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Library Honors Edith Nourse Rogers during "Women Veterans' Week" November 1-7.

Edith Nourse Rogers Proclamation

Women Veterans Week Display – On the Landing in the Grand Staircase

Today begins Women Veterans’ Week (November 1-7th). In honor of this week we have put up a display in the landing of the Grand Staircase which includes our recently received Governor’s Proclamation marking June 30th as Edith Nourse Rogers Day in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

This proclamation made a trip to Randolph for a tribute to WWII women veterans. The following is an article written about the event by Domina Maria St. Catherine De Grace Sharpe, President of the Congresswoman Edith Nourse Rogers Initiative for Veterans & Women Veterans: (Program Management & Professional Leadership Excellence in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts) in collaboration with Victoria Woodley, Director, The Pollard Memorial Library in Lowell.

Randolph, Massachusetts – October 20, 2012.  Thanks to the gracious effort of Victoria Woodley, Director of the Pollard Memorial Library in Lowell, the Congresswoman Edith Nourse Rogers Proclamation – signed by Governor Patrick earlier this year then entrusted to the Lowell Library Board of Trustees by Lowell Mayor Patrick Murphy on September 10th – was present at the October 13th tribute to WWII women veterans recently hosted by the Governor’s Advisory Committee on Women Veterans (GACWV). The tribute, held at Lombardo’s in Randolph, Massachusetts, was themed, “25th Annual Luncheon Tribute to the Greatest Generation: The Women Veterans of WWII.” Commonwealth Secretary of Veterans’ Services Coleman Nee gave a brief address, presented a special commemorative coin to each WWII woman veteran in attendance, made a point to chat individually with each, and thanked all for their military service. Ms. Woodley’s is currently working with framing professionals who are framing the Proclamation so that it may go on permanent exhibition at the Pollard Memorial Library in Lowell.

Mrs. Margaret Klessens, pictured above with Secretary Nee and with the Rogers Proclamation, is a Somerville resident and former Women’s Army Corps (WAC) veteran who attended the event. Klessens was one of more than a dozen WWII women veterans honored. Events included a salute to the colors, remarks by Commander Anita M. Reed (USAF veteran and current State Commander of the Disabled American Veterans Association), a formal luncheon, and a post-luncheon gift raffle.

Mrs. Klessens (nee Tiernan), formerly of Charlestown, Massachusetts, enlisted in the WAC and was honorably discharged after active duty military service in WWII. A regular participant in the Chelsea Soldier’s Home Veterans Day Club, Klessens has attended the annual GACWV luncheon for many years. She was joined by her daughter, Somerville resident Sally Klessens (a former Miss Somerville and President of the Old Charlestown Schoolgirls’ Association), her son Bill Klessens (a State Delegate of New Hampshire), and her sister Annie Tiernan of Charlestown. Currently of Somerville, Mrs. Klessens was born and raised in Charlestown, and is an alumna of St. Mary’s Grammar School in Charlestown and a graduate of Charlestown High.

The GACWV, currently consisting of eight MA women veterans appointed by the Governor, was established in 1984 under Governor Michael Dukakis. Under Chapter 115 of Massachusetts General Law, the Committee is tasked to “investigate, foster and promote the interests of women veterans.” The GACWV tribute this year to WWII women veterans was timely because it coincides with the May 1942 Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) legislation drafted and sponsored by MA Congresswoman Edith Nourse Rogers (R-Lowell). That groundbreaking legislation marks its 70th anniversary this year; it is significant because it allowed American women to serve in the US Army during WWII, albeit without official status and benefits. Later during the war, in July of 1943, at the request of the Department of the Army, Congress approved the WAAC to officially become the WAC. The creation of the WAC ensured American women serving in the US Army received official military status and benefits equal to those of their male US Army counterparts.

Edith Nourse Rogers was a dynamic daughter of Lowell dedicated to veterans affairs. The Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial VA Hospital in Bedford was named in her honor. Earlier this year MA Governor Deval Patrick signed the proclamation honoring her life and legacy as a Republican congresswoman. Her personal and official papers are archived at the Radcliffe Institute’s Schlesinger Library at Harvard University. Both institutions have received copies of the Rogers Proclamation.

Exhibition of the Rogers Proclamation from the Pollard Memorial Library at the GACWV tribute allowed the attending WWII WAC women veterans an opportunity to stand side-by-side with their late Commonwealth sister from Lowell who drafted and sponsored the legislation of which they were the direct beneficiaries. The Commonwealth and the nation owe a debt of gratitude to both Rogers and to the military women veterans of the Commonwealth for their service to the nation. This debt is poignantly reflected in Governor Patrick’s signing of a Proclamation declaring November 1-7, 2012 a “Women Veterans’ Week.” The Pollard Memorial Library in Lowell will be displaying books and other resources on women veterans in order to promote civic pride and education on the contribution of women, including Lowell’s own daughters, to American military and veterans’ history.