Editor’s note: in conjunction with the 200th celebration of the establishment of Sidney, the Sidney Daily News will be publishing a year long series about the city’s history.
SIDNEY — Mother Theresa once said, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” These ripples in turn affect the world around us, inspiring others to create more ripples, sparking change after change. Everyone is born with the capability to cast their own stone through the waters of time, and their affects are felt throughout history. One does not need to be world-renowned in order for their efforts to make a difference, and this is often the case with many unsung heroes, especially throughout Shelby County’s History. As we celebrate Sidney’s Bicentennial this year, we reflect on many of the strong and courageous men and women whose stories have contributed to its success throughout the last two centuries. For this article, we will focus on the many extraordinary women from Sidney who followed their dreams and passions, and in the end caused many ripples to change the world around them.
One of the earliest, and possibly most well-known, women was Julia Lamb. She founded the first Christian Ladies Aid Commission in Shelby County and during the Civil War helped put together care packages and hosted benefits to raise money for aid for the county’s many soldiers. She was also an extremely generous philanthropist throughout her later life, donating to several organizations such as the Presbyterian Church. One of her most memorable contributions, however, was the land for the creation of a playground along the Great Miami River. As per her instructions, this land is still in use to this day as Julia Lamb Field where many schoolchildren gather to play.
Although there have been several female missionaries from the area, three women in particular stand out in particular. First, we have Ella Schenck, the daughter of a traveling preacher at Lockington. She dedicated eight years of her life to the education of people in West Africa before she was brutally murdered at the age of 32 in a massacre at Rotufunk in Sierra Leone during the Hut Tax War in 1898. The United Brethren Church in Sidney dedicated their newly constructed building to her in 1902 and it still stands at the corner of West Ave. and Beech St.
Second, would be Ida Haslup Goode. After graduating from Sidney High School in 1875, she obtained her teaching certificate from Indiana Wesleyan University and became the first female principal at Sidney High School. Ida Haslup then took a job in Pueblo, Colorado until the death of her friend when she returned and married her widower, W.H.C. Goode. After her husband’s death in 1923, she took operational control of the American Steel Scraper Company and managed it for a number of years. Ida Haslup Goode was highly involved with the Methodist Church in Sidney and the Women’s Home Missionary Society. She helped sponsor the growth of Bennett College in North Carolina for African American Women as well as the Geo. O. Robinson School in Puerto Rico. She passed away in 1958 just a few months shy of her hundredth birthday after a life dedicated to education and serving her faith.
Third, would be Laura Richards, who graduated from Sidney High School alongside Lois Lenski in 1911. She first served as a nurse for the Red Cross in France during WWI, but felt called to join the Presbyterian missionary. Through the church she traveled to China first as a nurse, then felt the call to establish an orphanage for children who were cast away. During the time Laura ran the Canaan Home orphanage in a remote region of northern China she faced extreme poverty and famine amidst a country in political chaos. She kept her faith despite the odds and was able to save the lives of over 250 children in the years she lived there. Even after her return to the United States she continued to feel the call to evangelize children and made several ventures to the Philippines.
Many women throughout Sidney and Shelby County have also made strides in multiple different job fields besides education and missionary work across the past two decades. Delia Amos, later married to a Holbrook and a Smith, became the first female newspaper editor in Ohio when she took charge of the Sidney Daily News in 1891. She also was president of the Ohio Women’s Press Association and a world traveler. After she married her first husband, Delia moved to Los Angeles, California where she became the joint owner and manager of the Western Reserve Democrat.
Another woman from Sidney who made many ripples in the media industry was Margaret (Margo) Russell. After getting her start first as a journalist, Margo quickly became editor of the pioneer publication “Coin World” published by Amos Press. She was known by many in coin collecting circles as the “First Lady of Numismatics.” Margo was an adviser to Congress on several matters that concerned the coin club community and was even appointed by Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964 to serve as a member of the United States Assay Committee, which was a panel created for the confirmation that certain coins met their statutory requirements. She was a recipient of multiple awards through the American Numismatic Association and received their highest honor, the Farran Zerbe award, as well as was inducted into the ANA Hall of Fame in Colorado.
Several women have also made strides in recognizing the need for better accommodations for people, most especially children, with physical and mental illnesses. Helen Coffield was instrumental in creating a summer camp for developmentally disabled children in 1969, and later helped establish the Shelby County School for the Mentally Retarded in 1975. She was recognized as an “Outstanding Citizen” by the Sidney City Council as well as listed as one of the top ten people in the Miami Valley in 1986. Marianne Helmlinger was an advocate for those that had a mental illness within the community. Aside from being a teacher for 38 years, she also sat on the Ohio National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) board for 28 years and was considered a pioneer for mental health advocacy in Ohio.
Alongside the many women who have inspired changes in the world around them, there have also been many women in Sidney’s history who have gone out into the world to pursue their dreams and passions. Farida Wiley is an excellent example of how pursuing your passion can lead to a career of your dreams. She traveled from Sidney to New York City as a self-taught naturalist, teaching botany to blind students at the American Museum of Natural History where she maintained a career for 60 years. Her favorite pastime was to lead tours through Central Park to view the wide variety of birds that flocked there at different times of the year, which was an activity she maintained even into her early 90’s.
From birds that fly in the sky to fish that swim in the sea, Sidney had a woman passionate about both extremes. From an early age, Aunalee Crusey Kerns and her twin brother, Elmer Jr., were avid fishermen and participated in several juvenile competitions. Aunalee had a natural knack for the sport and went on to become a famous trick fly-fisherwoman. She became a national women’s fly and bait casting champion and once toured around the United States and Canada to perform tricks with her rod and reel, such as flicking a cigarette butt out of a person’s mouth from across the length of a swimming pool. An article in LIFE magazine titled “Teach Me to Cast” featured Aunalee as well as did many sporting ads in the 1950’s and 60’s.
Currently there are still many extraordinary women making a positive impact on the world around them, from Dr. Lisa Alvetro who founded the Smiles of Hope charity in Tanzania, to Libby Van Treese who is the holder of 11 national trick titles in water skiing, to Julie Ehemann who became not only the first female mayor of Anna but the first female county commissioner in Shelby County. These women have all taught us that any woman can be extraordinary so long as they strive towards their goals and continue to achieve them! To find out more information on many of the female contributors to Shelby County’s history, check out the Shelby County Historical Society’s website: www.shelbycountyhistory.org.
Helen Coffield at the Shelby Hills groundbreaking ceremony.
The writer is tHe curator of the Shelby County Historical Society.