Thirty-five Hudson Women Honored for their Contributions
By Sally Deering
On Wed, March 24th, Hudson County Executive Thomas DeGise and the Hudson County Board of Chosen Freeholders honored 35 local women, many of whom dared to be first including the first woman Mayor of Hoboken Dawn Zimmer; the first woman president of the Bayonne chapter of the NAACP Dorothy Adams; the first woman Vice President at Saint Peter’s College Dr. Eileen Poiani; and, the first woman elected to the Jersey City Municipal Council Lois Shaw.
These women – and the other honorees — made Hudson County history with their commitment and dedication to improve the quality of life in their communities. Hudson County Executive DeGise and the Board of Freeholders traditionally host this event in March, which is Women’s History Month, to recognize women’s contributions and ensure their achievements are recorded in our local history.
Held on a balmy, spring evening at the historic Brennan Court House in Jersey City, the ceremony’s theme this year was “Writing Women Back into History.” The honorees, their families and friends gathered inside the Theodore Conrad Rotunda where they were greeted by Hudson County Freeholder Doreen DiDomenico who told the packed audience, “The women honored tonight have made their mark in their communities and yet their contribution has been written in invisible ink.” She continued to say that the 2010 honorees have risen up through the ranks in male-dominated fields, became the owners of their own businesses against all odds and stood up for causes when others turned away.
The 2010 honorees seemed to have something in common with high-achieving women who came before them, said Dr. Carmela Ascolese Karnoutsos, former Professor of History at New Jersey City University who was the evening’s Keynote Speaker. Ascolese opened the program with the presentation “Hudson County Women Past & Present,” which highlighted the work of several women who helped shape local history. Women like photographer Dorothea Lange of Hoboken, whose photographs of the Great Depression became iconic symbols of that time in our history; Ida Cohen Rosenthal, a Hoboken dressmaker who became the CEO of her own company when she founded Maidenform; and Cornelia Bradford who founded Whittier House in Jersey City and offered much needed social services to immigrant families arriving from Ellis Island.
These women all became role models to other women in their communities and, it appears, that tradition continues through programs like this evening’s event.
“I’m happy to be a role model,” Hoboken’s first woman mayor Dawn Zimmer said. “For me, it’s all about giving back to the community. I’m honored to be recognized.”
Dorothy Adams of Bayonne, the first woman President of the Bayonne Branch of the NAACP was first to receive her Citation and medal as her family and friends from Friendship Baptist Church cheered her on.
“This is awesome, it really is,” Adams said. “After all these years, I thought this part of my life was behind me. I’m 86 years old!”
All 35 honorees received Citations and medals and after the ceremony, family and friends gathered for refreshments and posed for pictures with the honorees including Belkys Timeo-Severino, who opened Belkys’ hair salon in Weehawken 26 years ago after immigrating to the US from the Dominican Republic. Severino was joined by her nieces and other family members who showered her with flowers and took lots of photographs.
“She’s a great woman,” Belkys’ 11 year-old neice, Janelly said. “She’s beautiful.”
Hudson County’s “Writing Women Back Into History” ceremony at the Brennan Court House on Wed, March 24th honored Dorothy Adams of Bayonne, Shirley Becker of East Newark, Maureen Bellucci of Jersey City, Sandra Bendor of Weehawken, Bojana Coklyat of Jersey City, Sister Rosemary Coffey, CSJP, of Jersey City, Fannie D’Elia of Jersey City, Victoria Del Regno of Bayonne, Dr. Vijaya Desai of Jersey City, Alice DeFazio of Jersey City, Paula Frazier of Weehawken, Brigite I. Congalves of East Newark, Pamela Hepburn of Jersey City, Valerie Hufnagel of Hoboken, Judy Kennelly of Secaucus, Michelle Lopez of West New York, Joanne Martin of Guttenberg, Dorothy McNeil of Hoboken, Kathleen O’Keeffe of Bayonne, Eileen L. Poiani, Ph.D. of Jersey City, Lois Shaw of Jersey City, Francine Shelton of Jersey City, Reena Rose Sibayan of Bayonne, Katharine Steffens of Secaucus, Eleanor Tiefenwerth of Bayonne, Belkys Timeo-Severino of Weehawken, Mary Valastro of Hoboken, Julia Valdivia of Union City and the Hon. Dawn Zimmer of Hoboken. Maryanne Campeotto, SC, Patricia Gerris and Kathy Walsh of Camp Fatima of New Jersey were also honored along with Mary Arrigo, Julia Dreisbach and Nan Spanton of Pathways to Independence, Inc.