October 24, 2014

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Historical society salutes famous ladies of Lorain

LORAIN — From pistol-toting cops to Nobel Prize-winning authors, Lorain has produced some truly remarkable women throughout its history

Just ask Carmelene Januzzi, a trustee of the Black River Historical Society and keynote speaker at the society’s meeting Monday. For her program, “Notable Women of Lorain,” Januzzi presented a DVD she edited and narrated about women who have left an indelible mark on the lakeside community.

Januzzi, an energetic figure herself, let her work stand largely on its own.

“Don’t ask me any questions afterward,” she said, joking. “Everything I know is already on the tape.”

The presentation included a remarkable cast of characters who, despite living at a time when a woman’s role in society was restricted, still became leaders in their communities and businesses.

Take Wilhomena Koppenhafer, for instance, a member of the Lorain police force during the 1920s who received police training, including handling a pistol, but was assigned mostly to crowd control by male officers unwilling to allow her more duties.

An equally strong personality, Alice Weston, was a big name in local broadcasting from the 1960s to the 1980s. A talk show host for local television station WUAB for what was then Channel 43, Weston also was known for her community activism. She was a powerful advocate for the preservation of the historic Palace Theater in Lorain and helped save it from demolition.

Any compilation of famous women from Lorain must inevitably mention Toni Morrison, and Januzzi did not disappoint.

Morrison, born and raised in Lorain, was the first black woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature (1993). With her novels, “The Bluest Eye,” “Song of Solomon” and “Beloved” among others, Morrison has risen to international fame and is one of the most respected American authors living today.

At the end of the presentation, fellow historical society members loudly applauded Januzzi and praised her work.

“I thought it was very good,” said David Rosso, a volunteer at the society’s museum.

Januzzi said she was inspired to make the piece from her work at the Lakeland Women’s Club. She conducted the majority of her research at the historical society’s museum, pouring through files and photos in what she described as a time-consuming but important process. 

“The people who come to these meetings are interested in the history of Lorain,” said Januzzi, explaining that she was glad to perform a service that held meaning for others. “It’s a lot of work. I’m not a professional, I’m just a person.”

Contact Kaitlin Bushinski at 329-7155 or ctnews@chroniclet.com.