1981 Women's World celebrated retired schoolteachers, city's first councilwoman


Women's lib was the movement of the moment when the Daily Mountain Eagle published its annual Women's World special edition on Oct. 30, 1981.

The theme was "A Woman's Touch," and Family Living Editor Virginia Gilbert was quick to point out in her introductory column that "A woman's touch is more than needlepoint pillows, lace doilies and the aroma of homebaked goodies."

She continued, "In this day of liberated ladies, women have moved from the kitchen to the courtroom, from the laundry to the laboratory, from the sink to the Supreme Court."

The first local woman featured was Norma Ribling, who became Cordova's first elected councilwoman in October 1980.

Ribling, director of Cordova Freewill Baptist's preschool and kindergarten program, qualified minutes before the deadline; she had postponed the decision because she was afraid she wouldn't have anyone to watch the children while she campaigned.

Ribling was married to an Air Force veteran. After living all over the world for 22 years, they retired to Cordova, where she worked in a hardware business in downtown Cordova for 18 years.  

Ribling, a Fayette native, said she had experienced no prejudice since taking her seat on the council.

"Even though some people kidded me during the campaign about women's lib coming to Cordova, I've been treated just as a person," she said.

Retired schoolteachers and sisters Bernice and Anna Mae Reeves were also profiled.

Bernice Reeves taught English literature and French and started the first Spanish classes at Walker County High School.

She insisted that she never would have lasted 43 years in the classroom if she had only taught from a textbook.

"I taught English literature for a long time, and I wanted my students to know that history does repeat itself — there's no getting around it. Our best efforts can only come when we thoroughly understand the situation in back of us," she said. "We'd talk about other things in class, and sometimes they'd deliberately try to get me off the subject. I knew this, so we'd go ahead and talk about things and then get back to work."

Anna Mae Reeves recalled how her sister used to host a Spanish banquet for students at her house every year. She would prepare the entire meal and share the recipes with them.

Bernice Reeves made an impression on her students that lasted well into adulthood.

"A former student of Bernice's who has since moved away came back not long ago. He said that through the years there had been a lot of iffy things that came up, and that some of them were very tempting, but when it came down to it, he'd think, 'Miss Reeves wouldn't like that,'" Anna Mae Reeves said.

Anna Mae Reeves taught biology, English literature, drama and glee club.

"When you teach, you don't always know what you've taught, and sometimes you are most effective when you think you're not," she said. "I learned this years later when someone would come back to me or a student would go off during the war and write. Sometimes a student would remind me of something I'd done for him or something I'd taught him that I didn't even know about. Sometimes they remembered the subject matter from class, but perhaps I had the best opportunity to do this through the plays and music."

In addition to the articles, dozens of photos of local service organizations also appeared in the 1981 Women's World. Some of them are familiar to me because we continue to publish their club news items on a regular basis, but most now seem to be defunct.

The clubs were Alpha Delta Kappa; American Association of University Women, American Legion Auxiliary, American Mothers Association, Beta Sigma Phi, Boldo Homemakers Club, BPW Club, Crescent Study Club, Crescent Junior Study Club, Culture Club, Delta Kappa Gamma, Dogwood Garden Club, Entre Nous Club, FOP Auxiliary, Jasper Literary Club, Lions Club Auxiliary, Nearly New Foundation, Needlecrafters Club, Newcomers Club, PSI, Progressive Study Club, Pumpkin Center Homemakers Club, Saragossa Homemakers Club, Townley Homemakers Club, Twentieth Century Club, Walker County Cowbelles, WCMC Auxiliary, Westside Homemakers Club and Worthwhile Study Club.

In case you missed it, our most recent Women's World came out on Wednesday. It includes stories on Lucille Wise, who has been part of a lot of history in her 91 years; Brandy Feltman, a local attorney; Lisa Myers, special events coordinator for Jasper; Kathy Cooner, a broker at RealtySouth; and Pam Fikes, Walker County's "pop-up piper." 

Jennifer Cohron is the Daily Mountain Eagle's features editor.