For the third annual year, the Hower House hosted the production In The Company Of Extraordinary Women, written by Debra Johanyak, English professor at The University of Akron’s Wayne Campus.
“For the third annual year, the Hower House hosted the production In The Company Of Extraordinary Women, written by Debra Johanyak, English professor at The University of Akron’s Wayne Campus.
Johanyak also wrote and directed the film More than Chance, which is being shown at Wayne College on April 29 at 7 p.m. The showing coincides with April’s Child Abuse Awareness Month. The play, set in the 19th century, highlights women from the Akron area who have made an impact on society.
It has been a great opportunity to look at these prominent women’s achievements and how they enlightened society past and present, Johanyak said of In the Company of Extraordinary Women.
Audience members learn of the many challenges that the women faced while enjoying a beautifully catered tea. The women featured this year were Grace Hower Crawford, Malana Walling Harris, Elizabeth Undine Slade Voris, Mary Jewett and Mrs. Judith Levine, a ghostly figure.
Grace Hower Crawford, portrayed by senior Theatre Arts major Miranda Roth, was last to reside in the Hower House, located on Fir Hill. She later donated it to the University. Crawford was a pivotal person to the creation of the Weathervane Theatre.
When asked what it was like portraying Grace Hower Crawford, Roth said, I loved it. I loved getting the experience of playing a woman from another time period. It is any little girl’s dream.
Roth has portrayed Crawford since the show’s inception. Because she will be graduating in the fall, Sunday was her final performance.
Roth said that the Hower House felt like it became my home because I became so familiar with it. I know all the secret nooks and crannies.
Kacie Heldt, senior Mass Media Communications TV/ Radio major, has also been involved with the show for the past three years. This year, she played the role of Malana Harris.
The Hower House was a very unique working experience. It is like a still picture in time. It takes you back to another world that no longer exists, said Heldt of portraying Malana Walling Harris.
According to the Akron Women’s History website, Harris was born in Erie County, Pa. She taught at the Crosby School in Akron for 28 years. The site further noted that she was outspoken about education; Harris drew criticism from the Board of Education, but praise and support from the parents of Summit County. Because she was so respected, Akron’s Harris Elementary School was named in her honor. Harris was described as unselfish and devoted to the welfare of others. After her death, money was collected by the children of the community to erect a monument in her honor. The monument, located near her grave in Glendale Cemetery, reads, Come let us live with the children.
A letter to the editor of the Akron Beacon Journal dated Oct. 22. 1904 said that teaching was not a profession to Mrs. Harris, it was her very life.
Heldt reflected on her portrayal of Harris, saying, I loved the fact that she called not just for her students, but for teachers to be better people.
Freshman Public Relations major Lauren Fowkes portrayed Elizabeth Undine Slade Voris. Voris was born in Columbus, Ohio. She was the daughter of William Hooker Slade and his wife, Marion Elizabeth Bell. She was the great-granddaughter of William Slade and John Alvord, two influential Corporals in the Revolutionary War.
Slade received a Bachelor’s degree from Buchtel College (now The University of Akron) in 1877 and a Master’s degree from the same institution in 1880. During this time, she was a math tutor in the Preparatory Department of Buchtel College. During her college years, Slade was a charter member of the Akron chapter of Kappa Kappa Gamma women’s fraternity. Slade married Edwin Voris, attorney with Voris, Vaughn, and Vaughn, in 1879. He was the son of local Akron hero Maj. Gen. Alvin Coe Voris and Lydia Allyn. They had four children, Lydia (Voris) Kolbe, Elizabeth (Voris) Lawry, Marion Voris and William. William’s wife, Louise Voris, was also active in Akron community work. Elizabeth Voris helped the College Club of Akron, an organization committed to the intellectual improvement of college-educated women, and the Women’s Benevolent Association, a pioneering welfare group. Voris was member of the Women’s Universalist Missionary Association, the Fifty Year Club of Akron, the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Dames of the Loyal Legion. From 1919-1920, she was the Treasurer of the Katherine Claypole Student Loan Fund, an organization to provide worthy college students with funds for education. She died in September of 1930.
Fowkes said of the experience, It was an amazing opportunity and I hope to come back next year.
Kathy Romito, Volunteer Coordinator at Summa Western Reserve, played Mary Jewitt. According to the Akron Women’s History website, Jewitt had two careers, one as Akron educator and the other as a physician, primarily in Winterhaven, Fla.
Mary Jewett was born in Mogadore, Ohio. She came to Akron as a day student at the old Buchtel College in its opening term (September 1872). In 1876, she earned both a B.S. and an A.B. In 1877 and 1878, she tutored Latin in Akron. By the 1890’s, she was a physician and had moved to Winterhaven, Fla., where her mother, sister and step father (Dr. F.W. Inman) had already settled. She set up a medical practice and was active in civic life. Jewett organized the Women’s City Club there and built a school for African-American children in the area.
It was wonderful, Romito said of playing Jewett. I enjoyed the combination of history and the issues that are still relevant today. I appreciated the fact that the Hower House is still trying to preserve the home and the way that life used to be while educating the community.
Erica Peters is a senior at Tallmadge High School. She played the role of Judith Levine, a ghostly figure. Peters sang a Yiddish piece to open the play and also to close the play and had to learn how to speak in a Yiddish accent for the performance. At the end of her first performance at the Hower House, an audience member approached her and told her that she knew the piece that she was singing and that hearing her sing the piece had moved her to tears.
In the Company of Extraordinary Women is an important event that celebrates women past and present. The Hower House will host the event again next year. They invite you to come join them for tea and welcome you to hear the stories of some of the extraordinary women of Akron.
“” #1.2126817:1405768534.jpg:Kathy Romito in role of Mary Jewitt:This is the third year that In the Company of Extraordinary Women has been hosted at the Hower House. The production explains the challenges faced by highlighted Akron women. Pictured, Kathy Romito played the role of Mary Jewitt.:Jeremy Winter”