ANNAPOLIS — The second annual Snowball Dinner was held Saturday, Feb. 22, at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Annapolis to raise funds for the ongoing project to complete the Maryland Women’s History Museum, at Bloomfield Manor, north of Centreville.
Mary Margaret Revell Goodwin, president of the Mary Edwardine Bourke Emory Foundation, which is overseeing the creation of the Maryland Women’s History Museum, and who also serves as the official Queen Anne’s County historian, welcomed all who attended. She quickly recognized the first person, posthumously, as a major woman in history for this year’s event program — Barbara Hillary, who died in November 2019.
Goodwin said: “Barbara Hillary became the first African American woman to reach the North Pole, and she did it by snow skiing there at the age of 75. This was made even more difficult, as she suffered from asthma. Five years later, at the age of 80, she skied to the South Pole.”
Goodwin said she was impressed with the physical feat by Hillary, as she herself once was a marathon swimmer and mega-marathon runner, setting records running at different locations around the world.
A crystal figurine was shown to the audience listing Hillary’s accomplishments at the North and South Poles.
Following dinner, Goodwin introduced the newly elected Maryland Speaker of the House of Delegates Adrienne Jones. Jones replaced longtime Speaker Michael Busch, who died in May 2019. Since 2003, Jones had served as Busch’s hand-picked speaker pro tem, another name for serving as Busch’s assistant. Jones, a delegate representing the Arbutus suburban area in Baltimore County, has been a delegate since 1997.
She takes over as speaker with 17 years of experience working alongside Busch. Following the Jan. 15 election to the position by the Democratic-controlled majority in the House, she said, “Division doesn’t help anyone.” She has earned a reputation of being a quiet leader. It was reported that Jones is “a widely respected, no-nonsense consensus builder.”
Del. Gabriel Acevero, D-Montgomery, was quoted as saying, “She’s gracious and understanding, but, also, unafraid to offer advice and constructive criticism.”
Jones was quick to point to Lynn Knight, newly appointed and first female circuit court judge in Queen Anne’s County. Jones asked Knight from the podium, “How long did that take to get a woman there as a circuit court judge?” Knight replied, “Three hundred years.”
Goodwin also presented Jones with a crystal figurine for achieving a first for women — becoming the first woman and first African American to serve as the Maryland speaker of the House of Delegates.
Goodwin also presented crystal figurines to several little known but significant women in history. She spoke in detail about each. Those women were Maude Stalnaker Emory, Hannah Archer Till and the women who organized the first Maryland Women’s Caucus in the General Assembly, which became the first women’s caucus in the United States.
Emory was significant as she became the first woman hired as a civil servant by the federal government in 1897. After being qualified to be hired for a job by the then War Department, she was turned down because she was a woman. She eventually was hired for a similar position at the State Department, translating documents in multiple foreign languages — Italian, French, Spanish and German. Coincidentally, she married Frederick Emory of Queen Anne’s County, who was born and raised in the manor house where the Maryland Women’s History Museum will be located.
Till was a former slave from the Eastern Shore who eventually bought her own freedom by earning extra money as a cook over more than 30 years. She was hired as and became the personal cook to Gen. George Washington during the Revolutionary War. It is documented that she was serving Washington during the harsh winter at Valley Forge, where she gave birth to her first son and was with him at Yorktown when the Revolutionary War ended.
At Yorktown, she impressed the French Gen. Marquis de Lafayette so much, she was “loaned” to Lafayette to serve as his cook. It is reported that Lafayette later looked up Till while she was living out her last years in Philadelphia. She was in her late 90s at that time and having financial difficulties. Without telling her, Lafayette arranged for the financial issues to be paid off.
Finally, Goodwin spoke at length about the initial women in the Maryland legislature, who, though small in numbers, began to chip away at discrimination from their male counterparts in the General Assembly.
Goodwin said: “Reactions from the men ranged from amusement, bare tolerance, skepticism, anger and resentment” with having to work with female legislators on the same committees. One of those women, Del. Pauline Menes, who served for 40 years, was publicly presented with a toilet seat, by then Speaker of the House Thomas Lowe, and made chairman of the Ladies Rest Room Committee. This was done in 1972.
Menes used her position to quietly pursue getting women in the legislature to be placed on significant standing committees that they had previously been denied. At the same time, Menes and other women created a first-ever Women’s Caucus in the legislature, a first in Maryland and in the nation, where the interests of women were pursued. These women made advances in such issues as education, medical expenses, the environment and consumer protection.
The dinner also included a silent auction. Among the unique items offered was a painting by Cambridge artist Lori Uncapher, who depicted a dream sequence of Mary Edwardine in her house at Bloomfield. The painting raised $1,300 for work on the house.
Goodwin thanked all who came and told everyone to look for the Women’s Museum to officially open in August of this year, assuming funding and restoration efforts go as scheduled.