Columns, Weeks Gone By

Women’s Work

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In both 1900 and 1910, the few women who owned or managed businesses in the Village of Hardwick did so from their homes as dressmakers or milliners.

Many homemakers took in boarders, making themselves boarding house managers, but rarely told the census taker that they had an occupation.

By the 1970s, however, women appeared everywhere in Hardwick’s business world. Lorraine Hussey and Peg Marcy each compiled lists of the women who played a significant role in managing a business in Hardwick in the 1970s.

photo from The Hardwick Gazette archives Lorraine Hussey’s ad for her Racette’s clothing store appeared on page 1 of the January 1, 1970, edition of The Hardwick Gazette with good luck wishes for 1970.

They both focused on the women’s role in running the business, understanding that many women worked in a business but had little or no say in its management. The list below combines Lorraine and Peg’s two lists, and it does not pretend to be complete.

Business owners: Barbara Lussier, Children’s Loft (clothing store); Mary Mercier, Village Diner; Jane LaPierre Johns, Flower Basket; Lynne Beaudry, Hairport (hair dresser); Sybil Messier, Looking Glass (hair dresser); Lorraine Hussey, Racettes (clothing store); Anne Batten, Anne Batten Real Estate; Susan Hale, Bear Pond Books; Bonnie Howard, Shear Precision (hair dresser); Delores Mercier, El Chapperel Bar and Idle Hour Theater.

Business co-owners: Lizanne Boisclair, Village Laundramat (this is the current spelling). Newspaper ads spell the name of this business both as “Laundromat,” with and “o,” as in 1972, while an ad in 1977 spells it with an “a.”); Nancy Hill, Trading Center; Mercedes Provost and Lucille Cornoyer, Mer-Lu’s Restaurant; Lucy Anair, Ray & Lucy’s Bar; Cox Pharmacy, Phyllis Zechinelli; Frances Holcomb, Holcomb’s Funeral Home; Marge desGroseilliers, desGroseilliers Funeral Home; Karen Pope, Hardwick Gazette; Carolyn Aiossa, Quilt Store; Bette O’Connor, Morse Insurance; Ruth Merrill, Merrill Electric; Geneva Hall, Hall’s Handi Mart.

Business managers: Anne Baldwin, The Hardwick Bank and Trust; Dorcas Bellavance, Aubuchon Hardware; Teresa Earle, Vermont Originals (knitted hats.)

In the 1970s, following the Civil Rights Movement for the rights of African Americans, a movement for social and economic rights of women arose.

The nineteenth century Women’s Rights Movement had largely died out after the 1919 passage of the Nineteenth Amendment giving women the right to vote.

The 1970s’ movement focused heavily on economic inequities, such as equal pay for equal work, admission to male-dominated professional schools and equal opportunity for advancement on the job.

Despite that national social turmoil, the business women in Hardwick did not consciously act or feel like pioneers in what they were doing. They did not join the larger feminist movement. They did not organize to promote women in the business climate or culture in Hardwick. They saw themselves as simply doing what they could do for the benefit of their families and their community.

Hardwick’s women in business weren’t making a political statement; they were making a living.

Elizabeth H. Dow is president of the Hardwick Historical Society.

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