Marjorie Raines

Women of Achievement
1995

STEADFASTNESS
for a woman with a lifetime of achievement:

Marjorie Raines

Marjorie Griffin Raines is a woman with a lifetime of achievement. She has spent more than 40 years actively advocating environmental justice, formally and informally educating people of all ages, and working within the political system to achieve positive changes for people and the Earth.

Marjorie Raines was born and raised in Gates, a small West Tennessee town. Her home was surrounded by woods, rivers and creeks, and her childhood play in this setting created a love of nature that was to be the inspiration for her life’s work.

With a degree from Memphis State College, she taught for 10 years in East and West Tennessee. In 1949, she left public school teaching and with her late husband, Hunter, moved to Memphis where they raised two sons. Marjorie continued to research the geology of the Mid-South and the Memphis water system. What she learned moved her to activism and in 1970, she joined the League of Women Voters.

As a League member she fought for the passage of a Bottle Bill, advocated recycling long before it became popular and led tours to study waste treatment centers, water pumping stations and the Allen Steam Plant. She spoke to groups across the city about the geology of the Delta and the need to protect air, water and park land.

In 1972, Marjorie worked with the League of Women Voters and other environmental groups to sue TVA for violation of the Clean Air Act. The TVA settled the suit by correcting the problems. Later Marjorie was the principal author of a citizen’s handbook designed to explain TVA’s often-complicated bureaucracy.

Marjorie participated in the long battle to save Overton Park and its old forest. When the dangers of the Hollywood Dump became known, Marjorie participated in hearings to study options for correcting the superfund site. She helped organize a workshop to help area residents understand the issues. As president of the local Sierra Club, Marjorie testified before the U.S. House of Representatives in support of the Conservation Reserve Act.

As a member of the Wolf River Conservancy, she labors for protection of the river as a natural resource and a recreation area. An ardent member of the Chickasaw Bluff Council, Marjorie works actively to create a river walk through downtown.

Marjorie Raines is a pioneer in women’s involvement in environmental issues and is regarded as an expert on local environmental questions. She has steadfastly worked to protect our environment so that future generations may experience the joys of the natural world so important to her in her childhood and throughout her life.

Marjorie Raines died in December 2001.

Mary Robinson

Women of Achievement
1988

STEADFASTNESS
for a woman with a lifetime of achievement:

Mary Robinson

When she was 16 Mary Wright Sullivan Robinson graduated as Valedictorian from her high school. She was awarded an academic scholarship to college but World War II and family considerations prevented her from attending. After years of work in a male-dominated field, she was one of the first three women to become a registered stockbroker in the State of Tennessee. She retired in 1987 after 20 years as a pioneer in that profession.

Mary was in the forefront of women’s progress through her efforts for job banks, WAGES, the Chamber of Commerce, the YWCDA, the Girls Club, NOW, the Black White Social Group, and Republican Career Women. She was a founder and first president of the Women’s Resources Center, which in turn gave birth to two pivotal groups for Memphis women — the Spouse Abuse Center and the Rape Crisis Center. She also is a founding member of Network. In 1975 she received the National Conference of Christian and Jews first Women’s Rights Award.

Known as the “founding mother of women’s liberation in Memphis,” she has worked on behalf of the personal and professional advancement of women for so long that many are unaware that she paved the way to our acceptance. She has also been active in environmental issues and in the Civil Rights movement. Equally important as her public endeavors are her private ones. Countless women point to Mary as their role model, mentor, advisor, counselor, motivator, door opener and friend. She has shown others that they are special and capable of great accomplishment. Her example of commitment, hard work, generosity and courage inspired women to lives of public leadership and private independence and security.

From Mary Robinson’s steadfast example many have learned that respect and tolerance for all people, and the determination and courage to act on one’s beliefs, can enable us each to become a “woman of achievement.”

Susie Bryant

Women of Achievement
1987

STEADFASTNESS
for a woman with a lifetime of achievement:

Susie Bryant

When Susie Bryant was a young girl in Greenwood, Mississippi she accompanied her mother on expeditions to bring soup and comfort to the sick.

She was raised in a home in which education was seen as essential and both parents worked to ensure that children knew their lessons before arriving at school each day. Susie left Mississippi and arrived in Orange Mound on January 12, 1936, with one child of her own, two of her sister’s and a trunk of her belongings. She immediately began what was to be a lifetime of community involvement.

In her early days she felt a special commitment to young children. She was director of her church’s youth department, organized the Dunbar Elementary PTA and later kept the children of working mothers in her home. She organized voting sites in precincts all over the city, and has directed “schools” to teach new voters how to go through the voting process.

While her activities have taken her all over the city, she is especially noted as an advocate for the citizens of Orange Mound. She was vital in the establishment of the Orange Mound Settlement House and has served a long term as president. People in the community know to come to Susie for help in meeting their needs.

Whether those needs have been for food, shelter, clothing or love, Susie has found a source. As she herself grew older, she became aware of the treatment (or mistreatment) of older persons in our society and added senior citizens to her list of those to help. Her organizing skills are immense; she has managed to help many individuals by recruiting others to join her efforts.

Susie Bryant believes that God will bless you for what you do for others. Because of her steadfast efforts for those in need, her life is filled with blessings.

Verla Petit

Women of Achievement
1986

STEADFASTNESS
for a woman with a lifetime of achievement:

Verla Petit

Verla Petit has devoted her life to service to the downtrodden, the forgotten and the rejected at Memphis Union Mission. She has given 35 years — first, as executive secretary, and since 1976 as director — to provide food, shelter and rehabilitation for men and women she calls “down-and-outers.”

Recently the mission has tended to whole families left homeless by rocky economic times.

Nearly from the day in 1951 when she entered the mission as bookkeeper and secretary to its founder Jimmy Stroud, she was involved in decision-making and administration for the mission’s programs. She is the founder and director of the Memphis Christian Servicemen’s Center and the 80-acre Victory Valley Bible Conference Grounds, both operated by the mission. She is a frequent speaker at Bible conferences and outreach programs.

Verla has worked in steadfast devotion to her God, firm in her belief that needs of the down-and-outers remain unchanged. She has said, “We take those that the police bring us, or the hospitals call about. We take those that left home, got on a bender and have drunk up every cent they have. We take them out of the bus station.”

Even before her involvement with the Union Mission, Verla taught Bible classes at the Strand Theatre, started a Tuesday night Bible class at Second and Madison, and made Sunday visits to Mud Island squatter homes. As one nominator said of Verla Petit, “If she was a woman in industry, she’d be running the company!”

Verla retired in July 1991 and travels frequently as a spiritual and inspirational speaker.

Zana Ward

WOMEN OF ACHIEVEMENT
1985

STEADFASTNESS
for a woman with a lifetime of achievement:

Zana Ward

For 30 years Zana Ward taught in Memphis City Schools while putting in many hours as a volunteer. Active in her church as a teacher, chaplain and choir member, she has also volunteered her time and energies to a number of civic organizations. That includes serving the last 11 years as president of the National Council of Negro Women.

Zana is responsible for the Right to Read program for low income students at Lakeview School, and has been instrumental in helping unwed mothers continue their education and find jobs. As project director of the coalition known as Women in Community Services, she also has organized volunteers to screen applicants for the Job Corps.

Zana was a Girl Scout troop leader for 17 years. Her concerns about childcare led her to a position on the board of Community Day Care. She somehow also found time to serve as president of the Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs in Memphis, and vice president of the state organization.

Zana Ward is known in our community as a woman who is always ready to help others find their paths to success.