When former Brookfield Trustee Janalyn Saloom was sworn in, many people assumed she was the first female trustee in the township.
Not only was she not the first, but a woman who proceeded her, Rachel Sophia Williams Stuart Davis Bricker, left some mighty big shoes to fill.
Thanks to township Trustee Gary Lees and Lois Werner of the Brookfield Township Historical Society, the story of this largely forgotten pioneer in township and state politics has been recovered.
Lees made presentations on Bricker at the September trustee and historical society meetings.
There are a lot of “firsts” attached to Bricker: she was the first woman to serve as a township trustee in Ohio – doing so during one of the most trying periods in our nation’s history – and the first woman to serve on the Brookfield Board of Education, Lees said. Her distinguished public career also included serving in the state House of Representatives from 1944 to 1946.
Lees said he came across Bricker when he was looking up another topic, and felt a connection to her. Not only had she served as a trustee the same as he has, but he learned that she got his father a job.
“She helped a lot of men and women to get jobs,” Lees said. “Her son-in-law was a foreman at the steel mill. My dad got a job at Sharon Steel because of Rachel Davis.”
Bricker was born June 10, 1885, in Brookfield to a Welsh coal miner, James Richard Williams, and Sophia Titus Jones Williams.
She married William Ernest Stuart in 1904, but divorced him following the birth of a son, also named William, who later served as Sharon’s police chief.
At some point, she became a nurse.
Bricker married Emanuel Davis, who also worked at Sharon Steel, in 1909 and they had four children, living on Syme Street at least from 1920 into the 1940s.
She served on the school board from 1923 – only three years after women got the right to vote – to 1927, and was elected trustee in 1932, serving until 1945.
“In the early 1930s. Masury was wide open with prostitution and bootlegging,” Lees said. “It was a time of Prohibition and the Great Depression.”
It also was a trying time personally as she lost her father in 1938 and her husband in 1941.
Bricker, a Democrat, married Charles Ross Bricker, a widower from Warren who was a surveyor and engineer, in 1950. He died two years later.
She lived in Hickory Township – now Hermitage – when she died in 1954, and was buried in Brookfield Township Cemetery, with Charles on one side and Emanuel on the other.
Lees said he wanted to resurrect Bricker’s story to celebrate her for her accomplishments at a time when it was rare for women to serve as she did, but also to hold her up as an example for all to follow.
“There’s so much, we talked about community service and we talked about participation, this woman hit all the dots, in other words, taking pride in our township,” he said.
The historical society has posted more information about Bricker on its Facebook page.