Whenever we are at a low point and in need of spiritual nourishment we turn to the great poets and the great writers. For this Thanksgiving holiday, filled with so much loss for so many, we refresh ourselves with the words of the great woman writer George Eliot, and an elegy to the dead:
“Her finely touched spirit had still its fine issues, though they were not widely visible. Her full nature, like that river of which Cyrus broke the strength, spent itself in channels which had no great name on the earth. But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”
It is not only soldiers who rest in unvisited or unknown tombs. Those that dwell within the tomb have shaped our world and us, even if we have not known them personally, even if we have not read about them or their passing.
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Friends of HillaryIs44 in Ohio have also recently suffered the loss of a loved one. Two months past her hundreth year Mary Egerton Miller Young (July 31, 1909 – November 24, 2009) is no longer with them.
A leader in equal rights for women in the tumultuous 1960s and ’70s in Columbus has died just after reaching the century mark.
Mary Egerton Miller Young died Tuesday after a stroke in Chesterfield, Mo., her home since 1990.
“We recognized Mary’s practical dreaming, striving for excellence, her attention to detail (and) unshakable integrity,” said friend Mary Anne Saucier of Upper Arlington. “Life was really exciting working with her.”
Young’s activism began in the volunteer work she did for church and community groups in central Ohio. She was in her late 50s in 1966 when she began her greatest fight: for women’s equality.
Her friends remember Mary:
A long time volunteer, Mary was first employed at the Hilltop YWCA, and then became Director of Special Services for the main YWCA, 65 South Fourth Street, in Columbus. It was out of her third floor office that the YWCA Public Affairs Committee was staffed, that the monthly Public Affairs Forums grew, that the yearly YWCA International Fairs took shape, and it was the nerve center for the Equal Rights Amendment battles of 1973 and 1974, which culminated in its Ohio ratification on February 7, 1974.
By 1966, Mary helped found and lead the Ohio Commission on the Status of Women, out of which the Ohio Coalition for the Equal Rights Amendment was born. Immediately following Ohio ratification, Mary had officers in place for a new Ohio Coalition for the Implementation for the Equal Rights Amendment. In August 1974, Governor Gilligan and Attorney General William Brown had created a 25 member “Ohio Task Force for Implementation of the Equal Rights Amendment” and Mary was asked to chair the Task Force.
From 1975 to 1979, Mary directed the Women’s Ohio Volunteer Employment Network (WOVEN) at the Mershon Center, Ohio State University. This research project concentrated on increasing the number of women in state government in policy making positions by translating the volunteer skills of women into job qualifications. WOVEN had a positive affect on women and the media. On March 9, 1978, The Columbus Dispatch did an enormous spread on “Women Assume Leadership Roles in Columbus Arena”.
In June 1977, Mary chaired the International Women’s Year Conference at the Ohio State Fairgrounds, and was a delegate at the Houston IWY Conference from November 18 to 21, 1977.
That summer and fall she helped unite, by October 1, 1977, the Ohio Commission on the Status of Women and the Ohio Coalition for the Implementation of the ERA into Ohio Women, Inc. It was to be a rallying point for Ohio’s women to work together toward collective concerns, voiced and outlined at the Houston IWY Conference – to be a strong state-wide network for fast communication and action. Ohio Women, Inc. depended heavily on Mary’s leadership for conferences, for its “New Day Report”, for its “Women’s Platform”, its “Women’s Agenda”, etc.
In 1980, Mary chaired the committee which founded the Metropolitan Women’s Center for Central Ohio Women. She also helped develop and establish the Center for New Directions and the Columbus Metropolitan Club.
On January 1, 1960, Mary had been saluted by the Woman’s Department of the Columbus Citizen-Journal as one of “Ten Outstanding Columbus Women.” The paper wrote “there is a continuity and relatedness about her activities which is derived from her personal faith in God and her belief in the international brotherhood of Man.”
This was only one of her many special recognitions and awards for distinguished service, including her election to the Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame in 1983.
On March 16, 1985, at least 300 people attended a luncheon honoring Mary’s contributions, with a Proclamation from Ohio’s Governor Richard Celeste and seventeen speakers, including The Honorable Marigene Valiquette, The Honorable Jo Ann Davidson, The Honorable Fran Ryan, and representatives from First Community Church, YWCA, Hunger Task Force, Coalition for the Ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, “Odd Dozen”, ERA Task Force, ERA March, WOVEN, Volunteers of America, Ohio Women, Inc., Center for New Directions, Columbus Metropolitan Club, and Metropolitan Women’s Center.
For the occasion, Ohio Representative I. Ray Miller wrote:
You have willingly given of your time, energy, and abilities beyond what was required or expected, and you have earned the respect and admiration of everyone with whom you have been associated. Your noteworthy accomplishments are evidence of the potential of individuals to affect the quality of life in our society in a positive manner.
For these good, known and unknown, we commemorate on this Thanksgiving holiday their loss with remembrance. These bright forces, continue to light the way.