That’s “DDT,” for those of you too young to know.
In Wisconsin in the late 1950s, all the farmers knew then was that the insecticide worked.
After just one spritz of the stuff, the giant horseflies in the barn that made tending the livestock a buzzing torture session, went to wherever it is giant horseflies go when their time here is done.
Same for those whiny mosquitoes that wrecked every backyard barbeque with more dives, swoops and touch-and-go landings than a biplane barnstormer.
Nancy Mead was a young wife and mom in Madison with a love for gardens, greenery and hiking trails.
She and her husband, Howard, made it their career. They bought the rights to an outdoors magazine and published in the basement of their home for decades.
When they and others found out DDT was taking out a lot more than horseflies, mosquitoes and beetles, they got worried. Then they got mad. Right before they got worried again. So they started organizing. Nancy Mead hit lots of meetings and did lots of lobbying.
When she and the others were done, DDT on their patch of the planet was, too.
Her honor, their daughter
“Yeah, my mom helped ban DDT,” her daughter, Jenny Selin, said.
“How about that?”
Selin, a current Morgantown City councilor, has also served as mayor here in recent years.
Like her mom, she is also partial to gardens, greenery and hiking trails. Community causes, too.
Nancy Mead was able to pursue social justice, her daughter said, because she was allowed to use her voice at the polls.
The Women’s Suffrage Movement, now 100 years old, made that possible.
“It’s amazing that it’s just been 100 years,” Selin said.
“That took a lot of work, and a lot of marching,” she said.
“I can’t imagine not being allowed to vote. That’s a fundamental right.”
Not every female in Selin’s family tree grew in a self-actualized bloom.
Many of them were accomplished. They earned engineering degrees and graduated law school.
Sometimes, though, the firms just weren’t interested.
Or, if they were, the routinely less-accomplished male colleagues came in at salaries that were way better — just because.
“So, you appreciate 100 years, and you celebrate 100 years, and you keep pushing,” said their descendant, the elected official.
‘Women’s work’ …seriously?
Nancy Walker has a highly technical job in the medical profession — and she also does a lot of work for the local citizenry on her own time.
Walker has held seats on various boards and committees and has chaired the annual outreach campaign for the United Way of Monongalia and Preston Counties.
These days, she’s readying to mark her 25th year on the Monongalia County Board of Education, where she serves as president, helping the district tiptoe across the human petri dish that is COVID-19.
That’s an aspect of 21st century life she could do without, she said ruefully, but other than that, she’s happy to be a product of her time.
“I feel pretty blessed, actually,” she said. “I feel blessed to be living in a time where you aren’t defined by your gender.”
So, how would she have reacted, if say, she had been alive during the years of 1916 to 1920, when a movement became a law of the land?
She laughed before answering.
“Are you kiddin’? I would have been right out there, marching with them.”
Shouldering every bit of it
Election day is like Christmas and her birthday, mashed into one giant, conglomerate of joy for Charlene Marshall.
And woe to the friend or relative who doesn’t participate in the process.
“Yes, sir, they get an earful from me if they don’t vote,” she said, with a smile in her voice. “A lot of people worked hard to give you that privilege.”
Marshall, who has served in the House of Delegates, knows a lot about both. Before she became a state lawmaker, she was a local one. A pioneering one, in fact.
She was, and remains, the first and only Black female mayor in Morgantown history, and never stopped marveling at that, especially since she grew up in a “Whites Only-Coloreds Only World.”
Women — of color, or otherwise, she said — endured generations of simply watching the world through a gauze-wrap of chauvinism.
Know your role and know your place.
That was the order, filtered both through Jim Crow and the patriarchy.
“I still get excited for Election Day,” she said.
“Just as excited as when I held office.”
During her time as mayor, she was often fortified by a mental image of her standing tall, looking out over Morgantown.
It wasn’t ego.
In fact, she was pretty humble about the whole thing.
“Because I was standing on the shoulders of giants,” she said. “All the women who came before me. All the women who marched. That’s history, and you honor your history by voting and doing the right thing.”