History Center honors Bossier’s leading ladies

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Photo by Amanda Simmons/Press-Tribune

An astronaut. A school teacher. An Air Force veteran. A pioneer.

The Bossier History Center is celebrating women who have made a difference in Bossier Parish this month. An enclosed display has been set up inside the history center and is available for public viewing now through April.

Marisa Richardson, Curator of Collections and Exhibits, wanted to put something together that would highlight women who have left their mark on Bossier.

“Women’s history isn’t always the main history you see in textbooks. It’s getting to be more prevalent, but it’s important for young girls to have real role models to look up to,” Richardson said. “These ladies are local and a big part of our community. Young girls can
definitely look up to them and their accomplishments.”

Among the women featured are Charlotte Mitchell and Carrie Martin, both prominent educators and Bossier’s first Jeanes Teachers. The History Center reports that Mitchell was the Superintendent of the black school system in Bossier parish for 13 years and spent three decades as a teacher, supervisor and advocate for African American children.

Martin created the Bossier Parish Teachers Association in 1927. She worked relentlessly for the Parish’s black children, helping to establish the Bossier Parish Training School so that black children could get an education past eighth grade. The school was renamed in her honor.

Then there’s Mary Bennett Cane, a pioneer woman who arrived in the 1830s and known as the “Grandmother of Bossier City.” Cane was a prominent businesswoman and landowner who allowed her home to become headquarters to the commander of the Dept. of the Trans-Mississippi West during the Civil War. The History Center reports that the original lots of Bossier City were carved from her land.

Debo White Harris Dykes was one of the top finalists in the Teachers in Space program and was a NASA Space Shuttle Trainee. In 1986, she spent eight days training at Cape Canaveral before the tragic launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger, on which her friend and fellow teacher Sharon Christa McAuliffe perished.

“She was good friends with the teacher who actually was on that flight,” Richardson said. “It’s a sad story, but she had quite a fascinating experience.”

There are many more stories waiting to be told. Richardson asks the public to share their own photos, artifacts and stories for consideration in a future display. She would also like to have more information on the women featured in the current display.

The public is invited to stop by the History Center and see the display. Operating hours are 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fridays; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays; and 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays.