Have you ever heard the phrase "Behind every great man there is a great woman"? Historically, women rarely receive the recognition they deserve for many of their contributions and sacrifices so their partners can achieve whatever goal they're known for.

Since March is International Women's Month, the Grand Rapids City Archives and Records Center has dug up an old pamphlet that highlights seven important women in Grand Rapids history.

Photo by Joel Muniz on Unsplash
Photo by Joel Muniz on Unsplash
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From 1960 to 2006 to Now

The Grand Rapids City Archives and Records Center (GRCARC) preserves all of the City's government records and makes them accessible to citizens and employees to research. Routinely on their Facebook page, the GRCARC will post documents and photos from the past, giving followers a peek into a time that may have otherwise been forgotten without their work.

According to people in the comments of this Facebook post, the article was originally written in the 1960s and was re-published in 2006 (which is where this pamphlet comes from). The text in this pamphlet is rather small, but here is who each woman is and their impact on Grand Rapids:

Dorothy Leonard Judd (1898-1989): Despite never holding a position in public office, Judd was a believer in "good government". She was "one of the driving forces" behind the League of Women Voters in 1924, becoming president four years later. in GR, She created the Citizen's Action movement and was influential in passing civil service and environmental protection articles.

Hazel Grant (1904-1999): Dubbed a "Trailblazer for minorities", Grant was the first African American to work in City Hall after being the first African American to graduate from Davenport University. She pushed voter registration, fair and equal housing, and served as president of the local NAACP in 1965 and 1966. She was a voice for the voiceless, like when she organized marches in Grand Rapids following the Birmingham church bombing.

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash
Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash
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Evangeline Lamberts (1923-2004): Lamberts was the first woman to become an elected city official in the 111-year history of the City of Grand Rapids. Not only did she break through for more women down the line, but she was very active in the community. She worked for better treatment for juvenile offenders and was a member of the League of Women Voters.

Helen Jackson Claytor (1907-2005): Claytor's work studying race relations brought her to Grand Rapids in 1943 where she eventually became the president of the National YWCA Board in 1967. Her work in "eliminating racism wherever it exists" extended from the YWCA to the city of Grand Rapids. She worked to make the school systems more inclusive to African Americans and studied racial problems in the City of Grand Rapids.

Photo by Ronnie George on Unsplash
Photo by Ronnie George on Unsplash
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Ella Sims (1924-2013): Though not a native to Grand Rapids, Sims worked with many local organizations "in pursuit of equality and social justice in education, under-and unemployment, and health services". She created the Housing Commission in 1966 and joined the Aquinas College board of trustees where she was director of minority student affairs until 1987. She has received numerous awards for her work.

Linda Samuelson: Following in the footsteps of Evangeline Lamberts, she served as the City Commission seat in the Second Ward for four terms (16 years). She focused on addressing the quality of city services and numerous housing issues around the city, specifically urban sprawl around Grand Rapids. She also oversaw the writing of a book about Grand Rapids neighborhoods.

Photo by Ben Zelenka on Unsplash
Photo by Ben Zelenka on Unsplash
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Margaret Sellers Walker (1935-2020): Sellers Walker was the first African American to head the personnel division of the DNR. She later became the first woman and African American assistant city manager for administrative and cultural services in the City of Grand Rapids. She served on multiple boards and taught at Grand Valley State University, eventually being inducted into the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame.

These women touched many lives throughout their lives, and many may not realize they are benefiting from the trailblazing done by these seven women. The comments on this post have nothing but good things to say about them. It is important that stories like these continue to be told and highlighted.

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