Silva are first mentioned as members of the Fremont Citizens Committee. Winifred was a leader in the campaign to incorporate the City and was elected to be one of the first City Council members. She was described as "the finest of persons." Her photo is shown as a City Council member from 1956 to 1958.

No more information is given about Amelia Silva.

Two authors note that Jan Stillwell was an elected newcomer to the City Council in 1980. No other information is given about her.

Two artists were recognized for their contribution to the City. Alice Ebright was commissioned by the Fremont Chamber of Commerce to create a tile mosaic city seal for the City Council Chambers. Artist Mary Mattos is pictured with Mayor Hugh Block and council members Don Dillon and William Van Doorn placing a time capsule in a city hall pillar.

Some family photos include the names of women pictured with a limited amount of relevant information. Violet Medeiros is shown with her son Keith in Irvington in 1927. There are several women in the Joseph Nunes photo, but no names are given. Lida Thane is pictured with her husband and recognized as a township booster who promoted social and civic betterment.

A photo shows Mary Ferreira as a prominent secretary in the Public Works Department. A photo of city employees in the Mission San Jose "old city hall" shows a number of women, but no names are given.

Gladys Williamson is pictured at her typewriter and recognized as "a dedicated Fremont booster and historian." She was described as "a classy lady, a first-class reporter and an active, concerned citizen."

Suzanne Shenfil was Fremont's first Human Services director. She described her efforts to build a network of support programs for residents.

Writer Robin Worthington described the development of Fremont's Shelter Against Violent Environments (SAVE). She recognized Melody Kee as one of the founders.

Grace Draper was pictured as the founder of the Tri-City Volunteers. She was a Niles teacher who worked with a group of volunteers including Cortotta Alexander and Rose Wilson of the Niles Congregational Church to "help people who needed emergency help." Mary Hewitt was elected as director of Tri-City Volunteers in 1981.

Grace Draper had no children of her own, so all children became her children. She noted in her summary statement, "Fremont has been my home and I have been very happy here. And I just wanted to give something back. "Perhaps this is a fitting statement regarding all the women who had a desire to serve the community.

Doris Green is pictured as the person who has probably done the most to enrich the cultural life of Fremont. She describes the development of Fremont - Newark Philharmonic Orchestra and the Fremont Cultural Arts organizations. She has actively promoted these and the search for a performing arts center.

Florence Shinn donated four and-one-half acres of her family's property in 1962 to begin the story of Shinn Park. The Victorian mansion formally became part of the park after she died in 1971. Lucy Shinn is pictured with her husband James in the section on the Shinn Historical Park. Marian Wolfe was credited as a leader in the restoration of the gardens.

Olive Hyde is recognized for the donation of her property that became the Olive Hyde Art Gallery.

Several women were listed in the section on historic restorations. Josephine Marion was credited for her restoration of the Dusterberry House on Central Avenue. Other women listed as partners with their husbands in the restoration efforts included: Pauline McIvor, Anne Medeiros, Lila Bringhurst, Priscilla Tavores, and Cecelia Weed.

Anita De Domenico is credited with being an organizer of the Candlelighters. There are many others who have served the community through this wonderful organization over the years.

Hundreds of women have served Fremont in many ways, in many organizations or alone. They just didn't get mentioned in the "30 years book". Our apologies go out to them. There are just too many public servants and services to mention in one book.

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