Lifelong lessons from 7 trailblazing Dayton women

Clockwise from top left: Trailblazing Dayton women Evelyn Boosalis, Vivienne Himmell, Paula Schaeffer, Terri Pelley, Vadna Gardner, Evangeline Lindsley and Jocelyn Ann James.

In honor of the centennial celebration of women's suffrage, local residents share what they've learned from the amazing women in their lives.

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, the Dayton Daily News invited readers to submit essays about women in their lives who taught them important lessons about the rights and dignity of women.

ExploreCentennial of voting: How 100 years of women’s right to vote has changed our community

Here are some of those stories of Dayton’s trailblazing women:

Evelyn Boosalis

Mary Boosalis on her mother, Evelyn Boosalis of Oakwood

Evelyn Boosalis

This year marks the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, led by strong women leaders with the courage to engender change.

Just two years later, my personal hero and mother, Evelyn Boosalis, was born. Raised by immigrant parents from Greece, my mom has led a life marked by determination and resilience. During World War II she sacrificed personal ambition to help run her beloved father’s restaurant. Her life thereafter has been a parable of caring for others, overcoming adversity, and leaving those she encountered along life’s way feeling more hopeful for having met her.

Today, at 98, she still has an uncanny ability to light up a room with her graceful presence.

My mother embraced parenting as the huge responsibility it is, but also with unparalleled joy and energy. Tenets of hard work, family first, and forgiveness envelop her. She is still of sound mind, and due to her incredibly strong faith; is unafraid of her own demise. The thing is, when you have the privilege of experiencing such unconditional love and strength of character that is my mother, you grow to expect she will always be there. Perhaps the best way to honor such a hero is to emulate whatever fraction of her being one can muster.

Evangeline Lindsley

Kathy and Dennis Turner of Dayton and their daughter, Caroline Turner, on Dennis’ late cousin, renowned Dayton educator Evangeline Lindsley:

Evangeline Lindsley, co-founder of Daybreak, taught at Roosevelt High School for 46 years.

Credit: JIM WITMER

Credit: JIM WITMER

Feisty Roosevelt High School teacher Evangeline Lindsley (1897-2002), who stood less than 5 feet tall, would wade in to stop fights between boys twice her size. During her almost 105 years of life, Evangeline proudly taught high school for 40-plus years, voted for the first time in 1920, and joined the new Dayton League of Women Voters.

As the president of the Dayton Classroom Teachers Association, she lobbied successfully to help win the right for women teachers to continue to teach after marriage. Evangeline also fought for the rights of grade-school teachers, who were mostly women, to be paid the same as high school teachers, who were mostly men. She was only the second woman to serve on the state board of the Ohio Education Association, and she continued her education advocacy throughout her life, often appearing at Dayton School Board meetings to dispense both scoldings and praise.

Evangeline’s work is honored by a square in Dayton’s Walk of Fame.

Vadna Gardner

Peter Hess of Kettering on his late grandmother, suffragist Vadna Gardner

Vadna Gardner

Vadna Gardner, according to family legend, was a vocal suffragette. Later when Roosevelt ran, she became a determined Democrat, while her husband Albert P. Krause, was a strong Republican. Her Democratic origins developed after growing up on a successful farm in Southeastern Ohio, which had suffered during the depression.

As pharmacists, both she and her husband ran the Krause Korner Drug Store on the corner of Main and Jefferson Streets in New Carlisle. She was at the top in her class when she passed the State Pharmacy Board in Columbus.

She attended the 1944 Democratic National Convention in Chicago as a Central Committee Woman.

Later, she married Judge Theodore C. Lindsey (whose father had been in the Civil War), who had owned a pawn shop, and had built the Lindsey Building at 25 South Main St., in downtown Dayton.

Her son, the late Dr. Justin Krause, a Democrat, was the Coroner of Greene County for many years and her daughter is Virginia Krause Hess, a prolific artist who has sold both sculptures and paintings around the world — including many on public display in the Dayton area. One of her grandsons, Peter Hess, photographed both the 1972 Democratic and Republican National Conventions in Miami Beach for UPI.

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Vivienne Himmell

Susan Hesselgesser of the League of Women Voters on her friend and mentor, Vivienne Himmell of Dayton:

Vivienne Himmel with the League of Women Voters.

Credit: Amelia Robinson

Credit: Amelia Robinson

Occasionally, you meet someone you realize you were destined to get to know. For me, one of the most influential women in my life is Vivienne Himmell. I reluctantly agreed to meet Viv for lunch after being out of the workforce while caring for my dad. All I knew of her was that she was a fellow member of the League of Women Voters. As we sat down to lunch, I noticed a huge bag of materials Viv had brought with her for me to read.

Most people might think that was pushy. It was pushy, and interesting and stimulating and fun. Vivienne has been a member of the League for over 50 years. Since the day we met, she has been a mentor, a confidante, an advisor, and a friend. Our League was founded by Dayton suffragists who fought for the 19th amendment on the streets of Dayton and Pennsylvania Avenue. Months before the amendment was signed into law, they opened the doors to our local League.

It is only naturalize to recognize Viv as we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment. And for me to thank her for believing in me and being influential in my position as the first executive director of one of the oldest and largest Leagues in the nation.

ExploreDaytonian of the Week: Vivienne Himmel

Terri Pelley

University of Dayton senior Brianna Garvin on her mentor, psychologist Terri J. Pelley of UD’s Counseling Center:

Terri Pelley

Terri Pelley has taught me how to be a phenomenal woman without explicitly trying to do so. Throughout the past four years, she has mentored and guided me through stormy waters, never giving up on my ability and encouraging me to do what I seemed to think was impossible.

Terri works through UD’s Counseling Center to advocate for students’ mental health and teach students how to help themselves. She never backs down to a challenge, continues moving forward in her work despite difficulty, and embodies such pure resilience. Terri drives me to be a better woman because of her astounding success.

When things get tough, you can always count on Terri. She has impacted so many students throughout her time at UD, and I know that she has changed countless lives. Terri has taught me, personally, how to stand up for myself as a woman and to stand up for other women. I know that even after I leave UD, my life will forever be changed by knowing Dr. Terri Pelley. She inspires me every single day to be a better woman, and I am forever grateful for it.

Paula Schaeffer

Beth Schaeffer of Dayton on her late mother-in-law, Paula Schaeffer

Paula Schaeffer

The audience erupted in applause when 90-year-old YWCA Woman of Influence Honoree, Paula Schaeffer, my mother-in-law, proclaimed, “Without women, the world would be a sorry place.” A little but mighty woman, she possessed an indomitable spirit, dedicating a lifetime fighting discrimination and empowering others.

During social unrest in the late ’60s, Paula helped found the Dayton Chapter of the Panel of American Women to confront prevailing prejudice and fears and brought me to hear the women’s heartfelt stories. Later she gave me a copy of “The Feminine Mystique” by Betty Friedan. She believed only women could bring about real change. My participation in change was initiated!

Every action Paula undertook, she did with passion, purpose and commitment. As a leader, she sought participation by others. She was formidable but inclusive. She was always positive, leading by example. She lived life fully, remaining vital well into her 90s, advocating for causes she believed in, serving as role model and mentor for her children, grandchildren, extended family and beyond. The world is a better place because of her. Her spirit lives on and continues to inspire my efforts toward creating a more just and equitable world.

Jocelyn Ann James

Kelly Lehman of Dayton on her late mother, Jocelyn Ann James:

Jocelyn Ann James pictured on Easter Sunday in 1966. CONTRIBUTED

“You may not have realized it, but your mom was a trailblazer; brave, strong and independent when few women headed households. I stand in awe of how amazing she was.”

A childhood friend shared these feelings at my mother’s funeral. Ironically, I always considered her the “lucky” friend, born into a big, loving, guitar-playing and, literally, Kumbaya-singing, family with long-married parents. I loved to visit her after school, her own sweet mom waiting with hot cocoa and snacks. An employed single mother in 1964 America was unusual; the divorce rate was 2.4 per 1,000. Mom worked days as a secretary at NCR, hurrying to her evening job as a server at different Dayton restaurants.

Decades later, I realized not everyone works two jobs. Jocelyn juggled life while raising two daughters. Socially, economically and emotionally, divorced women were stigmatized and disrespected daily, yet they persevered. Whether suffering workplace indignities, marching for equal rights or fighting for child support, strong women have laid the foundation for equitable society. Our world is better because of them and we stand on their shoulders. Gratefully I say, “Thank you, Jocelyn et al! We are absolutely blessed and in awe of how amazing you were!”

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