From the Archives: ‘Celebrating GCC Women in History’

Grove City College Archives marks Women’s History Month with a video highlighting some exceptional Grover women and their stories.

“There are so many amazing women throughout Grove City College history,” Archivist Hilary (Lewis ’09) Walczak said. 

Harriet Libby Dickson

The contributions of accomplished women go back to the earliest days of the College in the 19th century. Harriet Libby Dickson was a pastor’s wife who operated the prep school that later became Grove City College. She worked with College founder Isaac Ketler to build up the school and was listed as its first teacher in her 1906 obituary. She was awarded an honorary degree in 1885. 

Isabelle Blyholder, class of 1919, was the first female editor in chief of The Collegian, the college’s newspaper. Walczak said she took on the job at a critical moment and pushed boundaries in era when women couldn’t wear pants, had to be chaperoned and in by dark.

“Isabelle took the lead with World War One still going on. Women across the country are fighting for the right to vote. The Flu of 1918 was killing people around the world. This was when Isabelle wrote some provocative editorials that for the time were probably rather scandalous,” Walczak said.

Blyholder dinged the College’s men for ignoring the work women did while they were off at war and called out the College for having draconian rules for women and few for men, Walczak said. She paved the way for other women at the newspaper. The yearbook describes her as having the honor of being “the first girl to act as editor in chief … and she filled the position with marked success.”

In that same era, Grace McCune, class of 1920, became the first woman to serve as the first Editor in Chief of the Ouija, the College’s yearbook. 

​Ruth Bogert Wible

Ruth Bogert Wible, class of 1963, was the first woman to letter in a varsity sport at Grove City College. At the time, many collegiate sports were closed to women, but Wible grew up shooting with her dad and had competed all through high school.  When she got to Grove City College she didn’t think twice about signing up for the rifle team. Her marks-womanship helped the team capture the 1960 Western Pennsylvania Collegiate Rifle League title. She later led a women’s rifle team at Penn State University. 

Col. Suellyn Wright Novak, class of 1973, was one of only two women to join the Air Force ROTC program in 1971, when it was opened to women. She graduated as the first female officer from the program and enjoyed a 30-year career in the Air Force. She was stationed in Turkey during the height of the Cold War and served as chief of the service’s Blood Program during the Gulf War. She retired in 2003 to serve as executive director and president of the Alaska Veteran Museum. Her ROTC uniform is part of the College’s Archive.

Johanna Christina Poehlmann was a German opera singer who in 1893 came to Grove City College to teach with her husband, Hermann Poehlmann, who composed the school’s alma mater. Johanna taught voice, but when the chance to sing for the Metropolitan Opera she took it. While practicing in the Palace Hotel in San Francisco she was struck by a piano during the Great earthquake of 1906. She died of cancer in 1909 at 30.

The video, “Celebrating GCC Women in History,” is available on YouTube. It is part of the Archives’ ongoing “Histories & Tradition Series.”

For more, visit College Archives at alumni.gcc.edu.

From the Archives: ‘Celebrating GCC Women in History’

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