17. There's no question that we are living in difficult times, but difficult times have occurred before and strong women have risen to the challenge. A Levittown woman who exemplifies the 16 million women who took over male-dominated jobs during WWII is Levittown resident, Mae Krier, an original Rosie the Riveter.
When the call went out for war production employment, Mae Krier, now 94 yrs old, answered that call when she was just 17. She helped to build the "Flying Fortress" B-17 bomber at the Boeing in Seattle from 1943-1945. The work of Mae and all the other women who stepped up and into jobs once thought too difficult for the "gentler sex" had a huge impact on the military's ability to function. But once the war was over, the impact of the female workforce continued. In a 2017 interview in Levittown Now, Mae speaks to this: “Once women were no longer needed, they were expected to go back in the kitchen and bedroom,” Krier said. “Not everyone wanted that.”
Since the 1980s, Mae has been a strong advocate for recognition of women in the workforce. Dressed as the iconic Rosie the Riveter, Mae has lectured, appeared at conventions and parades, and campaigned for a national "Rosie the Riveter Day" so the contributions of these strong women will never be forgotten. In the same interview in Levittown Now, Mae said, “No one ever gave us credit for what we did, so that is why I have fought so hard to get our National Rosie Day. I am so proud of what the women did for our country. The men came home to parades and flying flags, and Rosie came home with a pink slip. Had it not been for the women in World War II, we might be speaking German or Japanese today." Over seventy years after the war's end, the women who designed and built planes and ships for WWII finally gained recognition with the passage of National Rosie the Riveter Day, March 21, 2017.
While Mae is in our spotlight today, an article from Levittown Now by Ingrid Sofield (9/4/17), entitled "Meet the Local Women Who Helped Win the War," reminds us that many local women went to work right here in Bristol to support the war effort. Mentioned in the article are Lower Bucks County residents Rose Sutor (worked at Kaiser Metal), Rose Russo (worked at Fleetwing Aircraft), Betty Pappaterra (made rivets for Corsair bombers used in England), Angela Romello (worked at Fleetwing Aircraft), and Pauline Biedka (worked at Fleetwing Aircraft during WWII and the Korean War). For these and many other local women, the factories of towns such as Bristol, Croydon, Morrisville, Bensalem, and Falls Township, became the gateway to the women's fight for equality.
3. Another Langhorne woman of note, whose philosophy in teaching children with significant disabilities had a great influence on the field of special education. Her legacy lives on today as Woods Services.
Mollie Woods Hare
Mollie Woods Hare was a Philadelphia school teacher. She played an important role in the development and advancement in the theory and practice of educating children with developmental disabilities.
Hare was the founder of Woods Services in Langhorne, PA. Her vision was to provide care for children in a home-like environment that encourages their abilities “to meet the problems of everyday life, to make normal adjustments, to acquire sources of satisfaction for the present as well as for later years, and to know the joy of achievement.”
Hare became an international leader in the field of disabilities—emphasizing the need to develop individualized programs of support for each person. Hare sponsored conferences, conducted research and published journal articles in the field of special education and rehabilitation.
12. Because of its natural beauty and proximity to NYC, many writers, artists, and composers made Bucks County their home, some permanently, some as a summer residence. The latter is true of our next honored Bucks County resident:
Parker was a journalist, writer, and poet, a noted member of the New York literary scene in 1920s. She wrote for the New Yorker and Vanity Fair, and later worked as a screenwriter in Hollywood. She was known for her caustic wit, and was not one to suffer fools gladly. Parker became politically active in the 1930s and 40s, speaking out against authority figures, Nazism, Fascism, and supporting the fight for civil rights. When not in NY, Parker made her home in Pipersville. When she died of a heart attack in 1967, she bequeathed her estate to Martin Luther King, Jr. Upon his death, her estate was transferred to the NAACP.
20. Langhorne Council for the Arts couldn’t let Women’s History Month go by without honoring some of Bucks County’s most prominent female artists. Today’s spotlight shines on:
Fern Isabel Coppedge
Born in Illinois, Fern Coppedge spent most of her life in Bucks County. Through her association with the New Hope School of American Impressionism, the Fellowship of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and the Philadelphia Art Alliance, she became part of the Pennsylvania Impressionism Movement. She studied with Daniel Garber and Henry Snell at PAFA. Ms. Coppedge was a member of the Philadelphia Ten, a group of ten female artists who exhibited together across the country from 1917-1945. All had studied at PAFA or the Philadelphia School of Design for Women (now Moore College of Art and Design). Over the years, membership increased from the original 10 painters to 23 painters and 7 sculptors.
Ms. Coppedge became well-known as a landscape impressionist painter. Although she painted scenes from tours of Europe, her favorite subjects were winter landscapes and the villages and farms along the Delaware River and Delaware Canal. It was not unusual to see her on a cold, snowy day, bundled up in a bearskin coat and painting now-famous winter landscapes with frozen fingers.
In 1990, the Michener Museum hosted a retrospective of Coppedge’s work, displaying 50 of her finest paintings. A new book, entitled “Pennsylvania Through the Eyes of Fern Coppedge” will be published this year. Ms. Coppedge’s work is much sought-after. In 2011, a newly discovered painting, entitled “October,” was sold at auction for nearly $30,000. Her paintings have been auctioned for as much as $308,000.
For more information about her work, including galleries and online places to purchase originals, prints, and jigsaw puzzles of her paintings, Google "Fern Coppedge."
5. Our tribute to influential women of Bucks County continues with:
Elizabeth Chapman Lawrence
Elizabeth Chapman Lawrence was the wealthy "Aunt Lela" of nephews Henry and William Chapman Mercer. She paid for their education, after which they built, with her financial backing, the Mercer Museum, Aldie Mansion, Fonthill Castle, and the Moravian Tile Works. The daughter of Bucks County judge Henry Mercer, she married T. Bigelow Lawrence who died young, leaving his fortune to Elizabeth. Due to her birth and marriage of wealth and privilege, Elizabeth was widely known in social circles both here and abroad. Among her friends and admirers were Charles Dickens, President Buchanan, Henry Clay, William Thackerey, Prince Albert, and General George McClellan. In 1980, a worker at Fonthill discovered a breadbox full of 200 lengthy handwritten letters, written during her extensive travels. These "The Breadbox Papers" give a detailed look at the amazing life and times of Elizabeth Chapman. Her profound effect on Doylestown and Bucks County is still visible today.
15. For those going through withdrawal from professional sports, you'll enjoy learning about this woman from Bucks County, one of the pioneers in women's baseball.
This Sellersville native was an American baseball player who played as a catcher from 1947 through 1954 in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. Listed at 5' 4", 134 lb., she batted left-handed and threw right-handed.
Richard spent eight seasons in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League playing on two teams, the Grand Rapids Chicks and the Rockford Peaches (featured in the movie "A League of Their Own"). A six-time All-Star, she also was a member of four champion teams. Richard made a transition from outfield to catcher, which enabled her to utilize her strong throwing arm more effectively, and she responded by gunning down more baserunners than any catcher in the league. Basically a line-drive hitter, she posted a .241 career batting average in 725 games, driving in 287 runs while scoring 237. As a catcher, she committed only 134 errors in 3,407 total chances for a .961 career fielding average.
In November 1988, Ruth Richard along with her former teammates and opponents, received their long-overdue recognition when the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York dedicated a permanent display to the All American Girls Professional Baseball League. Richard, who never married, lived at her family homestead in Sellersville, Pennsylvania.
Richard died on May 6, 2018 at the age of 89.
10. It's still Women's History Month, and our salute to groundbreaking women from Bucks County continues.
Today we honor Stella Elkins Tyler (1884-1963).
Stella Elkins Tyler was an accomplished sculptor and benefactor of the arts. She and her husband built Indian Rock estate, now known as the location of Tyler State Park, Bucks County Community College, and the Tyler Mansion. After her husband's death, she willed the property to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and Temple University, which eventually sold the mansion and outbuildings to Bucks County for a community college. She also endowed the famous Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia.
7. Not all strong, groundbreaking women from Bucks County lived in the past. Here’s a contemporary woman who broke into a male-dominated profession and achieved national recognition.
Claire Smith, former Langhorne resident and graduate of Neshaminy High School, is the first woman—and just the fourth African-American writer—to be recognized in the writers’ wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. As Major League Baseball’s very first full-time female beat writer, Smith covered the New York Yankees for the Hartford Courant from 1983-1987, before moving to The NY Times. She now serves as the coordinating editor for ESPN. At the induction ceremony, she told the crowd, “I humbly stand on stage for those who were stung by racism or sexism or any other insidious bias and persevered.” Claire Smith is the daughter of artist/sculpture William Smith and chemist Bernice Smith.
14. With everyone glued to the news these days, today we shine our spotlight on a Bucks County woman who is on the front lines of all major news stories.
Hallie Jackson (born 1984)
Hallie Jackson is chief White House correspondent for NBC news, is an anchor on MSNBC, and is a fill-in anchor on the NBC show, "Today," and NBC Nightly News. Ms. Jackson grew up in Yardley and graduated from Pennsbury High School. She then graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Johns Hopkins University with a degree in political science. She worked her way up the ranks at NBC, and was named chief White House correspondent in 2017.
13. So far this month, we've recognized influential women of Bucks County who made their mark in medicine, special education, writing, philanthropy, and social causes. Bucks County has also been home to influential entertainers. Here's one:
Odette Myrtil was born in France and began her stage career on the vaudeville circuit as a violist. By 18, she launched her career as film and stage actress, appearing in productions in Chicago, London, Paris, and on Broadway as an actress and singer. One well-known Broadway role was that of Bloody Mary in "South Pacific," written by Bucks County native James Michener. She has a lengthy filmography spanning 60 years, including appearances in "Yankee Doodle Dandy" and Hitchcock's "Strangers on a Train." Odette sang the title song on camera as herself in "The Last Time I Saw Paris." Her last on-screen cameo was in 1972 ("Hot Pants Holiday").
Odette ran a famous cabaret, Chez Odette, in New Hope until 1976, and she also managed the Playhouse Inn, next to the Bucks County Playhouse. Odette tried to run for mayor of New Hope but was banned by State government for holding a liquor license. Odette died in Doylestown in 1978 and is buried at Buckingham Friends Meeting.
21. Did you know that you carry a piece of art inspired by a Bucks County artist in your pocket or wallet every day? Today we honor this artist who made New Hope her home for nearly half her life.
Selma Hortense Burke
Sculptor Selma Burke was born in North Carolina. While playing along a riverbed as a child, she squeezed some clay between her fingers and, as she reflected later, “It was there in 1907 that I discovered me.” Ms. Burke originally trained and worked as a nurse, resulting in a move to Harlem. There she pursued training in clay modeling at the height of the Harlem Renaissance cultural movement. She began teaching at the Harlem Community Arts Center and was employed by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) on the New Deal Federal Art Project. One WPA creation, a bust of Booker T. Washington, was given to the Frederick Douglass High School in Manhattan in 1936.
Ms. Burke traveled to Europe twice in the 1930s on fellowships, first to Vienna and then Paris. In Paris, she met and won the praise of Henri Matisse. The Nazi threat caused her to return to NY, where she chose to work as a truck driver for a factory in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. She was of the opinion that “artists should get out of their studios” to support the war effort. After the war, she opened two schools, the Selma Burke School of Sculpture in New York and the Selma Burke Art Center in Pittsburgh. In 1949, she married Herman Kobbe, an architect. They moved to the artists’ colony of New Hope, and Bucks County remained her home for 46 years, until her death at 94 in 1995.
Selma Burke used her art to bridge the gap between the races. When black children were banned from using the public library in Pittsburgh, she donated a bust of a local doctor on the condition that the library be opened to all children, regardless of race. She became known for sculpted portraits of famous African-American figures, including Duke Ellington and Martin Luther King, Jr. Her equally revered works of everyday people were explorations in human emotion and relationships, showing humans from all walks of life as dignified and symbolic. Her media included wood, brass, alabaster, and limestone.
Ms. Burke’s work was featured in solo exhibitions at Princeton University and the Carnegie Museum, and remains part of the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. She was the recipient of several honorary doctorate degrees and awards. In 1975, the governor of Pennsylvania, Milton Shapp, declared July 29 as “Selma Burke Day” to recognize her contributions to art and education in the state.
About that piece of art you carry with you every day: Selma Burke’s best-known work resulted from a national competition in 1944. She won the opportunity to have two sittings with President Franklin D. Roosevelt, during which she made sketches for a sculpture. A 3.5’ by 2.5’ sculpted plaque of the FDR in profile was unveiled by President Harry Truman in 1945 at the Recorder of Deeds Building in Washington, DC, where it still hangs today. This is widely accepted to be the inspiration for FDR’s profile on the dime.
8. Some courageous and progressive women from Bucks County have made a worldwide impact. The accomplishments of our next featured woman continue to have influence today.
Pearl Buck spent most of her childhood in China where her parents worked as missionaries. She spent the last 30 years of her life in Bucks County. Pearl Buck attended Randolph Macon Women’s College. After graduating, she returned to China and began to write as a way to earn a living. Her novels dealt with the confrontation between East and West. In 1932, her novel “The Good Earth” was awarded the Pulitzer Prize and in 1938 she became the first American female Nobel Laureate in Literature. She later earned Masters Degrees from Cornell and Yale. Her memoir “The Child Who Never Grew” poignantly described her relationship with her oldest daughter, who was born with a serious disability.
Buck vigorously advocated on behalf of unpopular causes such as women’s rights, civil rights, and the rights of abandoned children of mixed-race parents. She bequeathed her personal estate in Perkasie as the future headquarters of Pearl S. Buck International in 1973. Her Welcome House adoption program continues to this day. Did you know, in the early days of her adoption program, when babies came to her, neighbors Mr. and Mr. James Michener and Mr. and Mrs. Oscar Hammerstein would come over to rock and care for them?
11. Today we honor a woman of great privilege who dedicated her life to helping two populations who were ignored, overlooked, and disparaged by white society.
Saint Katharine Drexel
Katharine Drexel, heiress of the wealthy Drexels of Philadelphia, founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament— a congregation of nuns who made it their mission to protect the welfare of Native Americans and African Americans. To this cause, she devoted her life and vast fortune. She is known as the patron saint of racial justice. Saint Katharine Drexel was canonized in 2000, the second American to be canonized a saint, and the first to be born a U.S. citizen. Her shrine, convent, and school were in Bensalem.
9. Our next groundbreaking woman from Bucks County gained international respect for her work in anthropology.
Mead was an anthropologist whose expertise ranged from education and family life to nutrition and ecology. Her first book, “Coming of Age in Samoa” (1928) revolutionized the field of anthropology. Mead traveled the world, and stood as a prominent champion of women’s rights. Her iconic life was the embodiment of the liberated woman at the dawn of a new era of feminism that took hold in the 1960s. She lived in Doylestown.
18. Bucks County has been home to a number of women who have made a splash on stage and screen. Here's one that may surprise you.
Pat Quinn (born 1937 as Ariane Quinn in Langhorne)
Early in her acting career, Pat Quinn appeared in a number of popular TV series, including "Gunsmoke," "Dr. Kildare," "Burke's Law," "Mannix," "The Waltons," "Judd for the Defense," and "McCloud." Under the names of Pat Quinn and Patricia Quinn, her film credits include "Clean and Sober" (starring Michael Keaton and Kathy Bates), "Shoot Out" (starring Gregory Peck), and "An Unmarried Woman" (starring Jill Clayburgh and Alan Bates). Her last film appearance was in "Confessions of a Hitman" in 1994. Pat Quinn is best known for playing the title role of Alice Brock in the iconic 1969 film "Alice's Restaurant," based on the epic counterculture song by Arlo Guthrie. Ms. Quinn dated Marlon Brando in the 1970s.
Langhorne Council for the Arts partnered with representatives of Middletown Friends Meeting, Historic Langhorne Association, Four Lanes End Garden Club, and Langhorne Blue to form the ad hoc "Women's Centennial Committee of Langhorne." The purpose of the committee is to celebrate women's history throughout 2020 -- the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, granting women the right to vote. See the Events page of this site for events that are pending and events that will be rescheduled once it is safe to do so.
Throughout Women's History Month in March, LCA posted daily tributes to strong, groundbreaking women with ties to Bucks County, from the 1600s through present day. Those posts were very favorably received. In case you missed them on our Facebook page, here they are:
1. 2020 is the Year of the Woman! To celebrate Women's History Month, LCA will honor Bucks County women who made significant contributions to their community and beyond. The first woman to be honored is Langhorne's own
Anna Mary Williamson
She lived in the house on the corner of S. Bellevue and W. Richardson, which is now Penn Community Bank. Her lasting legacy is the Anna Mary Williamson Library and Museum, located on W. Maple and Hill Avenues. Stop in on Wednesday mornings and evenings and Saturday mornings to learn more about her.
Anna Mary Williamson’s family enjoyed a legacy of reverence for learning. In her will, she left $12,000 for the purchase of a site and the construction of a library building in Langhorne. She also left funds for books in two other local libraries, namely the Newtown and Yardleyville libraries.
Anna Mary Williamson also provided legacies of sizeable amounts for the Middletown Preparative Meeting School in Langhorne, the Schofield Normal and Industrial School for Negro Youth in Aiken, South Carolina, and the Children’s Country Week Association, a Philadelphia-based summer camp organization for needy city children. For more information about Anna Mary Williamson, visit our Banner Project virtual tour.
2. Bucks County has been home to many amazing, groundbreaking women. Here's one you should know from Langhorne:
Anna-Mary Longshore-Potts, MD
Anna-Mary Longshore-Potts was a physician and medical lecturer, born in Attleboro, now Langhorne.
Dr. Longshore-Potts was one of the first class of eight women in Pennsylvania who graduated from the Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia) in 1852—the first college where women could earn a medical degree. (That college, started by her brother, Dr. Joseph Longshore, also of Langhorne, is now part of Drexel University).
An author and leader in the field of preventive medicine, she lectured around the world on women’s health topics and authored two books on women's reproductive health and hygiene. You can learn more about Anna-Mary Longshore-Potts on our Banner Project virtual tour.
6. Not all strong and determined women of Bucks County were wealthy, educated, or even white.
Alice of Dunks Ferry
Alice was a slave in Bucks County. As an adolescent, Alice was moved to Bensalem by her master, Samuel Carpenter, where she managed the ferry (also known as a horse boat) on the Delaware River, an unusual position of responsibility for a woman and a slave. While known as a competent and trusted slave, Alice was never granted her freedom. One of her last masters put a provision in his will for her freedom and some inheritance, but the will was tied up in a lawsuit that then left the estate without the funds to fulfill it.
It is reported that Alice may have used her role with the ferry to help fugitive slaves. Alice was an esteemed oral historian and storyteller who rode to Philadelphia to attend Christ Church on Sundays. She lived to be 116 years old.
4. Who knew that little old Langhorne was home to so many women who were movers and shakers in their community and well beyond? Here's another who was born elsewhere but made Langhorne her home and made women's rights her mission.
Prior to moving to Langhorne in 1943, Mabel Eichel worked in New York City and then in Philadelphia as a newspaper writer. In NYC, she opened a public relations fundraising firm. She was involved with the NY State Women’s Suffrage Party and took over the women’s division of the election campaign for Fiorella LaGuardia in his successful campaign for NYC mayor. In 1939 she became the national director of the independent Coalition of American Women and later director of the women’s division of the Committee of Americans for Economic Rehabilitation and National Preparedness. After moving to Langhorne, PA, Mrs. Eichel worked for the Bucks County Courier Times and became involved in efforts to improve the Historic Langhorne Association library. She held 12 book fairs to raise funds and served as Public Relations Chair for the association.
22. So far, Langhorne Council for the Arts has celebrated Women's History Month by recognizing Bucks County women who were groundbreakers in medicine, academia, minority rights, abolition, writing, art, sports, entertainment, education, journalism, and philanthropy. Today we honor a woman from Bristol who devoted her life to history that is both local and national.
Ann Hawkes Hutton
This lifelong Bristol resident lived along the banks of the Delaware River at a gracious estate named "Shadyside." Ann Hawkes Hutton graduated from Friends Select School in 1927. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in education, then earned a law degree in 1934 from the same university's law school -- one of the first women to do so. She was awarded an honorary doctorate of lifetime achievement from Holy Family College in 2001.
Ms. Hutton was a prolific author, poet, and playwright. Her books, published between 1948 to 1972, included "George Washington Crossed Here," "House of Decision," "Portrait of Patriotism," "The Pennsylvanian," and "The Year and the Spirit of '76." Her play, "The Decision" was produced at Philadelphia's Walnut Street Theater in 1976.
During her lifetime of service, Ann Hawkes Hutton received numerous awards and honors, including the Freedom Leadership Award from the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge (first woman to receive this honor); Medal of Honor from Daughters of the American Revolution; Legion of Valor of the United States of America; Distinguished Service Award of Bucks County; Betsy Ross Flag Award; First Press Keystone Press Award for her Bucks County Advance column 'Now and Then'; Distinguished Service Medal of the American Legion Pennsylvania; Woman of the Year Tribute by the Bucks County Council of Boy Scouts of America; an award for outstanding service to Washington Crossing Reenactors Society; and recognition for her patriotic service by Durham Township Historical Society, to name a few.
A staunch patriot, engaging speaker, and tireless volunteer, Ms. Hutton was Founder and Chairman of the Board of the Washington Crossing Foundation, a non-profit organization that promotes the character of George Washington, and provides scholarships to outstanding students with a commitment to government service. She was passionate about the history of George Washington and his famous crossing, and of local history in general, stating that, "history is yesterday's fact, which, if understood today, will shape tomorrow."
Ann Hawkes Hutton was a past Chairman and trustee of Historic Fallsington Inc. a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of the colonial village in Falls Township. She was also a trustee of PAWS Farm Nature Center of Mt. Laurel New Jersey; Honorary Chairman and member of the Bucks County Conference and Visitors Bureau; past President of the Distinguished Daughters of Pennsylvania; President of the Historical Foundation of Pennsylvania; and Commissioner of the American Revolution Bicentennial Commission, appointed by Presidents Nixon and Ford. Ms. Hutton was on the Board of the Bristol Riverside Theater and served on the Washington Crossing Park Commission for more than 50 years. Her home on Radcliffe Street is now the Washington Crossing Foundation's headquarters.
16. Keeping with the sports theme, today we recognize a pioneer in women's baseball much closer to home!
Ruth Matlack (1931-2017) was an All-American Girls Professional Baseball League player. Listed at 5' 2", 127 lb., she batted and threw left-handed.
Born in Cornwells Heights (Bensalem), PA, Matlack grew up learning to play baseball from her father, an avid fan of the game. She then started to play organized softball while attending eighth grade. After her graduation from Bensalem High School in 1949, she played for a team based in Norristown, where she read about the league in a newspaper and went to a tryout in Allentown. In 1950, she was invited to spring training in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and was assigned to the Fort Wayne Daisies as a pitcher.
Matlack was strictly used as a relief pitcher. The left-hander threw a natural curveball and a changeup, but not much of a fastball. In 14 pitching appearances, Matlack posted a 0-4 record with a 3.54 ERA in 61.0 innings of work. But since she had solid plate discipline and good contact skills, she often was used as a reliable pinch hitter, totaling a .361 average with a .477 OBP and driving in two runs, while scoring three times in 21 games. In the playoffs, she had a single in three at-bats for the second place Daisies. The AAGPBL shipped Matlack to the Kalamazoo Lassies before the 1951 season, but she was feeling homesick and did not want to return to the league.
Following her baseball career, Matlack worked briefly at a restaurant before becoming a factory supervisor in 1952, staying with that organization in various capacities until her retirement in 1985. In the same year, she married to John Sagrati. After retiring, Matlack moved to Quakertown, Pennsylvania, where she golfed, bowled and waterskied.
Matlack is part of the AAGPBL permanent display at the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York opened in 1988, which is dedicated to the entire league rather than any individual figure. The same year, she gained induction in the Bensalem High School Hall of Fame.
24. It’s March 31, the end of Women’s History Month. I hope that you have enjoyed our celebration of 24 women of diverse ages, eras, and arenas of accomplishment and influence, who all had one thing in common: their ties to Bucks County. It certainly has been illuminating and rewarding for me to research and write these posts on behalf of Langhorne Council for the Arts and the Women’s Centennial Committee of Langhorne.
Before we introduce our final honoree, we have a few questions for you. What surprised you the most about any of these women? If you had the opportunity to meet one of them, whom would you choose? What feelings, if any, were stirred while reading about these women? Were you motivated to learn more about any of them? Please share your thoughts on our Facebook page or by email to info@LanghorneArts.org. We'd love to hear from you!
And now, the final post of Women’s History Month! Our final honoree was selected specifically because of the dark days we are currently living in. This month brought dramatic changes in our world, the likes of which have not been experienced since the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 and the Great Depression of the 1930s. And yet, like those who endured hardship in generations past, we, too, will survive and thrive in a better tomorrow. Annie told us so…
Actress Aileen Quinn was born in Yardley in 1971. Exposed to show business at an early age by her mother who was a singer/actress on stage, film, and TV, Aileen was bitten by the bug to perform. Beginning at age 4, she studied ballet and tap at Knecht Dance Academy in Levittown. After a few roles in community theater and in national TV commercials, Aileen auditioned for a role in the new Broadway musical, “Annie,” where she was cast as understudy to all of the orphans except Molly and Annie. When the casting call went out from director John Huston for an actress to play the title role in the movie version of “Annie,” Aileen jumped at the chance. The audition process was grueling and lasted almost a year, but Aileen finally beat out over 8,000 hopeful little girls and became the star of this beloved movie musical, set during the Great Depression. Just 9 years old when she made the movie, Aileen earned two Golden Globe nominations and won “Best Actress” from the Youth in Film Awards for her portrayal of the spunky Little Orphan Annie. Thanks to the great success of the movie, her “Annie” film score album went double platinum.
Roles in regional theater, a few movies, and voice-overs for animated films followed, but by age 18, Aileen took time off from acting to focus on her education. A language major, she graduated from Drew University in 1994. Fluent in Spanish, she participated in a 6-month exchange program in Chile, one of her life’s most rewarding experiences. She resumed her acting career, appearing in three Broadway national tours over a period of five years, then studied Shakespeare in London. Off-Broadway, independent films, and regional theater have kept her busy throughout her adult life. You may have seen her in the role of Harpo Marx in the Bristol Riverside Theater production of “A Day in Hollywood, A Night in the Ukraine.” Besides acting, she taught Spanish, drama, and dance at Hudson Catholic Regional High School and was an adjunct theater professor at Monmouth University. Coincidentally, that’s the same school (then Monmouth College) where the movie version of “Annie” was filmed; Wilson Hall was used as the mansion of Daddy Warbucks. She was awarded an honorary degree from Monmouth University in 2009.
Aileen continues her singing career, touring the country with a Rockabilly, Swing, and Blues band called “Aileen Quinn and the Leapin’ Lizards.” Their second album was released in November, 2019.
Whatever else Aileen Quinn does in her life, that little girl from Yardley will always be remembered and loved for her iconic role as “Annie” and her optimistic reminder that: “the sun will come out tomorrow, so you gotta hang on until tomorrow, come what may. Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love ya, Tomorrow! You’re always a day away!”
Happy Women’s History Month! Hang in there and let the arts brighten your days!
19. As our salute to notable women from Bucks County continues, today we feature an actress who made her home in Langhorne, a home that has been prominent in local news for the past few years: Stone Meadows Farm. Perhaps you didn’t know that it once had not one, but two, famous owners.
Sara Seegar was a performer of stage, film, radio, and TV. She may best be remembered for her role as the second Mrs. Wilson on “Dennis the Menace.” Ms. Seegar was educated in Paris, London, and Hollywood, and began her acting career on the London stage, until the outbreak of WWII brought her back to the United States. She performed on Broadway and had recurring character roles on the TV shows, “Suspense,” “Perry Mason,” “The Donna Reed Show,” “Bewitched,” “The Brady Bunch,” The Andy Griffith Show,” and “The Jeffersons.” She also had a movie role in “The Music Man” with Shirley Jones and Robert Preston.
While performing on Broadway in 1940, Sara Seegar met radio and stage actor/director Ezra Stone, son of Sol Feinstone (philanthropist and founder of The David Library of the American Revolution, and for whom a school in Council Rock is named). Ezra Stone is best known for his role as the mischievous teenager Henry Aldrich on the 14-year radio comedy hit, “The Aldrich Family,” on which Sara Seegar also performed, but he was also a prolific director of many popular TV shows of the 1960s. They were married in 1942 and had two children. They made their home for 40 years in Middletown Township in an old Bucks County stone farmhouse on a sweeping tract of beautiful farmland, named “Stone Meadows Farm,” a property currently slated for development. On this lovely property, situated across from The George School, they were successful dairy farmers and breeders of prize-winning Ayrshire cows. All the while, their involvement in the theater and TV continued. Both were involved with the Bucks County Playhouse and Lambertville Music Circus. Through their gracious hospitality at Stone Meadows Farm, many stars of stage and screen came to know Bucks County, as the farm was the site of many cast parties and weekend getaways for their show business friends, including comediennes Martha Raye and Anna Russell, actors Red Buttons, Burl Ives, Debbie Reynolds, Gale Gordon, Jackie Cooper, Paul Lynde, Uta Hagen, Gary Merrill, T. C. Jones, producer Mike Todd, playwrights Tad Mosel and Garson Kanin, and Jackie Kelk who played Ezra’s sidekick on “The Aldrich Family."
For nearly 25 years, Sara Seegar toured under the auspices of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the American College Theater Festival, and the U.S. Army. In 1983, Sara Seegar and Ezra Stone produced and staged “Sweet Land,” a pageant that celebrated the 300th anniversary of neighboring Newtown, and enlisted the talents of 300 local residents.
Sara Seegar passed away at St. Mary Medical Center, and is interred with her husband at Washington Crossing National Cemetery.
23. Early in March, when Langhorne Council for the Arts began this salute to Bucks County women, you were introduced to Anna Mary Longshore-Potts, M.D., of Langhorne, one of the first graduates of the first women's medical college in the world, which was founded by her brother, Joseph Longshore. Anna Mary's sister-in-law also became a female physician of note.
Hannah E. Myers Longshore, M.D.
In the 1800s, it was considered highly improper for a woman to know anything about anatomy. Women could serve as midwives and nurses, but to study a man's or even a woman's anatomy was just not done. As a result, women's health issues were an area of neglect in the medical profession, yet the study of science and medicine was a lifelong interest of Hannah Myers Longshore. She was raised as a Quaker and embraced this faith's strong abolitionist stance. Her husband, Thomas Longshore, lost his teaching position at New Lisbon (Ohio) School because of his writings in support of antislavery and the suffragist movement, and this is when they moved to Thomas' hometown of Langhorne (then known as Attleboro). Here, her brother-in-law, Dr. Joseph Longshore, tutored her and his sister, Anna Mary, in medicine and then founded the Female Medical College of Pennsylvania (later renamed Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania). As a wife and mother, at the age of 31, Hannah Myers Longshore enrolled in the newly established physician training program for women. It is reported that the graduation ceremony for the first class of this college had a heavy police presence to guard against violence from male physicians. Upon graduation, she was hired by the college as the first female Instructor of Anatomy and was one of the first female faculty members at any American medical school. She continued her teaching career at the New England Female College of Medicine and Penn Medical University, the latter also founded by Dr. Joseph Longshore to embrace a more "eclectic" curriculum. Hannah's two sisters followed her into the medical profession, graduating as physicians from Penn Medical University, and her daughter became a strong proponent of public health measures in Philadelphia.
Hannah Myers Longshore was the first female physician to establish and continue a private practice for over 40 years in Philadelphia. At one point her practice included nearly 300 families—larger than most other practices of the time -- and she saw up to 40 patients per day. Establishing her own practice was not without its challenges. Initially, male physicians in Philadelphia were openly hostile to the idea of a woman joining their ranks, subjecting her to "ribald derision" and advising her to "go home and darn your husband's socks." Her daughter, Lucretia, was shunned by classmates at Friends Central School, and was pelted with sticks and stones and taunted as "the woman doctor's child." Pharmacists refused to fill her prescriptions. To counter this, she stocked and dispensed her own medications. She wrote and spoke publicly on women's reproductive physiology and hygiene in her "Lectures to Women." She was encouraged in this by her close friend, women's rights leader Lucretia Mott, for whom her daughter was named. These lectures on sexual matters shocked conservative members of society, but brought to light the need for education and treatment in women's reproductive health. Interestingly, many of the male physicians who publicly criticized her sent their wives and daughters to her private practice. Through her pioneering determination, Dr. Hannah Myers Longshore is widely credited with paving the way for acceptance of training female physicians.
Dr. Longshore belonged to the Antislavery Society of Philadelphia and, as reported by her daughter, her house was used as a stop on the underground railroad. Dr. Longshore's lasting influence was not limited to medicine. It is interesting to note that, while her daughter, Lucretia, did not pursue a career in medicine, she did fully embrace her parents' strong beliefs in equal rights for women. With her husband, Rudolph Blankenburg, the couple embarked on public campaigns for reform, including establishing night classes for working women. Lucretia was president of the Pennsylvania Women's Suffrage Association, advocated for female representation on school boards, and secured a law which provided that a married woman who contributed to the support of her children should have an equal right to the custody and care of the minor children. She also worked for years to gain legal protection for widows. Lucretia lobbied for the creation of female police matrons, a role akin to social workers who supported women in unfortunate circumstances. As early as 1903, she was advocating for environmental laws to alleviate the growing problem of smog in Philadelphia. A lifelong Quaker, Lucretia was a firm believer in the "Unity in Diversity," and founded a number of clubs in the city to push social causes. Her influence as a sought-after speaker and social organizer continued when her husband, Rudoph Blakenburg, was elected mayor of Philadelphia in 1911 and became the leader of all the reform movements of the day in that city. You can learn more about Dr. Hannah Myers Longshore on our Banner Project virtual tour..