Every year, PTA members at multiple schools create theatrical presentations that take kids back in time in honor of “Women in History Month.” Approximately six volunteers – usually mothers of students – appear in costumes, portraying real life women from American history.
But when a local woman takes the stage at her child’s school to recognize the achievements of a historical female, she may not realize she bears a striking resemblance to the woman she portrays: Like her character, she is taking her place in history (of the school, at least), while also making a notable achievement – capturing the imaginations of hundreds of elementary school students.
Schools in the Sulphur Springs School District all have the opportunity to take part in the program. The local chapter of the American Association of University Women decides the theme and selects the female icons to be portrayed each year, and the rest is up to the individual schools. Each site works on its own to choose presenters, create scripts, and gather costumes and props. Leona Cox Community School will hold the presentations in April this year, while volunteers at Sulphur Springs Community School performed for the kids in March.
“I was honored to be asked to coordinate Women in History because it’s an opportunity to introduce students to historical icons they don’t often get exposure to, if ever,” Randall said. “Women in History is also essential in the realization that success in any field isn’t gender or race biased. It also opens up the realization that there are multiple careers out there and how subjects students are learning in school right now can lead to their chance to enter some of the same fields as any of the icons we portray in Women in History.”
This was Tina Roberts’ second year portraying a woman in history at Sulphur Springs.
“It was just a blast, so I was happy to do it again,” said Roberts, who impersonated the wife of John F. Kennedy last year. “I put on a wig and really had the kids fooled. They really thought it was Jackie Kennedy come to life.”
In addition to the information AAUW provided last year, Roberts added her own research and created a large poster board with a timeline.
“I wanted to emphasize her as a woman, rather than the wife of Kennedy, to point out that she was an editor, and educated, and didn’t just sit on her laurels as a person in a privileged lifestyle,” said Roberts, who pulled off the look with a scarf and sunglasses. “She could’ve come off more as a debutante than a contributing person.”
This year, Roberts’ character was naturalist Joy Adamson, perhaps known best as the author of the book “Born Free.” She and her husband, George Adamson, who was a wildlife warden, lived in Kenya. They took an orphaned lion cub, Elsa, and domesticated her, but eventually realized the animal had to be set free.
“They had to reintroduce her into the wild, which hadn’t been done before,” Roberts said. “They had to teach her to be wild again.”
Joy Adamson spent much of her life serving causes associated with wildlife.
“She became an advocate for animals,” Roberts said. “She wanted to make people understand that they have personalities, they’re not just food and game.”
Roberts dressed in safari pants and set the stage with a stuffed lion and gourd art from her home, plus played the movie’s title song, “Born Free” on her computer. Recently elected recording secretary in PTA, Roberts is the mother of two children at Sulphur Springs – a son in fourth grade and a daughter in sixth grade. She is also the chair of the school’s Founders Day celebration.
“I’m impressed, in this day and age, with so much electronics, so many distractions, and about 60 kids … they were all just staring and asking questions and so engaged,” Roberts said. “It was so unexpected that you’d get that out of kids all day long.”
The volunteers who take a Women in History role year after year rarely have acting experience, just a desire to learn and pass the information onto the kids.
“I’m not an actor by any means and I felt so interested in learning about this woman,” Roberts said. “It was a great way to learn about somebody. Another woman, Rebekah Child, who did Rosalind Franklin – she did such a great job. She had to teach the kids about DNA! It’s fun to see what women come up with, as a mom and presenter.”
Randall is heading up the program at Sulphur Springs, but hasn’t participated as a presenter yet, mostly because of the enthusiasm of women around her.
“We have so many outstanding parent volunteers at Sulphur Springs who immediately come forward to portray an icon the minute roles become announced,” she said.
The other Women in History icons this year were astronaut Peggy Whitson, engineer Ellen Swallow Richards, U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, and NASA research scientist Katherine Johnson.