On Thursday, March 8 the Boston Globe published what they referred to as a “sampler of notable Massachusetts women and events through the centuries” in honor of International Women’s Day. Our very own Dorothy West (1907) was listed among this short list of 21 female champions spanning from 1670 to 2017. That very same day at Five Corners on the Post Office side of the street, about 30 women and men displayed banners, waved vigorously to passers by and responded enthusiastically to car honks as they too saluted women of distinction here on the Vineyard. As I drove by and honked I began to think about all of the special, if not historic, women that have had a significant impact on Martha’s Vineyard and places beyond.

Henrietta Shearer, Lois Mailou Jones, Liz White were all part of the orbit in the Highlands sharing art, theatre, culture and hospitality. When I think of Dorothy West, her cousin, poet and writer Helene Johnson, comes to mind as well as her last editor Jackie Kennedy Onassis.

Prof. Adelaide Cromwell’s writing on Ms. West and her subjects have been critical to sustaining her legacy. Della Brown Hardman succeeded Ms. West in writing this Oak Bluffs column and became an Island humanitarian revered by many. The founders of The Cottagers have unleashed a powerful network of 100 women from across a broad spectrum of professions and careers that provide service to the Island. Vera Shorter and Marie Allen have volunteered in many important and significant organizations with firm leadership. Barbara Houtman and Francine Kelly at the board of selectman and at Featherstone respectively played pioneering roles. Carrie Tankard and Elaine Weintraub, founders of the African American Heritage Trail, have insured that people and places of importance will be visible to all in perpetuity.

We should recognize so many of our Island institutions that have outstanding leadership, and others that fight for social justice and a more democratic society. Thank you Gina DeBettencourt and before her Tricia Bergeron who lead the irreplaceable Portuguese American Club that feeds the hungry and gives refuge to the needy. Irene Helen Pachecos was the amazing bridge between her husband Eddie and her children in preserving the Reliable Supermarket. Just a few paces down from Reliable is Phillip’s Hardware now owned and managed by sisters Susan Phillips and Donna Leon.

The Rev. Cathlin Baker has provided enthusiastic leadership to the First Congregational Church of West Tisbury. Her counterpart at the Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center is Rabbi Caryn Broitman. Her Summer Institute attracts national speakers in July and August. I am also reminded of several brave women from the Island who answered the call for equality in 1964 at the height of the civil rights movement. Virginia Mayhew, Polly Murphy, Peggy Lilienthal, Nancy Whiting and Nancy Smith drove to Williamston, N.C. delivering food and clothing to young people fighting for freedom. While there they were arrested for protesting the segregated Sears store. Finally, I salute our very own Jane Seagrave, publisher of the Gazette who in this age of media criticism stands as a beacon for freedom of the press.

Martha’s Vineyard has a legion of outstanding women who are famous and not so famous who deserve recognition. I have only identified just a few. Today and as often as you can, support and thank those in your sphere of influence.

Paradise on earth is the Vineyard experience. Enjoy it as life is fleeting!

Send Oak Bluffs news to rtaylor@mvgazette.com.