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A Woman's Place
By Councilwoman Eleanor Kieliszek
Teaneck has long been a woman's place. Since Chief Oratam gave Sarah Kiersted 2,120 acres of what is much of present day Teaneck for her role as interpreter and mediator in 1667. Teaneck has been strongly influenced by women.
However, some forget the important role women have played in our past, and may not appreciate the role women may take in the future of Bergen County. In Teaneck. those who forget are few.
One who did forget was Mayor I. J. E. Brown. At a meeting of the Township Council he informed Audrey Kytle, president of the newly formed League of Women Voters and first woman candidate for town council, that her place was home doing the dishes, rather than addressing the council on the need for park improvement. Mrs. Kytle never won a seat on the council. but neither did Mayor Brown win his next election. In 1958, he lost to Brad Menkes by one vote. It is said that Mrs. Brown failed to cast an absentee ballot for her husband before she went off to Florida for a vacation.
In 1966. Marian Cerf, the guiding force behind the establishment of the first Township Community Relations Board, also ran unsuccessfully for Town Council, but paved the way for others. Now three women serve on the seven member Township Council, four on the Board of Education and three on the Board of Freeholders. Elective office is now open to women, but it is not the only place for women of achievement in our town. As volunteers, as professionals, as business women, they have played key roles in the 300 years of Bergen County history .
Teaneck women have helped to create institutions. In 1922, the "library ladies" borrowed $2,000 to purchase a property, and by doing their own coal shoveling, painting and refurbishing, as well as supplying the books; opened the first library. Andrew Carnegie could not have improved on their business acumen. They sold their $2,000 property two years later for $17,500 and persuaded the township to donate land and $500 per year to begin a free public library. Mrs. A. N. Jordan had started the book collection only 10 years earlier.
Women and volunteerism have been a tradition in Teaneck. In 1925, Mrs. Bernard Lippman formed the Women's Club "as a medium for sociability, the dissemination of culture, the exercise of philanthropy, and participation in civic affairs." The formation of women's clubs, identified with the suffrage movement, also took place in neighboring Hackensack and Englewood. They were places where women could learn about their new responsibilities as voters and band together to provide social services. Our town now has chapters of NOW, the League of Women Voters, ORT, Hadassah and Zonta, all serving women and helping them serve others.
Women have seen the need for special services in our town and have worked to create them. Fourteen women received the charter for the Teaneck section of the National Council of Jewish Women in 1923. The Group Care Home for Girls has grown out of the concern these women had for the larger community while they continued to care for the needs of the Jewish community. Paula Rosenblum and the late Evelyn Sosower were the NCJW representatives who helped found the home, and Paula still serves on its board.
It would be hard to live in Bergen County and not be aware of a former president of the NCJW, Ann Robison. Ann writes a column for The Jewish Standard, travels world-wide on behalf of Israel. and has a strong commitment to the American Association of University Women. Mr. and Mrs. Adolf Robison gave one of the first buildings to Teaneck's Fairleigh Dickinson University, Robison Hall.
In the early 1900's, churches benefited from the strong support of strong women. Anastasia Kelly gave the first Catholic church building to her parish. The building is still standing. used as a youth hall by St. Anastasia's Church, Teaneck Road. In 1970, Rita Hall became the first woman president of the Parish Council and later, with Margaret Murray, worked to bring housing for the elderly to what is now Fairview Terrace.
Involvement in the work of the Methodist Church on DeGraw Avenue for 40 years or so had brought Marie Burr and Betty Wiker to an understanding of the need for an agency to assist senior citizens and the handicapped with transportation. Starfish, an ecumenical group of volunteers, now offers the elderly and handicapped rides to the doctors, or for shopping. In addition to her work with Starfish. Betty Wiker is active in Girl Scouting, even as she serves as an officer of the American Association of Retired Persons.
After conducting a conference on the needs of the elderly for the Community Relations Board. Jean Rindlaub, retired vice president of a New York ad agency, worked with Marie Burr to found the Senior Services Center. Located in the Town House, it offers meals, instruction, entertainment and friendship to Teaneck's older residents.
Like Marie Burr, many church women are active in a group called Church Women United, a regional group. These women not only serve their own congregations, but reach out to others, especially those in need.,
The health needs of Teaneck have not been overlooked by its Women. In 1923. the Sisters of St. Joseph came to Teaneck to staff what is now one of the most modern health centers in Bergen County, Holy Name Hospital, Teaneck Road.
When few women physicians practiced any place in our country. Dr. Roslyn Barbash, Dr. Irene Pindar, Dr. Sarah Gordon, Dr. Gladys Winter, Dr. Doris Rappaport, Dr. Ruth Zuckerman and Dr. Marjorie Jones have served the health needs of our town during the past 30 years. Dr. Betty Zuckerman (Schectman) has represented Teaneck on the County Public Health Council.
Only recently have women become better represented in the legal profession. Last year the Township Council appointed Lorraine Abraham as municipal court judge; she is the first woman to serve as a magistrate in Bergen County. Mrs. Abraham, who went to law school while keeping a home for her husband and two sons, is typical of the women professionals practicing in Bergen County today. Her law partner, Isabel Stark, who represents Teaneck Library, shares the same experience of returning to law school after marriage and children. The same is true for one of the founders of the Feminist Action Coalition of Teaneck. Linda Irene-Greene, who has an office on Cedar Lane, Schneider, Schneidcr and Bait, attorney for the town, includes one of the first women lawyers to practice in the county, Edith Balt.
It would be hard to count the number of organizations that women have led in Teaneck. From the Teaneck Civic Conference, organized by the late Kay Schick, the Teaneck Political Assembly, last headed by June Kappel, to the P. T. A.'s and Little League, their women leaders have been multi-talented. Vita Di-Bernardo, Lisa Heubert, Lucille Steiner, LaVerne Grady, Judy Glassman, Bea Weston and Kathy Bonello have not only served their organizations, but have been active in business as well.
Kathy Bonello, the first woman to serve as a Little League coach is also president of Information Systems. a computer consulting firm in Cedar Lane. Bea Weston, former P. T. A. president, is now the owner of the Bea Hive, a gift boutique on Cedar Lane.
Old hands in the business world of Teaneck are Teaneck's real estate women. Betty Dodd, Virginia Eckdahl, Fay Howse and Irene Massarsky -- all with their own firms.
Through the years Teaneck's school system has been a place where women "shine". The high school auditorium is named for Helen B. Hill, its first woman principal and one of most popular figures in our recent history. Eunice Pruitt, the first black woman principal of the Bryant School, is now with Eugene Field School. Women presidents of the Board of Education are no longer rare. Ruth Henrickson being the first, and include Sandra Glick, Bernardine Harford and now, Ann Mersereau.
When women think about the future of Teaneck and the county as a place for their daughters to grow in spirit and with opportunity, they can say we have made a good start. When the 40th anniversary of Bergen County is celebrated, let us hope that mothers will still say, Teaneck is a good place for women -- but so is The House. The Senate and yes, the White House. And who knows, it could be one of Teaneck's daughters who is the first to occupy the Oval Office. She will have had a good start in a woman's place.
(Eleanor Manning Kieliszek was the first woman elected to Teaneck's Township Council, the first woman mayor of Teaneck, and the first Woman Citizen of the Year. -- Ed.)
Teaneck Public Library
840 Teaneck Road, Teaneck, NJ 07666
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