SIDNEY — A local author gave insight to how many women of the past were instrumental in shaping the culture of Shelby County into what it is today on Friday, Dec. 6, at Amos Memorial Public Library.
“It’s easy to be passionate about something you respect so much,” Rich Wallace, local attorney and author of “Voices from the Past,” said. “To come to the point of where you are, from where you and your grandparents have been, to advance the generative point that you have, especially in Sidney, has really been incredible.”
Wallace was invited to be a guest speaker as part of a luncheon held by the area book clubs at the Amos Memorial Public Library. Wallace, who has spent several years gathering newspaper articles, photographs, and advertisements from the past, as well as meeting with members of the community over the years to talk about the history of Shelby County, whether they were there as events unfolded or happen to be related to those who were, and were part of that history. The focus on women who pushed barriers dating as far back as the Civil War came almost naturally; Wallace’s first lecture on history was focused on similar topics.
According to Wallace, in 1942 Sidney sent about 1,500 men off to fight in World War II. Many of those men worked at Monarch Machine, which left hundreds of vacancies in the factory that needed to be filled to keep the business alive and contribute to the war effort. Wendell Whip, who was president of Monarch at the time, had the idea to take women out of the home and bring them into the factory to work. The first woman employed at Monarch was Virginia Oldham, who Wallace described as “tough as nails.
“She was the first person to walk into that door at Monarch in the 1940s and face those guys who were saying, ‘Are you serious? Joe got drafted, and he’s off, and you’re taking his job?’ By the end of the war, Monarch employed 500 women. Close to a thousand women were employed [in Shelby County]. During this time, Wendell Whip did a time study and efficiency study on women. His time study was published nationally, and he found that, with the only exception of, men could lift 50 pounds or more, in every other important work trait, women were superior to men,” Wallace said. “If that hadn’t been Wendell Whipp’s idea, and if Virginia Oldham hadn’t crossed that line in Monarch, it just would have slowed down the development of things.”
While Oldham’s story is well-known, she isn’t the only woman in Shelby County’s history to make a great contribution. Julia Lamb, of whom Julia Lamb Field is named after, founded the Christian Ladies Aid Commission with 75 other women in Shelby County and held fundraisers to purchase supplies and get them to their men fighting in the Civil War. Suella Bernard and Mary Jean Brown, both of Sidney, were among the first five nurses careflighted to care for soldiers injured in the Battle of the Buldge in WWII. Ida Goode was the first female principal of a high school in the history of Ohio and had a prolific career in education, and among other accomplishments, decided to became a Methodist missionary in her 60s. Sadie Rosenthal, who went by the stage name Sonya Rison-Watson, was an operatic singer who brought opera and performances from New York City to Sidney. Ruby Clark-Brown, an African-American woman from Sidney, was named Ohio’s Mother of the Year in 1953. Wallace’s lecture merely scratched the surface on the contributions women have made to Shelby County, something that many of the women attending the luncheon found inspiring.
“I really think that there is pride that we should take in all these women over the years, who were ahead of their time, and firm, and dedicated, and had a goal and accomplished it,” Sarah Kleinhanf said. “I think it’s inspiring, for me as a retired person. I do some volunteering, and after listening to him, I’m ready to run out and volunteer some more.”
Proceeds earned from ticket sales for the luncheon will go toward women’s programming through the Ross Historical Center in Sidney.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4825.