“Teach the children so it will not be necessary to teach the adults.”-Abraham Lincoln
This year you will hear a lot about the 100th anniversary of the Suffrage movement that
resulted in the 19th Amendment and gave women the right to vote. I think it is appropriate to
highlight some of the women who have played a role in my life. I hope you might do the same.
I think a good place to start is with several teachers I had over the years. Most of my
primary teachers were women, and three in particular stand out. Mrs. Anna Gilmore taught
first grade at the Furnace Village School on Bay Road (currently the home of the Easton Water
Department) where I attended. An older lady when I had her, she was an old-fashioned teacher
in the best sense of the word. She instilled a quiet confidence in us as we sat in our reading
circle, sounding out new words, or working quietly at our desk on work sheets. We might even
get one of those red, blue, or gold stars on our forehead if we did well enough. There was a
stash of them in her top desk drawer. I can’t imagine how many she gave out, but I was always
glad to earn one from her. I even did well enough to lead the reading circle sometimes!
Across the hall was my second grade classroom. It was taught by Mrs. Esther Heath,
who happened to be the sister of Mrs. Gilmore! She was also the acting principal at the school
and the disciplinarian too. Yes, we had the rattan in those days, and she was not afraid to use
it. Mrs. Heath and Mrs. Gilmore always had the best interest of their students in mind though,
and rewards continued for good work. Towards the end of the second grade school year, I
wanted to try to teach the first graders some of the things I had learned. I do not remember
exactly how things transpired, but somehow I was allowed, at least a few times, to read a story
to the first graders, maybe try to teach a song—I distinctly remember trying to sing “How Much
is That Doggie In the Window” - or show them how to do math. Imagine my doing that!
I fast forward now to high school. Southeastern Regional is a great trade school. They
also were very supportive of regular classes. We had double periods of both Math and English.
One English teacher in particular, Mrs. June Paduch, encouraged us with some creative
writing assignments, some of which would be printed in the school literary magazine. Under
her tutelage I first learned to write creatively, slowly gaining confidence that maybe, just
maybe, I might one day write something that people would read. Little did I know that those
early skills would lead me to write history.
Mrs. Gilmore and Mrs. Heath remained friends for many years until they finally both
graduated to their final rewards. I like to think they might be pleased to see that I am still
doing teaching in some way. And Mrs. Paduch, wherever you are, I hope my attempts at
writing might still be good enough to merit your approval. I owe all three teachers a debt of
gratitude for instilling in me a life-long desire to learn and also to do something with the
knowledge they imparted to me.