September 9, 2004

 

Members of Women, Inc. celebrate 30th anniversary

When local feminists formed a new organization in 1974, they had a good reason for calling their group Women, Inc.

“They thought a group of women should be as powerful as a corporation,” said Barbara Krabec, a current member.

Three decades later, the group’s name holds true, as its influence can be felt in many areas of Yellow Springs life, from the Women’s Park to the Feminist Health Fund to the Greene County Women’s History Project.

On Thursday, Sept. 9, the community is invited to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Women, Inc. at a gathering at 6 p.m. in the Yellow Springs library meeting room. At that time, past and current members will reminisce and, as always, enjoy each other’s company, said Krabec.

The early 1970s was a galvanizing time for women, and the feminist movement that swept the country found receptive hearts and minds in Yellow Springs, where many woman began reexamining their work and relationships.

“It was a fascinating time in my life and in the lives I have known,” Dee Krieg, an early Women, Inc. member, said in an interview with the News in 2003. “It was a heady time, absolutely.”

First and foremost, local women wanted a space to gather together, and thus Women, Inc. was born. According to a description of the group in the book Women of Greene County, the women wanted “a place to be together, to talk over our many concerns, to initiate personal and public changes and to have fun and relax, away from the domestic stresses.”

The group rented “two rooms and a toilet closet” at 220 Xenia Avenue (now home to Keicia’s Boutique), according to the book. Women, Inc. members painted, made curtains, donated furniture and plants, created a library, and opened the space to women for regular Sunday night potlucks, plus frequent meetings and parties. “Energy was high,” according to the book, and the space was open every day and evening.

Women, Inc. incorporators were Liana Allinikov, Gene Trolander and Lorine Reid, and the first steering committee consisted of Gladys Wessels, Beverly Conrad, Corrine Odiorne, Allinkov and Trolander. Other active early members, according to the book, were Jean Barlow Hudson, Krieg, Melba Stern, Lynn Julty and Vicki Minor.

Since that time, longtime Women, Inc. members include Connie Gahagan, Bev Viemeister, Willa Dallas, Nina Tolley, Susan Stiles, Judy Williams, Hellen O’Neal McCray, Joan Fine, Beryl Schicker, Donna Parker, Debbie Henderson and Gertrude Chasens, according to the book.

While a rent increase forced the group out of its downtown space within a year, members continued to meet in each other’s homes, a tradition that continues to this day. Since 1974, Women, Inc. has initiated or contributed to a vast array of local women’s projects, including assertiveness training, a women’s film festival, women’s art festivals, local demonstrations for women’s issues and the funding of women political candidates. It has donated hundreds of dollars’ worth of women’s books to the Yellow Springs High School library, reviewed all Mills Lawn School textbooks for instances of sexism and racism, and worked with local police on domestic violence issues.

According to the book, Women, Inc. members have also provided leadership and funding to NARAL, the Feminist Health Fund, International Women’s Day celebrations, Readers Voracious and the Women’s Economic Assistance Venture, among other activities.

But just as important as the group’s organized activities are the relationships it fostered, several past and current Women, Inc. members said.

“It’s been very important to me,” Viemeister said. “I became good friends with Gene Trolander and with other women I found fascinating. I just got so educated.”

Much of that education came from women finding new ways to talk to each other and share the details of their lives in ways they hadn’t before, said Viemeister, who recalled participating in a weekly lunch group in which women would “get together to talk and cry.” “We were just learning to talk about women’s issues,” she said.

When Krabec moved to town 12 years ago, she started attending Women, Inc. meetings after learning of the group in an ad in the News. “It was a wonderful source of friendships,” she said. “For someone new to town, it offered a place to meet women friends.”

Although the group deals with serious issues, its meetings are often lighthearted, said Krabec.

“Whether we’re selling plants or organizing things or having dinner, we have fun,” she said.

Schicker also sought out the group when she moved to town in 1986, and she remains active, in both Women, Inc. and in Readers Voracious, a subgroup of women who meet monthly to discuss books they’ve read. Both organizations have contributed greatly to her life, she said.

“It’s a wonderful way for women to get together,” she said.