March is Women’s History Month. Women’s History Month was originally a weeklong celebration. President Jimmy Carter declared the week of March 8th, 1980 as National Women’s History Week. President Carter stated, “Men and women have worked together to build this nation. Too often the women were unsung and sometimes their contributions went unnoticed. But, the achievements, leadership, courage, strength and love of the women who built America was as vital as that of the men whose names we know so well.”
14 states celebrated Women’s History Month each March before it was observed at the national level. In 1987, Congress passed Public Law 100-9, which designated March as Women’s History Month. From 1988 to 1994, Congress pushed for March to be recognized as Women’s History Month annually. Since 1995, each president has issued an annual proclamation declaring the month of March as Women’s History Month (NWHM). The Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum also join in celebrating, and encourage the celebration of, Women’s History Month.
The Wayne County News participates in the celebration of Women’s History Month. Wayne County is the home of countless notable women; the News could not possibly sit down with each amazing woman in the county who deserves an interview. However, we interviewed some great women with great stories who represent the county excellently.
Sarah Cook, a former Wayne County teacher, was happy to discuss her lifelong Wayne County residency. She said, “I married young. I finished school, and I went to college. After I went to college, the day I graduated, I had a job teaching school in Clifton. I taught fourth grade one year, and I taught fifth grade from then on, for 38 years, until I retired. I live on a farm on the Clifton turnpike that’s never been sold, settled in the late 1700s. I retired, and I automatically knew I was not happy being retired, so I called Marlon [Davis], and I told him, ‘I’m coming back.’ I went back another few years and taught for teachers on leave. Then, my current job came open. I assist people in finding employment opportunities. I help people do their unemployment, and I help people write their resumes. I also advertise employers to potential employees. I was supposed to work here for a year, but I have been in this position for 11 years. I enjoy doing what I do; I stay because I love it.”
Edna Cole also interviewed with the News. She said, “I worked a few years at Genesco, the shoe factory. After that, my husband, Harold, and I started a business, Harold’s Cleaners.” Her friend said, “She had all these big machines that scared me every time I looked in there. She’d press stuff. If you wanted anything hemmed, or let out, or taken in, she would do all of the sewing, and did such a good job all these years doing that.” Edna replied, “It was almost sixty years, working with Harold by my side. People would come and leave their clothes, and not come back to pick them up. After waiting years for the owners to come get them, we donated about two van loads to the nursing home. My son also donated some to church; they have a big building to donate things for the needy to come and get. People wouldn’t even come back to pick up their comforters. When Hurricane Katrina happened, we carried comforters and everything down there.”
The women of the Senior Citizens of Collinwood consented to interviews gladly.
Darlene Gruber has always lived in Wayne County, but not always in Tennessee. She used to live in Wayne County, Michigan. When asked about her life, she said “I went to school until ninth grade, and I took classes to receive my GED. I raised two children and went through the apprenticeship where I worked, at GM. I got two college associate degrees in mechanical engineering and computer science. I had to take a lot of math classes. I worked at GM for thirty years before I had to retire. I was 67 when I retired and 83 now. I have white water rafted in Alaska. I remember the waterfalls trickling down the beautiful mountains.”
Emadean Holt also lived in Wayne County, Michigan. She said, “I graduated from Collinwood High School. I married when I was sixteen and stayed out of school for a year and went back and finished. I lived in Wayne County, Tennessee until I was about 21, and I moved to Wayne County, Michigan with my first son and my husband, a mile away from Darlene [Gruber], but we did not know each other. I lived in Detroit for a few years until I moved. I have four boys, nine grandchildren, and five great grandchildren. When I came here I signed up to come to the Senior Center, and I met Darlene. We found out she lived a mile away from me in Michigan and came back to this Wayne County a little earlier than me. If we did meet each other, we didn’t know it.
Janice Jackson has always lived in Collinwood, Tennessee. She worked as a housewife, raising kids and taking care of her family. She said, “I have four kids and seven grandchildren. Took care of them. That’s about all I did.” We must never forget the hard work that mothers constantly do.
Gayle Brown said, “I worked at Hassell and Hughes Lumber Company until 1991. I certainly enjoyed my time out there. I was secretary and receptionist for eight and a half years. For a long time I was the only woman in the office, but I loved those boys that worked out there. I had great comradery with them. I love Wayne County, and I hope I don’t ever have to live any place else.”
Betty Sue Caperton has always lived in Wayne County. She said, “When I was a little kid I used to go play in the creeks with my friend. I can’t really remember back that far. I have done a lot of things in life, helped people out, helped neighbors, took care of whatever needed to be done. I go to church at Williams Chapel. I’ve gone there all of my life, since I’ve been old enough to go. For hobbies, I watch TV and play games on my phone and tablet. I get on Facebook; that is the thing to do now.”
Linda Spangler is originally from Columbus, Ohio, but she has lived all over the United States. She said, “I lived in Washington (state), California, Arizona, Oregon, Virginia, and Florida. I was on my own with two kids. Arizona was my favorite place to live, but I love living here, too. The weather is nice here most of the time.
Dorothy Hensley came to Wayne County 53 years ago. She comes from a family of twelve siblings, and she has three children and nine grandchildren of her own. She told the News, “My husband and I owned our own logging business, Hensley’s Logging. We’ve been retired for five years. When asked if she enjoyed retirement, for some people do not, she replied, “I love it! It’s so much stress when you own your own business, so I’m loving it. Traveling is not as easy when you get older because it is harder to see to drive, but all of our family is local.”
Pearlene Hensley, a sister-in-law to Dorothy Hensley, has always lived in Wayne County. She said, “I grew up on Butler Creek ‘til I was 16, and I got married. I have four boys, and they’re all grown up. I have nine grandkids and eight great-grandkids. I worked at Genesco for 15 years; it shut down in 2005. After that, I worked at Hasti Mart for five years. Then, I sat with people.”
The Wayne County News thanks all of the women that consented to interviews as well as all of the women in the county who make incredible contributions to the community. Happy Women’s History Month!
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