Women In Glen Cove’s History

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Mary Ann Holzkamp became the first woman mayor of Glen Cove, in 2002.

The early years of the publication of the Glen Cove Record Pilot marked a time of immense change for all of society, but especially in the lives of the women who called Glen Cove home. In 1917, after 69 years of petitioning, campaigning, marching and struggle, New York women finally won the right to vote, three years ahead of the rest of the nation. Glen Cove women of all ages and social strata assumed an important role in that fight. The Tiny Tea Room on Glen Street hosted monthly meetings of the Equal Suffrage Club, where suffragists listened to speeches by well-known leaders such as Ida Bunce Sammis from Huntington and Harriet Burton Laidlaw from Sands Point. The Pratt sisters-in-law, Helen Sherman Pratt (Killenworth), and Florence Gibb Pratt, (The Braes, now the Webb Institute of Naval Architecture) contributed to the suffrage cause with both time and money, and could take real pride in its success. An historic marker documenting their efforts is soon to be installed.

The Pratt women also gave generously to other philanthropic causes; they donated the land for the library and the post office, and provided funds for the construction of Lincoln House (now the Boys and Girls Club), the hospital and various parks. Throughout the 1930s, other local women established the Glen Cove Community Chest, which contributed to nine local organizations, including the Orchard House, the Lincoln House and the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts. In 1931, Glen Cove women collected funds to purchase an iron lung for the Glen Cove Hospital. Glen Cove women gave freely and generously of their time and their money.

With the outbreak of World War II women took their place contributing to the war effort, leaving their homes and families to work in factories. Rose Suozzi lived in Brooklyn and began working in Republic Aircraft in Bethpage in 1942. She later married Gaspar Buffa, a Marine who served at Guadalcanal and Midway; after the war the couple moved to Glen Cove and raised their family of five children.

Post-war business flourished in Glen Cove, and women were at the forefront with the emergence of retail establishments of all kinds, most of which were family affairs. Brigatti’s Fine Foods on School Street was owned and managed by Alan Gengarelly and his wife Carol; Bernsteins Men’s Wear on Glen Street was owned and run by Blanche and Len Bernstein. London Jewelers was owned and managed by husband and wife Fran and Mayer Udell, and is still today under the ownership/management of their son Mark, and his wife Candy. Singer’s Department Store, Eisenstadt’s Hardware, the Cove Delicatessen and many other businesses were successful because of the labors of both husbands and wives working together. Russian immigrant Clara Blank started her own dress-finishing factory in Glen Cove around 1932, and ran it successfully through the 1950s. Perhaps she was empathetic to women’s causes—the factory hired only women.

Over the years Glen Cove women can claim many “firsts,” political and otherwise. Renowned orchestra conductor Clara Burling Roesch Herdt was the first woman to win a conducting fellowship at the Julliard Graduate School of Music. In 1980, she spent six months at the Beijing Opera House, the first American ever to be invited to fill that position. Florence Gibb Pratt was the first woman elected to the New York State Board of Regents in 1927. Her sister-in-law Ruth Baker Pratt was the first woman elected as a New York City Alderman in 1925, representing the Silk Stocking District in Manhattan. She later served four years in the House of Representatives.

In 2006, Glen Cove resident Christine Quinn became the first woman to hold the position of Speaker of the New York City Council; she ran for mayor of the City of New York in 2013. In 1951, Katherine Fisk Drury became the first woman to run for the city council in Glen Cove. Although she lost, she paved the way for others; Ann Gold was elected to the city council in 1980, and at least six women follower her; Pamela Panzenbeck serves on the city council today. And Glen Cove’s first and only woman mayor Mary Ann Holzkamp held the office from 2002 to 2005.

Glen Cove women set new precedents for gender equality in 1984 when members of the Glen Cove Educational Secretaries Association filed 103 sex discrimination complaints with the New York State Division of Human Rights. The complaints represented a wide range of gender-related abuses, including pay inequity and demoralizing working conditions. In 1987, the women won $270,000 in retroactive pay increases, professional advancement benefits, the right to have wage equity part of their labor contract and most importantly the right to be treated with respect.

Breaking new ground for women in the religious arena, Betsy Simpson holds the position of woman minister at the First Presbyterian Church in Glen Cove, and Rabbi Dr. Janet B. Liss joins student cantor Alex Kurland in an all-woman slate at the North Country Reform Temple on Crescent Beach Road.

Successful singer/songwriter Ashanti Douglas put Glen Cove on the map with her phenomenal musical and acting career successes. And for more than 50 years the Morgan Park Summer Music Festival has brought free concerts to Glen Cove under the supervision of Marguerite Suozzi. Although she has stepped aside from a management role, her influence is still felt in the quality entertainment the concert series brings to Glen Cove every summer Sunday evening.

The City of Glen Cove is a relatively small community of less than 30,000 people. Yet its citizens, especially its women, have had a disproportionately impressive influence on the world in general. From winning the vote, to building hospitals, libraries and parks, to serving their nation, working for equal rights and bringing us quality entertainment, they have enriched both their city and their nation through their talents and labors. We can be justifiably proud of them all.

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