National Women's History Month: Local trailblazers honored

MERIDIAN, Miss. (WTOK) - March is National Women's History Month. As part of it, we're reflecting on two local women, who lived a life of service that has had a major impact on how we live today.

Those who knew Polly Heidelberg say she was a faithful member of St. John Missionary Baptist Church, and so much more.

"She was persistent, courageous and a role-model," says Ruth Jones, who is Mississippi's Volunteer Coordinator for the National Women's History Project. She says after the lady known affectionately as Mrs. Polly turned 40, she was taught how to read by Civil Rights Martyr Michael Schwerner and his wife Rita.

"She had an excellent memory, and Dr. King told her, 'that was even better,'" says Jones.

During that time "Mrs. Polly" became very active in the local Civil Rights Movement as a fearless leader.

"She served as a role-model for people who were so afraid. The way she described it was, 'I grew up a slave, but that doesn't mean that everybody else needs to be a slave!' What we can learn is that it cannot always be about us. When one person rises, most of us will rise." and that what we need to do is not just think about our own immediate family all the time, but to really go out there, but to go out there and see if we can make changes for other people."

This is the kind of life that Jones says Mrs. Lucille Rosenbaum also
lived. She's known as a woman who tirelessly worked to restore the historic Dentzel Carousel House. However, Jones says she's most proud of the character that Rosenbaum fearlessly showed as president of the Meridian Public School Board during integration.

"Her position was, 'it's the right thing to do. I'm not doing it because of a board mandate. All citizens should be educated so they can be contributing citizens. It's the right thing to do.'"

Here are two additional facts about Polly Heidelberg and Lucille Rosenbaum:

1. Mrs. Heidelberg graced the cover of the New York Times Magazine in the late 1980s.

2. More than 20 years ago the historic Dentzel Carousel House in Meridian was named after Mrs. Lucille Rosenbaum.

In 1987 Congress designated March as National Women's History Month. This year's theme is: "Nevertheless, She Persisted."