Photo by John Alexander Reese
The Evanston Community Council Preserving and Celebrating Committee has announced an application will be submitted in April 2021 for an Ohio historical marker in honor of James W. and L. Helen Rankin. Rep. James W. Rankin played a key role in the legislation that created the Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Ohio. Rep. L. Helen Rankin was the first African American woman to serve in the Ohio House of Representatives.
This historic marker will be the first in Hamilton County honoring an African American couple
Helen Rankin attended the University of Cincinnati, and prior to serving in the Ohio Legislator worked as an intake supervisor. She married James W. Rankin, who became a state representative in 1971. When he died in office in 1978, she was appointed to complete his term and then was elected by her constituents. She went on to work 16 years in the Ohio House, the first African American woman to serve there. She fought for health care issues and championed the needs and rights of women, children, and the poor. She was known as a quiet legislator. Her supporters said she “planned purposefully, prepared prayerfully, proceeded hopefully, and pursued persistently.” As chairwoman of the House Human Services Committee, she pushed through a bill that required insurance companies to pay for mammograms. She introduced it four times before its passage in 1991.
The Ohio History Connection historical marker program “allows local communities to identify, honor and commemorate the important people, places and events that have contributed to their past and formed part of the fabric of Ohio.”
Jacqueline P. Hudson, a doctoral candidate at Bowling Green State University, will submit the application.
The campaign goal for the marker is $8,000.
The steps involved are:
April 1: Submit historic marker application to State of Ohio ($4,500 needed to purchase marker and funds to install)
August 1: Installation of historic marker
September 1: Begin conducting youth education programming at a cost of $25 per child (with a goal of engaging 140 children September 2021 through April 2022. The total education cost would be $3,500.
The almost 9,000 residents in the Evanston neighborhood in Cincinnati developed a 2019-2029 Plan. Evanston is a predominately African American working class neighborhood that values preserving and celebrating the rich history of its residents.
The fund-raising campaign is underway. For more information, visit https://ioby.org/project/honor-1st-african-american-woman-ohio-house-representatives. For check donation, make check payable to “Evanston Community Council” for “Historic Marker.” Mail payment to: Evanston Community Council, P.O. Box 12128, Cincinnati, OH, 45212