Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Who Will You Honor on This Women's Day?

(By Candice Buchanan, Greene Connections Archivist)

Regardless of where you stand on current issues, Women's Day transcends politics, to give us just a moment in our bustling routine, to focus, honor, respect and remember the obstacles women have overcome and still endeavor to achieve. Here, we are merrily fixated on family and local history. The women of our ancestry and communities who labored to birth, raise, and improve the lives of generations past, present, and future. There are so many stories and photos that deserve to be shared. Accomplishments in the home as grand as those on the national scale to those impacted by them.

(1) Margaret Kerr (Bell) Miller
Very often, I have written about my local history hero Margaret (Bell) Miller. As a young teacher, she was specifically selected to come from Washington to Waynesburg and lead the female education component of Waynesburg College, at its establishment. At that time, with the first classes in 1850, women were taught separately from men. Evidence indicates, though, that Margaret was brought in particularly to lead the controversial move toward coeducation resulting in equal Bachelor's Degrees for women. This she did. By 1857, Waynesburg graduated women with male-equivalent Bachelor's Degrees and classrooms were mixed as early as 1851. This makes Waynesburg College arguably second in the United States, only after Oberlin College in Ohio, to offer such educational opportunities. Additionally, Margaret taught, directed, and inspired the ladies; led the school administratively with the man she later married; and gave birth to 8 children. She died at age 47 following a stroke. Her youngest child was still a toddler; her oldest, a daughter, had just started Waynesburg College. Margaret was an advocate of women's rights, abolition, suffrage, and other causes of her day. She was quite a woman to have blessed our little community.

This whole column could be dedicated to her, but instead, I want Margaret to set the tone and theme for the women in my own family who I would honor today. Interestingly Margaret touched their lives, as they grew up and were educated in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, though at the time they never knew. Margaret's story may be further studied by visiting:

Choosing this theme of education and leadership, I would like to honor my two grandmothers.

Grandma Sara (Livingood) Buchanan [1917-2009] was herself a Waynesburg College
graduate with the Class of 1938. Though Waynesburg had a long history by this time, it was still very early in terms of social norms and acceptability for women to receive an advanced education. Grandma proudly engaged in the education of her family everafter and saw many graduate from her alma mater. (See her Memory Medallion.)

(3) Donna (Leasure) Kennedy
Grandma Donna (Leasure) Kennedy, to whom I am able to pay a living tribute, was born in 1942. Incredible to someone of my generation, she was forced to leave high school when she became pregnant with my mother, who was born in Summer 1959. A hard worker, Grandma carried on and ultimately raised 9 children. As her youngest entered school, Grandma decide to complete her education. She actually returned to high school as an adult student, graduating in 1981 with one of her sons as a classmate. She earned honors and awards while doing so and set an amazing example.

There are so many stories this Women's Day! Who will you honor?! is a free local history archival project. Sponsored by LOLA Energy.

[1] Item # PUBL-AN003-0001Women's Centennial Paper 1796-1896 Series, Publications Collection, Greene County, Pennsylvania Archives Project ( Published with "Mrs. Margaret Kerr Bell Miller" article, by Martha (Bayard) Howard, Women's Centennial Paper 1796-1896, Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, 26 August 1896–27 August 1896, page 3, column 1-3.

[2] Item # CAND_AN004_0063Buchanan Series, Candice Lynn Buchanan Collection, Greene County, Pennsylvania Archives Project (

[3] Private collection of Candice Lynn Buchanan.