Category Archives: Organizations

Remembering A.E. Hotchner

A. E. Hotchner — a writer who parlayed his friendship with fellow Westporter Paul Newman into a second career in philanthropy — died today at home. He was 102 years old, and lived more than half his life — 67 years — here.

The New York Times obituary described the longtime Hillandale Road resident as a “novelist, playwright, biographer, literary bon vivant and philanthropist whose life was shaped and colored by close friendships with two extraordinarily gifted and well-known men, Ernest Hemingway and Paul Newman.”

A.E. Hotchner and Ernest Hemingway.

Hotchner “was not to the manner born, nor was he a celebrity. But he was nonetheless at home among the glitterati, one of those not-so-famous people whom famous people, for whatever reason, take to,” the Times said. At Washington University, he was a classmate of Tennessee Williams.

He wrote books about his friends, including Clark Gable, Barbara Hutton, Marlene Dietrich, Coco Chanel, Doris Day and Sophia Loren.

But he included honest details about Hemingway’s suicide in “Papa Hemingway: A Personal Memoir,” whose publication the author’s widow tried to halt.

Hotchner wrote 2 other books about Hemingway, and one about the Rolling Stones, among others.

Yet it was his friendship with Newman that most distinguished the latter part of Hotchner’s life. According to the Times:

“We owned a series of dilapidated boats we’d take out on the water to go fishing and drink beer and have all sorts of adventures,” Mr. Hotchner told the London newspaper The Daily Mirror after Newman’s death in September 2008. “We drank a lot of beer and so never actually caught many fish.”

Mr. Newman had made it a holiday ritual to make batches of homemade salad dressing in his barn, pour it into wine bottles and drive around his neighborhood giving them away as Christmas gifts. Just before Christmas 1980, Mr. Newman was stirring up an enormous batch, with a canoe paddle, when he invited Mr. Hotchner to join him. Out of their small adventure came the idea for Newman’s Own.

Founded in 1982, the company has given away hundreds of millions of dollars through its charitable arms….

In 1988, Mr. Hotchner and Mr. Newman furthered their charitable work by founding the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp in northeastern Connecticut for children with life-threatening diseases.

(Click here for the full New York Times obituary.)

Remembering Woody Klein

Woody Klein — a longtime Westporter who was deeply involved in town affairs, in roles ranging from newspaper editor to RTM member to author of a detailed local history — died Tuesday. He was 90 years old.

The New York native had a distinguished career long before embarking on his Westport activities.

He was a reporter for the Washington Post and New York World Telegram & Sun (where he wrote about his experiences living undercover in a city slum); an on-air TV personality at New York’s Channels 13 and 2; press secretary for Mayor John Lindsay, and he spent 24 years in communications at IBM, including 6 as editor of the famed in-house publication Think.

Woody Klein

After retiring from IBM in 1996, Klein served 6 years as editor of the Westport News. His “Out of the Woods” column continued to run in the paper long after he left the editor’s chair.

He also was a board member of United Way of Westport-Weston, and an advisory board member of the Westport Historical Society.

He wrote 7 books, including “Westport, Connecticut: The Story of a New England Town’s Rise to Prominence.”

Klein is survived by his wife, Audrey, his daughter Wendy and her husband, Howard Lippitt of Long Beach, California, and several nieces and nephews.

For a full obituary, click here.

Friday Flashback #180

I’ve written about this before.

But every so often, a reader discovers a 35-year-old video about Westport. And sends it to me, as if I’ve never seen it.

If you lived here in 1985 — as I did — you know it well.

That year, the Marketing Corporation of America gave the town a 150th- anniversary: a 30-minute film.

MCA is no longer around. Westport is no longer the “marketing capital of America.”

But after 3 1/2 decades, “Westport’s Got It All” is the gift that keeps on giving.

The video is filled with celebrities who lived here. Strangely — or, perhaps, understatedly and on purpose — none are named. Jim McKay reads a newspaper by the river. Harry Reasoner sits near a tennis court. Joanne Woodward has a cameo.

ABC's "Wide World of Sports" anchor Jim McKay sits on the banks of the Saugatuck River, in the town he called home.

ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” anchor Jim McKay sits on the banks of the Saugatuck River, in the town he called home.

Okay, so Rodney Dangerfield cracks, “The town of Westport has my respect.” But that’s the closest anyone comes to identifying him or herself.

The video opens with a cheesy, “Westport’s Got It All” song (including the line “Kids hanging out at the Dairy Queen…”). It’s sung by former Westporter Dara Sedaka — Neil’s daughter.

But the pace quickens. There are shots of Main Street, the Playhouse, Staples, Compo, the downtown art show, Longshore, Cockenoe, the Levitt and the Memorial Day parade (ending at Jesup Green).

Most look pretty much the same today. But there are plenty of other places and things that are long gone: Remarkable Book Shop. The White Barn Theater. Mohonk House. Hay Day (in its original location, opposite Carvel). MCA.

And, of course, restaurants: Manero’s, Chez Pierre, Ships, Peppermill, Three Bears, Allen’s Clam House, Connolly’s … and on and on.

I found the voiceovers fascinating. Mason Adams, Alan Parsell, Herb Baldwin, Claire Gold, Julie Belaga, Dick Leonard, Cary Pierce — I recognized the voices of so many former politicians, educators, students and others.

Crusty Yankee Alan Parsell was 83 years old when he was interviewed for the 150th-anniversary video.

Crusty Yankee Alan Parsell was 83 years old when he was interviewed for the 150th-anniversary video.

Here are some of the things they said:

  • “Nothing goes on here that people aren’t concerned about. For every issue, there are at least 10 sides.”
  • “I’m worried the town is losing its mix of a variety of people.”
  • “Westporters have extraordinary aspirations for their children. And they’re willing to pay for it.”
  • “I work 2 jobs, 90 hours a week, to keep my head above water here.”
  • “Westport has the sophistication of New York, the exuberance of a California town, the quaintness of New England — and a sense of humor.”
  • “We do have latchkey children, as more and more parents go off to work.”
George Weigle conducts the Staples Orphenians. They sound great in the video.

George Weigle conducts the Staples Orphenians. They sound great in the video.

  • “It’s a very loving community, in many ways.”
  • “We draw people into town, to go to the theater and movies.”
  • “The Post Road is a disaster. But every town has its Post Road. This one looks better than many.”
  • “Commercialization has really changed this town. It’s been good and bad.”
  • “It’s a generous, gregarious, outgoing town. You can dress any way you like. You can be anyone you want to be. That’s the uniqueness of the community.”

That was Westport, 1985. Thanks to MCA, we’ve got a video record — promotional, but still pretty honest — of who we were.

What’s happened in the past 35 years? Are we better, worse, just different — or the same — as we were back in the days when big cars roamed Main Street, the Church Lane YMCA was still new, and people came from out of town for the movies?

Click on the video below (then wait 10 seconds to begin). Then click “Comments.”

“Vagina Monologues” Comes To Town

It began as casual conversations with friends. Soon Eve Ensler began talking with women she did not know. Eventually she spoke with 200 of them.

Their discussions about sex and relationships often turned to the topic of violence against women. The project — which Ensler had envisioned as a celebration of vaginas and femininity — became a crusade to stop that violence.

Since its off-Broadway debut in 1996, “The Vagina Monologues” — which explores consensual and nonconsensual sexual experiences, body image, genital mutilation, sex work and other topics through the eyes of women of various ages, races and sexualities — has become one of the most impactful plays of our time.

It also sparked the V-Day Movement, a global non-profit aimed at ending violence against women and girls.

“The Vagina Monologues” forms the cornerstone of the movement. Benefit performances take place worldwide each year between February and April. All  must stick to an annual script that V-Day puts out.

Performances benefit rape crisis centers, shelters for women and similar resources. So far, they’ve raised over $120 million.

This year, Westport Library has been chosen to produce a V-Day event. Beneficiaries are the Center for Family Justice and the Rowan Center sexual assault agency. Many cast members are Westport residents.

Set for Friday, February 21, the event begins with a 6:30 p.m. cocktail reception. The performance will be followed by a conversation between the cast and audience, about themes and issues brought up in the play.

The suggested donation is $20. However, all donation levels are accepted (and appreciated). For tickets, click here.

Rach’s Hope Shines Through

The family of one critically ill child could not visit much. The cost of hotels and meals away from home was prohibitive.

The family of another found lodging miles from a hospital — but had no way to get back and forth. Parents of a third worried about care for their other children, while they tended to their sick one.

When a child is diagnosed with a critical illness, parents face a blizzard of decisions. They’re in a fog of uncertainty and fear, handling a hurricane of tasks.

Yet in the midst of all that activity and emotion, one more weather-related metaphor stands out: a ray of sunshine.

It comes, gracefully and lovingly, from Rach’s Hope. The Westport-based foundation honors Rachel Doran. In 2018 the Staples High School National Merit Commended Scholar — a rising senior at Cornell University, talented Players costume designer, and founder of her own pajama company — developed a rare reaction to common medications.

She suffered severe burns to 95% of her body. She then developed another life-threatening syndrome. After 35 harrowing days, Rachel died.

Rachel Doran

Despite their grief, her parents Alan and Lisa remembered the kindness shown by friends, hospital staff and strangers.

Small gestures — finding a hotel 2 blocks from the hospital; arriving with healthy muffins and protein shakes; taking care of Rachel’s sister — sustained the family at a time when they were so focused on Rachel that they had no time or energy to care for themselves.

Since then, Rach’s Hope has provided real, important sustenance and hope to families tossed by the tornado of a child’s critical illness.

For example, a Westport resident who teaches in another town knew of a student in intensive care at Yale New Haven Hospital. Rach’s Hope sent Uber cards for transportation, and Uber Eats for meals.

“Family members have to eat and sleep well, so they can be strong for their child or sibling,” Lisa notes.

Another boy in that same district is being treated in Boston. Rach’s Hope provided gas cards to the parents, and covers their hotel bill.

Columbia Presbyterian is a great hospital. But there is no reasonably priced hotel nearby. The Dorans formed a partnership with the Holiday Inn in Fort Lee, New Jersey. They pay a discounted rate for families who stay there — and the hotel provides shuttle service to the hospital.

Though its reach is wide, Rach’s Hope’s Westport roots are deep. Lisa’s niece volunteered as a counselor at Experience Camps — the Westport-based program for children whose parent, sibling or primary caregiver has died.

Last summer, Rach’s Hope sponsored 2 children for the camp. They’ll send 5 this year. A week for each child costs $2,500.

To raise funds, Rach’s friends, their families and others close to her –including W Hair & Color, Rothbard Ale + Larder and Le Rouge by Aarti — are sponsoring the 2nd annual “Rach’s Hope PJ Gala.”

It’s Saturday, February 29 (7:30 to 11 p.m., Penfield Pavilion, Fairfield). Last year’s inaugural event was fantastic: warm, fun and energetic.

And it brought in over $100,000.

(Yes, you’re supposed to wear PJs. Rachel had founded her own pajama company, Rachel’s Rags.)

Rachel Doran (left) shows off her portfolio.

It’s clear she touched a ton of people. Her sister Ellie and friends founded a flourishing Rach’s Hope chapter at Staples. The school’s volleyball team hosted a fundraiser of their own. And Rach’s Hope is one of the charities receiving proceeds from this year’s County Assembly dances.

They all believe in Rach’s Hope. And they hope everyone who knew Rachel — and many who did not — will support the February 29.

The storm of a child’s critical illness will never go away. But with Rach’s Hope’s help, those dark clouds may part just a bit.

(For tickets, more information or to make a donation, click here.) 

PS: As a fashion design management major at Cornell, she was a research assistant in the Costume and Textile Collection, wrote for their blog, and became a curator. 

Her mentor Denise Green called her “the kind of assistant every professor, collection manager and peer dreams about. She was curious, determined, passionate, smart, kind, and had a great sense of humor.”

A central exhibition space — which housed her own project a few months before she died — has been named in her honor. Click here for more information, and to donate.

Let’s Hear It For Caitlin Parton, Esq.!

It’s not easy being an attorney.

Law school professors can be brutal (remember “The Paper Chase“?). Getting hired is no picnic. Arguing in front of a judge and jury is not for the faint of heart.

Now imagine doing all that with a profound hearing loss.

Caitlin Parton has overcome those substantial obstacles, with perseverance, pride and poise.

Back in 1988, she was the youngest person to have cochlear implants.

She faced the intersection of disabilities and law when she and her parents fought for access to computer-assisted technology in the Westport schools.

She earned honors all through Staples High School, where she served as co-editor of the school newspaper, Inklings.

After graduating in 2003, she headed to the University of Chicago. She interned for Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, worked at the Department of Justice and spent 2 years as a paralegal for a Washington civil rights firm, before earning a law degree from City University of New York.

For the past 5 years Caitlin has been a staff attorney at Boston’s Disability Law Center. She fights for full access to accommodations in schools, workplaces, hospitals, nursing homes, group homes and shelters.

Caitlin Parton

Most of her clients are deaf or hearing impaired. Others have physical or mental disabilities.

One recent case involved a veteran with PTSD. Frightened by her landlord’s loud knocks on her door, she asked him to call or email first. He refused.

Caitlin won damages for emotional distress. Just as importantly, the landlord underwent training about disabilities — and now must honor his tenant’s “reasonable request” for contact prior to knocking.

As a member of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Bar Association, Caitlin advocates for common-sense legal accommodations. For example, some law school professors don’t want to wear microphones, or won’t allow lectures to be recorded or transcribed.

Group members discuss how to overcome hiring discrimination. (Deaf people may be denied interviews, or judged negatively by the way they speak.)

They offer support, share job listings, advocate for accommodations like closed-captioning at trials, and propose simple solutions like rearranging courtroom furniture to enable lip-reading.

Recently, members of the DHHBA took part in a special ceremony. Ten attorneys — including Caitlin — were sworn in and admitted to the Bar of the United States Supreme Court.

Caitlin Parton (6th from left) with fellow members of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Bar Association, prior to their swearing in.

The ceremony took place at the Supreme Court. Fittingly — as the newly sworn lawyers watched 2 cases being argued in front of all 9 justices — there were full accommodations for deaf people.

The Supreme Court provided sign language interpreters and real-time captioning.

“It’s a very small space,” Caitlin says. “There’s no room for a big screen. So the Court allowed captioning on phones and tablets.”

Being in the Supreme Court during actual cases is an incredible experience for anyone. For an attorney like Caitlin to be there “in the presence of judges and attorneys, having access to every word,” was even more remarkable.

Caitlin Parton with her parents, Melody James and Steve Parton, on the US Supreme Court steps.

The swearing-in ceremony — which means that Caitlin can now argue cases before the Supreme Court — capped quite a year for the Westport native. Six months ago, her son Orion was born.

“I’m on that special journey now, balancing parenting and work,” she says.

In law — as in life — no one knows what’s ahead.

But — with her passion, experience and, now, her admittance to the Supreme Court bar — Caitlin Parton may one day argue a case before the highest court in the land.

Who knows? She might even be behind the bench.

Powerful Photos Raise Breast Cancer AWAREness

Through the efforts of many people and organizations, breast cancer awareness is high. It affects 1 in 8 women, and kills more than 40,000 Americans each year.

But there’s less awareness that less than 10% of all money raised for breast cancer goes to research. And just pennies of that goes to Stage IV.

AWARE is raising awareness of the lack of funding allocated to metastatic breast cancer research. There is no better local organization to take on the task.

The acronym stands for Assisting Women with Actions, Resources and Education. Each year, members partner with a local non-profit. They volunteer with that group, organize an educational event and host a fundraiser.

In past years, AWARE CT has aided the International Institute of Connecticut (human trafficking), Mercy Learning Center (education), Female Soldiers: Forgotten Heroes (veterans) and Malta House (pregnant and new mothers).

Their current partner is the Cancer Couch Foundation. Since 2016, the group has raised over $3 million for Stage 4 breast cancer research.

AWARE’s commitment is total, and strong. The centerpiece is a series of portraits of Westporters, by talented photographer Jerri Graham. Each image includes text, with the subject describing how she or he has been affected by the disease.

The original idea was for each subject to also make a donation to the Cancer Couch, through AWARE. The portraits would be posted on social media, then shown at a fundraiser; afterward, each subject could take her or his photo home.

But AWARE did not stop there. For greater visibility — and awareness — they’ve gone door to door. Over 80 stores, restaurants, salons and medical offices agreed, quickly and enthusiastically, to show one or two portraits inside, or in their windows.

AWARE co-directors Amy Saperstein and Nicole Gerber, with a photo at Aux Delices’ Post Road East location.

AWARE then took photos of the merchants, chefs and doctors, and posted those online. It’s one more special way to raise awareness, of both Cancer Couch and the lack of metastatic breast cancer funding.

Winged Monkey — the first store to join the project, even before there was an image to display — offered to host a fundraiser there.

Joyride joined quickly too. Owners Amy Hochhauser and Rhodie Lorenz are all in. Instructor Mackenzie Pretty led a “Spinraiser” at the studio. She wove breast cancer statistics and information about Cancer Couch between songs — and gave shout-outs to AWARE members who were in the room, on bikes.

All 4 women posed for photos. Pretty’s mother — herself a breast cancer survivor — had her portrait taken too.

Mackenzie Pretty

Other avid supporters: 2nd Selectwoman Jen Tooker, and Westport Farmers’ Market director Lori Cochran-Dougall.

2nd Selectwoman Jen Tooker

When they began, AWARE co-directors Amy Saperstein and Nicole Gerber hoped 25 people would want their portraits taken. Well over 80 responded.

The photos are stunning. Jerri Graham — a very talented Westport portrait artist — captures subjects’ faces and feelings beautifully.

Coupled with each person’s words — about breast cancer’s impact on themselves, loved ones and/or friends — the effect is powerful and immediate.

It’s also, Gerber says, “a call to action.”

Just before Christmas, AWARE’s project took on a life — and death — of its own.

Four years ago, Rebecca Timlin-Scalera of Fairfield was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer. It was re-diagnosed later to Stage IIIc, but she did not want to leave Stage IV women behind.

Timlin-Scalera started Cancer Couch, dedicated to Stage IV research. She was looking forward to having her photo taken, for AWARE.

It never happened. Just before Christmas, she died.

The Cancer Couch founder’s death stunned AWARE. In her honor, they’ve set a fundraising goal of $50,000. An anonymous donor pledged to match it.

Timlin-Scalera was not the only person unable to be photographed. A woman planned to pose with her husband. Cancer treatment interfered. Her 8- and 6-year-old daughters will take her place.

That’s one of many inspiring stories. Wilson Herrera — the Staples High School custodian/ college student who was profiled on “06880” last fall — and his brother William, a Bedford Middle School custodian — wanted to be photographed. Their mother battled breast cancer twice (and now has ovarian cancer).

Wilson and William Herrera

The sons gave her their photo in December, as a Christmas gift.

But the photo displays in stores, restaurants and medical offices are not the end of AWARE’s involvement with Cancer Couch. They’ll be displayed in another important venue: a fundraiser on Saturday, March 7 (6 to 8 p.m., POPT’ART Gallery, 1 Main Street).

As with everything AWARE does, this is a team effort. Lori Winthrop Dockser — who lost her mother to breast cancer at a young age, and has also been diagnosed with the disease — is donating all the catering staff.

Jesup Hall owner Bill Taibe — another portrait subject — offers free cocktails on the day of the fundraiser, at his restaurant.

Bill Taibe

The fundraiser will include light bites and wine.

And — most importantly — an AWAREness that the fight against Stage IV breast cancer needs all of us.

(For tickets and more information, click here.)  

I am proud to help support this cause.

Helen McAlinden Takes Homes With Hope Helm

The other day, Helen McAlinden had dinner at Jesup Hall.

Looking out the window of the handsome stone building, she saw the Gillespie Center next door. She marveled that one of Westport’s most popular restaurants shares its parking lot with a homeless shelter.

She asked Jesup Hall’s manager what he thought.

“We love it!” he said. “We’re proud of it. We send food over, and help whenever we can. We wouldn’t have it any other way.”

That made McAlinden proud too.

And it reinforced her belief that the job she’d just begun was the right fit.

Helen McAlinden is the new president and CEO of Homes with Hope. She took over from Jeff Wieser last month, as only the 3rd head in the 36-year history of Westport’s affordable and supportive housing non-profit organization.

In her own way and style, McAlinden is as accomplished and dynamic as her 2 predecessors: Wieser, and Homes with Hope founder Peter Powell.

The only 3 CEOs in Homes with Hope’s 36-year history. From left: Peter Powell, Helen McAlinden, Jeff Wieser.

The daughter of a coal miner, she emigrated from her native Ireland to the US right after high school.

Following stints as a babysitter and eldercare worker, she earned a business degree from Manhattan College. The next step was Wall Street.

But after 9/11, McAlinden felt compelled to do something different. She’d already been feeding homeless people through Irish centers in the Bronx and Yonkers. Inspired by the memory of her uncle — a US servicemember, but not an American citizen, who was killed in the Korean War — she also worked with homeless veterans.

McAlinden left Wall Street, earned a master’s in social work at Fordham University, then spent 18 years at a Bridgeport supportive housing agency.

Helen McAlinden

She knew Wieser through his work on affordable housing initiatives. When she heard he was retiring, she applied. The process took nearly a year.

But Homes with Hope’s thoroughness paid off. She is the perfect person for this extremely important post.

Her first month has been a whirlwind of learning — about programs, people, and the town. But, she says, “This doesn’t feel like a job. It’s something I’ve always loved: dealing with homelessness in a professional way.”

At the end of the day she leaves her Richmondville Avenue office, and heads to the Gillespie Center. She meets “the lovely people who reside there, getting ready for the next step, and all the generous volunteers.”

She is very impressed by Westport’s embrace of Homes with Hope.

“So many affluent communities think there is no homelessness there,” she says. “But people struggle everywhere. We have a shelter right behind Tiffany. Westporters recognize that. And they go out of their way to help.”

On Saturday, for example, McAlinden spent hours with the Sunrise Rotary Club, at a table outside Stop & Shop.

“Many people bought one thing for themselves, then came outside to Rotary Sunrise volunteers with a big bag of groceries for the food pantry,” she says. “Amazing!”

Westporters also help with their time, energy, clothes — and money.

“We get very few federal and state dollars,” McAlinden notes. “The people in this town keep our operations going.”

Many involve their own children. “It seems they want their kids to learn about doing good. They see their parents are giving, kind people.”

Helen McAlinden (far left) at the Gillespie Center with (from left) Allyson Gottlieb, Ian O’Malley, both Homes With Hope board members, and Kathy Knapp, Steve Knapp and Emma Knapp of Christ & Holy Trinity Church, who served dinner.  (Photo/Ted Horowitz)

The CEO has been impressed too with Westporters’ embrace of her. Wieser — who stayed on an extra month to help with the transition — shepherded her from meeting to meeting, introducing her to everyone in  his vast network.

The other day, she met Police Chief Foti Koskinas. “He’s a lovely man,” she observes. “He talked about the importance of treating everyone with respect. Along with the fire department and EMS, everyone wants to work together. There’s a real sense that everyone in town can help get someone back on track.”

Wherever she goes, McAlinden has been made to feel — well, at home.

Now, she turns her attention to the future. As well respected as Homes with Hope is she senses that many newcomers to Westport — young moms and dads, with little kids — don’t know about Project Return (for young women in crisis), Bacharach Community (for mothers with children), and other programs and sites.

Even the Gillespie Center men’s shelter may be “a hidden secret” to them, she says.

The new leader will use social media to reach these new residents. She wants to offer tours to interested groups. “Community organizations, PTAs — anyone can contact me!” she says. (Her email is hmcalinden@hwhct.org.)

In her few off hours, McAlinden spends time with her husband and 16-year-old daughter. She enjoys visiting her mother and family on their sheep and cattle farm, back in Ireland.

In fact, she laughs, Westporters are not much different from the Irish. Both groups are “welcoming and inviting.”

And wherever she is — Ireland or Westport, the Homes with Hope office or Gillespie Center — Helen McAlinden feels at home.

WestportREADS: Library Celebrates 100 Years Of Women’s Suffrage

The United States has never had a female president.

Then again, 101 years ago women were not allowed to vote.

As the nation celebrates the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment — women’s suffrage was ratified in 1920 — the Westport Library joins in. A year-long series of events looks back on that then-controversial decision.

They’ll also examine the current voting landscape. A century after half the country finally joined participatory democracy, our country grapples with issues like voter suppression, and the security of our ballots.

The library’s programs are part of its first-ever year-long WestportREADS initiative. Formerly a one-month event, it’s now expanded into a full campaign: “Westport Suffragists — Our Neighbors, Our Crusaders.”

More than a year ago, Westporters Lucy Johnson and Marcia Falk asked  director Bill Harmer if the library could note the upcoming 19th Amendment anniversary.

He embraced the idea, and suggested it fall under the WestportREADS umbrella. The program encourages the entire community to read the same book, and organizes events around that theme.

Last fall’s kickoff featured journalist Elaine Weiss. She discussed her book “The Woman’s Hour,” a riveting account of the far-harder-than-it-should-have-been political and social drive to pass the amendment.

The next book event focuses on fiction. On Tuesday, March 3 (7 p.m.), Kate Walbert welcomes Women’s History Month with a discussion of “A Short History of Women.”

Her novel explores the ripples of the suffrage movement through one family, starting in 1914 at the deathbed of suffragist Dorothy Townsend. It follows her daughter, watches her niece choose a more conventional path, and completes the family portrait with a great-granddaughter in post-9/11 Manhattan.

The battle for suffrage was long and hard.

But that’s only part of the WestportREADS schedule.

Here are just a few other events:

  • The League of Women Voters tells its story (February 9, 1:30 p.m., Westport Woman’s Club)
  • “Battle of the Sexes” video, about the groundbreaking tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs (February 18, 2 p.m., Westport Library Komansky Room)
  • Opening reception for an exhibit on Westport women central to the suffrage movement (March 6, 6 p.m., Westport Library Sheffer Room)
  • Talk about Lillian Wald, social activist and founder of the Henry Street Settlement who retired to Westport (March 18, 7 p.m., Westport Library Forum).

Lillian Wald: social justice warrior, and Westporter.

Authors, historians and journalists will present other panels and exhibits through August. That month — marking final ratification of the 19th Amendment (you go, Tennessee!) — WestportREADS sponsors a final, big program. Details will be announced soon.

Working on this project has been enlightening, Johnson says.

“The fight for suffrage began long before the 20th century,” she notes. “It took a long time. But without television, the internet or social media — through sheer will and determination, with marches and lobbying, state by state — people got it done. It was an amazing feat.”

The library has partnered with the League of Women Voters. Representatives will be at every event, to enroll new voters.

All women are encouraged to register.

All men, too.

(For more information on the “Westport Suffragists” WestportREADS program, click here.)

2 For 40 Under 40

There are 169 towns and cities in Connecticut. But 2 Westporters — one current, one former — have made Connecticut Magazine’ s “40 Under 40” list. The feature celebrates 40 Nutmeggers doing interesting and/or important work, all before their 40th birthday.

Andy Friedland now lives in New Haven, but he grew up here. Here’s the magazine’s shout-out to the 2008 Staples High School graduate:

With a sharp rise in hate crimes statewide nationally and internationally in the past 3 years, Friedland’s job as associate director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Connecticut office keeps him busy.

A former team leader with AmeriCorps, he is a primary responder to combat anti-Semitism, other bias incidents and all forms of bigotry. He works with schools, law enforcement and “whoever comes into the picture” to educate people about anti-Semitism and its local origins.

Friedland has led educational programs on topics such as the Holocaust and genocide and the separation of church and state. He has lobbied for and testified for the ADL’s initiative Backspace Hate for legislation to address online harassment, including cyberstalking.

Connecticut has good laws, Friedland says, but adds that it’s important to “keep laws up to date and take on the issues that are really important and dangerous.”

Andy Friedland (Photo by Harold Shapiro for Connecticut Magazine)

Dan Orlovsky grew up in Shelton, but lives here now. His writeup says:

Orlovsky has been famous in Connecticut since he was a teenager. In 2000, the senior quarterback led Shelton High School to an undefeated season and the Class LL state championship before being named state player of the year.

Despite receiving interest from traditional college football powerhouses, Orlovsky stayed in state and attended UConn. He rewrote the school’s record book — still holding every major passing mark in Huskies history to this day — and also led UConn to the program’s first bowl game, a 39-10 win over Toledo in the Motor City Bowl in 2004. Orlovsky was named MVP of the game.

The Detroit Lions selected Orlovsky in the fifth round of the 2005 NFL Draft. Serving mostly as a backup QB in his 12 years in the league, Orlovsky was uniquely preparing himself for his second career as an ESPN football analyst.

Orlovsky was already considered a rising media star when he joined the network in 2018. Now he provides color commentary in the broadcast booth (he recently called the Camping World Bowl on TV and the Rose Bowl for radio) and intelligent and insightful analysis on studio shows including Get Up!, NFL Live and SportsCenter.

Dan Orlovsky (Photo by Melissa Rawlins/ESPN for Connecticut Magazine)

Congratulations, Andy and Dan. And to all you other Westporters under 40: Get to work!

(For the full “40 Under 40” story, click here. Hat tip: Amy Schafrann)