Carroll County Times
Carroll County Times Opinion

Szymanski: Women making a difference, then and now

Dorothy Elderdice was a pioneer in the world of theatre and an advocate of social change.

The role of women in this country has been ever evolving, but one thing remains true. Even when their roles were limited or dictated by men, women made a difference, and that included the women of Carroll County. As I watch the news today, I pray that women continue to campaign for what is right and set a compassionate example along the way.

Over the many years I worked at Western Maryland College, and then McDaniel College after the name change, I took many walks through Elderdice Hall. I knew the building was named after Dorothy Elderdice, but I wondered, who was she? So, I did a little research, learning that she was a pioneer in the world of theatre and an advocate of social change.


In 1911, while in her senior year at Western Maryland College, Elderdice wrote a paper opposing adoption of the 19th Amendment, to give women the right to vote. Not long after, she changed her stance and came out for the amendment. It was the first sign of the pioneering woman she would become. In 1918 during the final days of World War I, Elderdice wrote and directed "In the Cause of Freedom," a pageant that advocated peace. Performed on the college lawn, the pageant featured more than 100 Carroll County residents.

Elderdice taught speech and drama at the Westminster Theological Seminary and directed the Westminster Community Players, a group that still exists, but with a name change to the Carroll Players. Later in her life, she wrote a show called “We Have Spoken for a World Without War.” This show was presented in Holland and included participants from more than 23 countries.


Here in Carroll County, many amazing women continue to teach at McDaniel College. My own daughters graduated from McDaniel. Each has a story about a professor who made a difference in their lives. Even when women don’t make it into the history books, they can, and do, make a difference.

Mary Bostwick Shellman, daughter of Westminster’s first mayor and a Union supporter, was another woman to contribute to Carroll County history. She was responsible for organizing Westminster’s first Decoration Day parade in 1868 — a tradition that later became our Memorial Day celebration. During her lifetime, Shellman supported the Red Cross and the Women's Christian Temperance Union. She continually crusaded for aid for residents of the Alms House. Now the Carroll County Farm Museum, the Alms House housed the poorest among us. Shellman wanted to protect and serve the downtrodden and she volunteered hours for this cause. Then, when the Civil War moved into the area, she crusaded for provide proper burials for the Union soldiers she supported, as well. What a shining example.

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This past May, I spent time with several women who were working on the Pleasant Valley Memorial Day parade. Coordinator, Angela Bowersox told me it was the 100th year for the town to make the walk to the Pleasant Valley Cemetery to place flags on graves of veterans. The tradition that began so many years ago continues today, with the support of women.

Sadie Kneller Miller placed Carroll County on the historical map when she became the first woman war correspondent in America and one of the earliest female baseball reporters. She was born in Westminster in 1867, attended Western Maryland College and began her career working for the Westminster Democratic Advocate. Her writing career took her to cover the Baltimore Orioles, where she concealed her gender by writing under the initials S.K.M. Later, working for a newspaper called, Leslie's Illustrated, Miller photographed the construction of the Panama Canal. She wrote reports on Jamaican earthquakes, and then worked as a correspondent on the front lines of the Balkan War and battles in Morocco.

These days, a long list of female reporters not only cover sports, but are out in the field, reporting on just about any topic that male reporters are covering.

America has seen so many female heroes, including 16-year-old Sybil Ludington, who, on an April night in 1777, rode 40 miles to warn approximately 400 militiamen that the British troops were coming, riding twice as far as Paul Revere. She was honored with a postal stamp in 1975.

Then, there was Harriet Tubman, the escaped slave who campaigned for abolition in the mid-1800s. Susan B. Anthony worked for women's suffrage in the late 1800s, campaigning for a woman’s right to vote. Clara Barton was a nurse, humanitarian and teacher during the Civil War. She founded the American Red Cross. In 1928, Amelia Earhart was the first woman aviator to fly solo nonstop across the Atlantic. Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955 and helped initiate the civil rights movement in the United States.

There are so many more American women who have made a difference, too many to ever list. As we enter the “Me, too” era, women are now bringing the topic of sexual abuse into the light. It has been a horrible hidden secret. Just about every woman alive either knows a woman who was assaulted or was assaulted herself.


As we work to make a difference, I pray that we do it right, so as to not tarnish the cause. I pray that women show the world the kind and fair side of womanhood. When we show compassion and choose our battles wisely we set an example for the future.