Women bring ‘history’ to Miller-Driscoll

Upon walking into Miller-Driscoll school last Wednesday, it would have been easy for a visitor to get confused. Over there might be former first lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In the next room is famed chef Julia Child. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor is around somewhere.

As part of Women’s History Month, the school saluted famous ladies by hosting Women in History Day. Co-chair of the event Hillary Morrissy said it has a longer history than she realized.

“This is the 16th year it has been celebrated,” Ms. Morrissy said. “When the event first began, there were fewer than 20 volunteers, but it has become more and more popular, with mothers and grandmothers returning each year, even after their last child has moved on from Miller-Driscoll.”

Two librarians at Miller-Driscoll, Barbara Clancy and Joyce Torres, reached out to the PTA to help get the event going. At the same time, volunteers are requested, but this isn’t a matter of just showing up.

Each woman is asked to represent her chosen subject by embodying the person. Each gives eight-minute presentations about who she is to students in kindergarten through second grade.

“Most costumes tend to be cobbled together from things they have at home,” Ms. Morrissy said. “Julia Child had an apron, cookbook, bowl and whisk, Laura Ingalls might have her hair in two long braids and a prairie skirt, and Jane Goodall, some khakis and a button-down shirt.”

While some of the participants create elaborate costumes, others represent their subjects more simply.

“The kindergartners are mute with awe,” she said. “The kids love it. The older they get, the better the questions are.”

The scope of women chosen by the approximately 50 volunteers runs from the aforementioned Clinton, O’Connor, and Child to women from all walks of life. Politics, the arts, nurses, humanitarians, and many more are represented.

Among recent women portrayed were Madame Curie, Clara Barton, Eleanor Roosevelt, Queen Victoria, Betsy Ross, Susan B. Anthony, Amelia Earhart, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Mary Cassatt.

The women visit four different classes during the event to give their presentations. Teachers who get advance notice are able to pattern their lesson for that day to include a slide show and more facts about each subject.

Students have taken interest in their visitors, based on the foot traffic that heads into the Miller-Driscoll School library’s biography section.

“This is one of the favorite days of the students and staff of the school,” said Ms. Morrissy. She co-chairs the event with Heather Borden Herve, Megan Morris and Sarah O’Malley.

“This is my last year co-chairing the event, but I plan to participate next year even though my son will be at Cider Mill,” she said.

“There is nothing better than the feeling you get while speaking to a room full of children fully engaged and listening to your every word,” she concluded. “There really is no better, or easier, audience.”