In honor of Women’s History Month, here are a few of the women that influenced Gilman. See part 1 of Women who Shaped Gilman here.
Frances Woolaver Brown
From 1911 to 1922, Ms. Frances Woolaver ran Gilman’s experimental Lower School. Called the Open Air School, the school consisted of wooden sheds with frameless windows perched
on posts, no heat and no plumbing. In charge of the school was Ms. Frances Woolaver. Woolaver was originally from Nova Scotia, where she taught for two years before entering the Framingham Normal School in Massachusetts. After several years of teaching, she accepted a position at the Roland Park Country School, where she spent one year before coming to Gilman to lead the Open Air School. From nine students in 1912 to more than a hundred in 1922, Woolaver helped lay the foundation of Gilman’s early education. In the spring of 1922, Woolaver married and resigned in June. Her leave from Gilman coincided with the opening of a more traditional Lower School and the subsequent end of the Open Air School.
Ethel E. Demuth
Photo: 1945 Upper School Faculty
Although women had been teachers in the Lower School, prior to World War II no woman had yet to serve as a member of the Upper School faculty. With many faculty members serving in the War, in fall 1944 Gilman employed its first full-time female teacher in the Upper School. Ms.Ethel E. Demuth had been Head of the History Department at the Spencer School in New York City and had returned to Baltimore to live. At Gilman, Demuth taught history from 1944-1946 and helped coach the Public Speaking Society. According to former Gilman staff member May Holmes, “She resigned when the War was over saying she had come just for the duration, and although we tried to persuade her to stay, she refused (as she put it) to take some man's job. A year later she returned to become our first full-time librarian, and in both instances, she did an outstanding job.
Jo Ann Davison
Jo Ann Davison was the Gilman Librarian from 1961 to 1967 and 1969 to 2002. Under her leadership, Gilman’s libraries modernized and prepared to enter the 21st century. She carefully shepherded each division library (Lower, Middle, and Upper School) as they moved and expanded into their new spaces. Davison made sure that the three Gilman libraries always had the most up-to-date technology. In his remarks on Davison’s retirement, former headmaster John Schmick remarked that “Jo Ann remained on the cutting edge of this [technology] revolution, making certain that the libraries in all three divisions were equipped and ready to meet the challenges of the Information Age. In fact, because of Jo Ann’s foresight, the wiring that would ultimately serve as the infrastructure for Gilman’s entire computer network was put in place. In a sense, Jo Ann brought multimedia technology to the entire school.” Davison was always willing to help any student or faculty member find any resource they needed. She also created and organized a Faculty Book Club.
Betsey Spragins, the mother of four Gilman boys (’68, ’71, ’73, ’76), served on the Board of Trustees from 1970 to 1984 and was a founder of the Parents Association. In a 1991 oral history interview, Spragins explains that after Chairman of the Board Owen Daly approached her about joining the Board as the first woman, she “was very shocked.” She let Mr. Daly know that “I did not just want to go on the Board and be a figurehead. We discussed that a bit and then I agreed to do it….I had certain feelings about the School and wanted some ideas carried out, and that's where the Parents Association came from… I knew the PTA as a very valuable resource that not only gives parents the opportunity to know the school and the teachers but become a part of it. It also builds up the cooperation and interest in the school by involving people.”
Louise Simms, the mother of two Gilman boys (’68, ’85), was a founding member of the Parents Association and the school's first female African-American Trustee, serving from 1973 to 1981. A native of Baltimore, Simms worked as an educator in the Baltimore City School Public Schools system for more than 25 years. In 1965, Mr. Clarence Simms and Mrs. Simms enrolled their elder son Stuart and served as active parents on the Gilman campus. Simms served as informal advisors to Headmasters Baldwin and Finney as well as several members of the Gilman administration and faculty. Today, the Simms still actively continue to support and contribute to the Gilman community.
Before moving across the street to Gilman, Ivana Turner taught English and served as the College Counselor at The Bryn Mawr School. From 1995 to 2002, Turner led the Office of College Counseling. In 2002, Turner became the first female Head of the Upper School. After 41 years of working in education, Turner retired as Upper School Head in 2014. As Basil Apostolo ’16 stated in the Gilman News, “Whether as an advocate for students, faculty, or new ideas, Ms. Turner has left an indelible mark on the Upper School.”
Listen here to clips from Iva Turner’s 2014 oral history.