Women’s History Month: Fascinating women in Fulton’s past

By Ashley M. Casey

Those looking to celebrate Women’s History Month need look no further than our own backyard.

With the help of Sue Lane from the Friends of History, The Valley News has uncovered some fascinating ladies who have called Fulton home.

 

Edna Skinner

Best known as Kay Addison on the classic TV show “Mister Ed,” actress Edna Skinner was born in Washington, D.C., May 23, 1921. Her family moved to Fulton, where her father Eugene was the president of Sealright Co.

As a child, Edna suffered from chronic asthma and was not expected to live to adulthood. Her health bounced back under the care of a Lake Placid doctor, and she went on to study acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City.

Edna starred as as Ado Annie in the original Broadway production “Oklahoma!” and signed a contract with MGM in 1946.

She also helped sell more than $5 million worth of war bonds to help fund the United States military in World War II.

In 1964, Edna retired from acting and became a world-renowned expert on fly fishing. She wrote more than 280 articles on the subject.

According to variety.com, Skinner “was employed by two fishing equipment manufacturers, for whom she and her companion of more than 40 years, photographer Jean Fish, traveled more than 485,000 miles on fishing trips and to various sports shows.”

Edna Skinner died of heart failure on Aug. 8, 2003, in North Bend, Ore.

 

Betty Ford

Before she became First Lady, Betty Bloomer married William Warren in 1942. The couple moved to Fulton, where William worked for Sealright as a salesman.

The Warrens lived at 409 E. Broadway for nearly a year. Their Fulton neighbors remembered them as “an attractive couple, fun-loving, and an asset to the community,” according to a 1976 newspaper clipping from the Friends of History.

Betty worked on a production line at Birdseye during her time in Fulton.

After five years of marriage, Betty and William divorced. In 1948, Betty married Gerald R. Ford, who became President of the United States upon the resignation of Richard Nixon in 1974.

Betty famously struggled with addiction to alcohol and painkillers, which led her to found the Betty Ford Center to treat recovering addicts.

She died at age 93 of natural causes July 8, 2011, in Rancho Mirage, Calif.

 

Marion Dickerman and Nancy Cook

Fellow Syracuse University graduates and early 20th-century feminists Marion Dickerman and Nancy Cook rekindled their college friendship when they both taught at Fulton High School in the early 1900s.

The two women lived together for most of their adult lives and championed women’s causes, including the right to vote and fair labor legislation. They volunteered overseas during World War I, tending to wounded soldiers.

According to the March 24, 1919, edition of The Fulton Patriot, Dickerman spoke in front of the New York State League of Women Voters at a conference in Syracuse.

She was later chosen by the Democratic Party as the first female candidate for the New York State Legislature. She lost to Thaddeus Sweet of Phoenix, N.Y.

Cook was Dickerman’s campaign manager and served as executive secretary of the Women’s Division of the State Democratic Committee for 19 years.

Cook and Dickerman befriended Eleanor Roosevelt through their political activities and helped build the Stone Cottage at Val-Kill, which was part of Roosevelt’s Hyde Park, N.Y., estate.

The three women had a falling out in the late 1930s, but Dickerman and Cook continued to live at Val-Kill until the 1945 death of Eleanor’s husband, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Cook and Dickerman moved to New Canaan, Conn., where Dickerman was the educational programming director for the Marine Museum.

Cook passed away Aug. 16, 1962, and Dickerman died in Kennett Square, Pa., on May 16, 1983.

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