Monroe County Troop gets early access to program honoring Martha Matilda Harper

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This morning, Troop 63113 was invited to the Rochester Museum & Science Center for first access to this weekend’s special program about one of Rochester’s greatest advocates for women. Surprisingly, we aren’t talking about Susan B. Anthony.

Martha Matilda Harper embodied what it means to be a G.I.R.L, or Go-Getter, Risk-Taker, Innovator, and Leader. Born in Canada, she was sent at age 7 to be a domestic servant for relatives. After 22 years, she moved to Rochester where she worked as a servant for a minister and a physician, with the latter forever altering the course of her life. Just three years after entering the United States, her empire began to grow.

Through working for the physician and a gift of one of his tonics, she began experimenting with new products that would benefit hair, opposed to those currently on the market she felt were damaging. To sell her own tonic, she used a picture of her floor-length hair to show the true benefit of using her product. One product grew into a salon which eventually blossomed into the first franchise. In fact, the second location she opened after Rochester was in Buffalo.

At its highest, the Harper Method had more than 500 salons and featured clientele like Woodrow Wilson, Jacqueline Kennedy, and even Susan B. Anthony.

Now she’s honored for her contributions to business today and her work as a successful businesswoman and female empowerment advocate in a time when it was most definitely a man’s world.

Locally, Jane R. Pitt has written several books about the life of Martha. On her site, she wondered if Juliette Gordon Low ever visited a Harper Method salon as well as her excitement over her fellow woman’s success. While we don’t know those answers, we can see the impact she has on the current generation.

At the RMSC, Troop 63113 was able to learn more about Martha’s legacy and even read Jane R. Pitt’s works about her. For more coverage, check out the news story here.

In Memory of Congresswoman Louise Slaughter

Today we offer our condolences to the family of Congresswoman Louise Slaughter. We celebrate the work she did for our communities and the paths she cleared for equality.

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Girl Scouts of Western New York Council Members, girls, and CEO Judy Cranston meet with Congresswoman Slaughter in 2017

At Girl Scouts, we talk a lot about being a G.I.R.L., or a go-getter, innovator, risk-taker, and leader. We want all of our girls to grow up knowing how strong and capable they are, and to us Louise Slaughter embodied this idea perfectly.

Her entire life was dedicated to seeing the needs and fighting for the necessary changes. She went after what she wanted and kept finding new ways to change her world. She never stopped leading and pushing for what was right and good, regardless of what anyone said or did against her.

The loss of her sister to pneumonia in childhood led her to obtain degrees in microbiology and public health. Later, her work and marriage brought her to New York where her involvement with community groups took off. Here she joined the League of Women Voters and Scouting in New York, but still saw greater needs. Her fight with the environmental group Perinton Greenlands Association to protect Hart’s Woods brought her into politics.

Slaughter ran her first race in 1971, losing to the incumbent Republican Walter G. A. Muench. She narrowed the margin in 1973, but fell for a second time to Muench. Nevertheless, she persisted, and finally in 1975 was voted to the Monroe County Legislature. She wouldn’t lose another election in her more than 40 years of public service.

From here, she became the regional coordinator in the Rochester area to then New York Secretary of State Mario Cuomo. In 1979, he was elected to lieutenant governor and she remained in her role.

As the 1982 election grew closer, Slaughter was approached by Democratic supporters encouraging her to run for State Assembly. After two successful terms, she made her move into the U.S. House of Representatives, a role she would hold for 30 years.

She became the first democrat elected in her district since 1910, and the first woman to represent Western New York.

Here are just a few highlights from everything Slaughter contributed while in office:

  • $500 million for breast cancer research
  • Mandated language in new legislation guaranteeing that women and minorities would be included in clinical health trials
  • Helped establish Office of Research on Women’s Health in the National Institutes of Health legislation
  • Co-authored the Violence Against Women Act and wrote the legislation to make the Office on Violence Against Women a permanent fixture in the United States Department of Justice
  • Helped create the Women’s Progress Commemorative Committee through her work on the Women’s Progress Commemoration Act
  • Introduced and fought to pass the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, what she believes is her greatest achievement

Slaughter saw the needs of so many, fighting for changes to help women, minorities, soldiers – all of us. Everything she did was in an effort to make the world better for everyone.

In our own Western New York, she worked to secure funding and helped improve our communities.

Because of all of this and more, we are heartbroken to hear this news. She was an amazing woman who supported our girls. She encouraged them to pursue their dreams and raise their voices for what they believe in.

May her legacy of being a go-getter, innovator, risk-taker, and leader carry on through others who see the issues in our world and believe they can make a difference.

Thank you, Louise, for what you did and how you inspired us.