The Rapidian

Several Grand Rapidians honored by Michigan historical societies

The late Eva McCall Hamilton, the only Grand Rapids woman to serve in the Michigan state senate, and local environmentalist Dr. Mary Jane Dockeray have been inducted into Michigan Women's Hall of Fame.
Eva McCall Hamilton has been the only woman to represent Grand Rapids in the Michigan State Senate (1920-21).

Eva McCall Hamilton has been the only woman to represent Grand Rapids in the Michigan State Senate (1920-21). /The Independent, October 23, 1920

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Several other Grand Rapids organizations and individuals also honored by Historical Society of Michigan

Several Grand Rapids area organizations and individuals were also honored a few weeks earlier in Monroe by the Historical Society of Michigan, including the Grand Rapids Historical Society, Temple Emanuel Archives, and local authors Christine Byron and Tom Wilson. The State History Awards are the highest recognition presented by the state’s official historical society to honor outstanding contributions to the appreciation and understanding of Michigan history.

Mary Jane Dockeray has been a long-time advocate for the environment.

Mary Jane Dockeray has been a long-time advocate for the environment. /Blandford Nature Center

The late Eva McCall Hamilton, Michigan's first female legislator and the only Grand Rapids woman to serve in the Michigan State Senate, and local environmentalist Dr. Mary Jane Dockeray were among eight women and one women's organization inducted into the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame last week in East Lansing. The 2012 honors were among several awarded in recent weeks recognizing significant historical contributions by local individuals.

Hamilton is one of three award winners in the historical category. After women gained universal suffrage and the right to vote in 1920, Hamilton (1871-1948) made history when she became Michigan's first female legislator after winning handily over three male opponents. While she only served a single term, she introduced a dozen measures, most of them dealing with women and children. More than half passed into law. She is considered the "mother" of the city market movement for her efforts to help establish the city's first retail farmers market in 1917. No other woman from Grand Rapids has ever served as a Michigan state senator.

As a winner in the contemporary category, now retired Dr. Dockeray has long been an advocate for West Michigan's environment and environmental education.  The naturalist spearheaded efforts to develop Blandford Nature Center on the city's West Side in the mid-1960s. The environmental interpretive center has grown from 10 acres to 143 acres and is now known as a leader in environmental programs for school children and adults featuring natural trails, family programs, diverse habitants, festivals and several historic buildings.

Michigan Women's Hall of Fame

The Hall of Fame was established in 1983 by the Michigan Women’s Studies Association to honor the accomplishments of Michigan women, celebrate their history and promote educational opportunities. Patterned after the National Women’s Hall of Fame, Michigan's Hall was the first of its kind to recognize high-achieving women of an individual state.

The MWSA also honored Jim Dunlap, president of Huntington Bank's West Michigan region, with its Philip A. Hart Award. The award is presented annually to a man who has demonstrated a unique understanding and support of women's issues and has contributed to the advancement of women.

Historical Society of Michigan

Several Grand Rapids area organizations and individuals were also honored a few weeks earlier in Monroe by the Historical Society of Michigan, including the Grand Rapids Historical Society, Temple Emanuel Archives, and local authors Christine Byron and Tom Wilson.  The State History Awards are the highest recognition presented by the state’s official historical society to honor outstanding contributions to the appreciation and understanding of Michigan history.

In the Communications/Newsletter category, the society presented an award to the Grand Rapids Historical Society for its Grand River Valley History, a magazine that focuses on Grand Rapids and the other communities along the Grand River in Kent and Ottawa counties. Edited by Dr. Matthew Daley, a Grand Valley State University history professor, the magazine's articles are based on original research featuring a wealth of illustrations, including rarely seen images from the vast collections of the region’s libraries, archives, and museums.

The Institutions award went to the Temple Emanuel Archives. Founded in 1857, the Congregation Emanuel—the oldest Jewish congregation in Grand Rapids—has had a long interest in preserving its history.

In 1954, June Horowitz and Lena Warsaw wrote a centennial history of the temple and later organized boxes of minutes, photos, clippings, and other ephemera that the organization had accumulated over the years. The Peg and Mort Finkelstein Archives grew out of these early efforts, an impressive collection with associated activities that provide a valuable historical resource for the entire community. The Mort Finkelstein Family Archival Fund was established in 2002 and lists more than 35 categories of materials to be collected and preserved.

Among four books recognized in the University Publications and Commercial Press category was a book written by Byron and Wilson of Grand Rapids titled “Vintage Views Along the West Michigan Pike: From Sand Trails to US-31.” This book highlights efforts to build a road along the west coast of Michigan and the resulting development of automobile tourism. It opens with the first roadway guidebook in 1913 that allows readers to travel back in time and experience the early gas stations, tourist cabins, restaurants, and other roadside attractions.

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