Anna Dill Gamble: A model for generations of York County women
She led York County from her home with the garden wall
58 Cottage Place, York
Anna Dill Gamble is on a short list – perhaps atop the list – of most influential women leaders in York County history.
This year, most stories about the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in York County have included Gamble’s efforts. But countywide leadership of the suffrage movement – in the face of strong opposition – was only one picture in her album of accomplishments.
Let’s briefly explore three more, as found in historian June Burk Lloyd’s research.
In World War I, right in the middle of the suffrage campaign, she led the Liberty Garden movement in the county. The idea, also popular in World War II, was for gardens to supply home needs, so that larger vegetable plots could be gardened for troops overseas.
Later, Gamble became an advocate for world peace. She was widely published on the topic and attended the 1932 Geneva Disarmament Conference for the National Council on Catholic Women.
Indeed, Gamble was a versatile writer, a third area of accomplishment. She was raised Protestant but became a Roman Catholic in 1917, a brave move in itself that showed her resolve to follow her conscience. She wrote about issues dear to Catholics, such as opposition to contraception. She also wrote about her spiritual journey, regional history and op-ed pieces on issues in local media.
There might appear to be a point of tension between support of the military with Victory Gardens and her international quest for world peace.
Lloyd said someone would need to sift through Gamble’s correspondence at the York County History Center for clues to be certain, but she did not immediately see a conflict.
“During WWI she was supporting the troops and her country with the Liberty Gardens,” Lloyd said. “Like so many patriotic people, she didn’t want to see more than one Great War. Her peace work was also connected to her Catholicism, so religion probably colored her views, too.”
Here are some quotes from June Burke Lloyd’s extensive research into Gamble’s life (1877-1956) and times:
- “She was truly a woman ahead of her time. Gamble used her time, money and skills to further causes in which she believed. Her missions included Catholicism, women’s suffrage and world peace.” –“York advocate for world peace.”
- “Anna Dill Gamble was undoubtedly one of the most organized and capable leaders to ever grace York County.” – “York County suffragists led strong organized campaign to gain vote.”
- “Gamble was passionately interested in local history and also involved at the Historical Society of York County, predecessor of the York County History Center. That led to the happy result of her hundreds of pages of correspondence, newspaper clippings and other material on the local suffrage movement now being available for research in the YCHC Library and Archives.” – “Want to know more about York County suffragists?”
Gamble willed her family’s longtime home at 58 Cottage Place in York for the use of aged and infirmed priests, and the Dempwolf-designed house also was put to use as a convent.
Many years later, Voni B. and Lorrayne Grimes operated a personal care home in the Gamble place, also called, because of its distinctive brick fence, the home with the garden wall.
That’s about right. A home of this woman with such passionate concern for others would go for the care of the elderly.
And this residence of a Victory Garden organizer would be remembered for its garden wall.
It’s right and proper to recognize the efforts by accomplished 21st-century women who are building on the civic work of Gamble and countless other persevering women leaders from the past.
First, here’s a sample from 2020 featuring women who model Gamble as writers, who often research, write or create art about women, among other topics:
-Central York senior Anna Lumsargis’ Girl Scout Gold Award project focuses on development of a digital site, with video, about notable county women from the 1700s to today. Similarly, in 2019, York County School of Technology teacher Kelsey Wisman developed an app as part of a master’s project about York city sites linked to the York race riots of 1968-69.
– Samantha Dorm, Tina Charles, Lisa Nelson and Jenny De Jesus Marshall of the Friends of Lebanon Cemetery are continuing restoration work on the historically Black North York cemetery. They then research and write about those buried there, including stories about scores of accomplished women.
– The York County History Center’s Year of the Woman featured staff-produced events, digital stories and in-person exhibits related to the suffrage movement and the many ways county women have worked to improve the community.
A highlight of this observance was the center’s production of a virtual exhibit, “Trailblazers,” that followed four county women on a cross-country journey in 1938.
– Jane Sutton, retired professor at Penn State York, wrote a story about a pioneering women’s rights activist, Frances Wright, in the first Journal of York County Heritage in 2010. She bookended that effort in the Journal in 2020 when she wrote a piece about opposition to the suffrage movement in 1915.
– Retired Lt. Col. Sandra L. Kearse-Stockton released her memoir, “480 Codorus Street,” this fall. Her work tells the story of her girlhood home in York’s Codorus Street neighborhood and then on to her career as a military nurse and officer.
– Rebecca Anstine, a respected community resource in genealogy, spreads her family history knowledge in her writing and presentations. She has written a Journal of York County Heritage article on Green Circle founder Gladys Rawlins and several other journal articles about Black cemeteries and Civil War veterans.
– Myra “Neicy” DeShields-Moulton is a popular speaker on African American family history topics in York County and beyond. She has been tracing her multicultural ancestors for more than 20 years and speaks about the genealogical tools she uses in her work.
– Lloyd, Joan Concilio and Jamie Kinsley write about all aspects of county history. Their collective work in searchable form counts in the thousands of posts on yorkblog.com. Lloyd, for example, has written extensively about Gamble and other suffragists. Kinsley is my partner in a new digital site, witnessingyork.com, whose topics include issues facing county women in history.
– Ophelia Chambliss unveiled an exhibit “Hidden Figures” in 2018, and most of those art pieces are on display at York College’s Center for Community Engagement. That exhibit and other pieces in her expansive portfolio explore women in history and the present.
– This year, Shelby Wormley, with colleague Richard Craighead, exhibited their powerful photo story “Assemblage: A Photographic Representation of Black Togetherness” at the Center for Community Engagement. A representation of “Assemblage” was displayed at Penn Park, and artwork from the representation became part of a State Museum of Pennsylvania’s “Art of the State” exhibit.
– Two veteran York Daily Record/Sunday News reporters, Kim Strong and Jasmine Vaughn-Hall, among other YDR staffers, regularly write about women. Strong’s 2002 piece about Lillie Belle Allen, slain in the 1969 race riots, is the most authoritative work on Allen’s death. (She wrote a companion piece on police Officer Henry C. Schaad’s death in the riots.)
Vaughn-Hall’s work in 2020 has included perspectives on being part of a family of law enforcement officers and rethinking as a Black woman the prospect of becoming a parent in an era of systemic racism.
Several York County women gained regional and national recognition in 2020 for their community involvement.
-Logos Academy teens Arlette Morales and Tzipporah Goins organized a peaceful protest in the aftermath of the George Floyd killing. Morales was recognized by the USA Today Network as one of 12 activists nationally who are seeding change in their communities. Vaughn-Hall wrote the story about Morales distributed on the national USA Today network.
-Two women with county ties received honors as among 10 Women of the Century in their respective states by the USA Today Network. Special Olympian Loretta Claiborne of York was recognized in Pennsylvania for her advocacy for people with disabilities. Dr. Leslie Erin Strausbaugh Strickler, a forensic pediatrician, received similar honors for her work in child abuse in New Mexico.
-A woman headed the Give Local York fundraising initiative in 2020 that far outpaced the previous year in community giving. In a time of great concern because of the pandemic, the Meagan Hess Given-led campaign raised $3.5 million for 305 county nonprofits.
– Keystones Oral Histories will induct military hall of fame honorees with York County ties later this month: Sandra Stockton, United States Air Force and Army; Kim Bracey, U.S. Air Force; Carman Bryant, U.S. Army; Minnie Green, U.S. Army and Army Reserves; the Rev. Norma Barber-Kenley, U.S. Army (posthumous); Bertha Ellen Lively Jenkins Garnett, Gold Star Mother (posthumous). Two women – Joan Mummert and Samantha Dorm – will be honored with the military inductees at 7 p.m., Dec. 17, for their support for Keystones and other organizations in the community. (Two men, Randy Flaum and Dominic DelliCarpini, also will be honored).
One of the reasons why Gamble influenced so many was due to her impressive writing and speaking. She crafted the skill of the pen, communicating her ideas to others in a way that affected change. In the twenty-first century, there are other platforms for communication such as social media and YouTube. How can women today use other mediums to communicate ideas surrounding peace, equality, and patriotism?
Historically, women have not had as much access to career opportunities as men. However, the women listed above broke through those barriers to lead their communities. What barriers are still in place for women in leadership positions?
Related links and sources: June Burke Lloyd’s Universal York blog; James McClure’s YDR story “A look at accomplished 21st-century women in York County”; The garden wall observation came courtesy of Gordon Freireich. YDR files. Top photo, YDR file; Gamble photo, York County History Center; Stockton photo, YDR file.
— By JAMIE KINSLEY and JIM McCLURE