SHS students, teachers portray Women in History

Jodie Guerrero, as Martha Washington, talks about Washington's life as the nation's first First Lady, as fellow First Ladies Eleanor Roosevelt, played by Louise Willard, Jacqueline Kennedy, played by Wendy Noonan, and Nancy Regan, played by Naomi Matrai, listen at Saugus' 10th annual Women in History presentations on Tuesday, April 11, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal
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Six former First Ladies shared their stories on Saugus High School’s (SHS) campus Tuesday as part of the 10th annual Women in History Program.

The annual American Association of University Women (AAUW) program travels to schools throughout the Santa Clarita Valley from March to June to share personal dramatizations of five to six influential women in history.

This year, AAUW chose to focus on six First Ladies—Martha Washington, Abagail Fillmore, Eleanor Roosevelt, Jacqueline Kennedy, Nancy Reagan and Michelle Obama—who impacted the nation in honor of the presidential election year.

“We wanted to make sure there were equal democrats and republicans and wigs and that there was a well-represented bunch of women that brought together a diverse since of empowerment to America,” said Louise Willard, a SHS Career Technical Advisor (CTA) and a member of AAUW who played Eleanor Roosevelt.

Played by SHS teachers and students, each character dressed in costumed, used accents and detailed the lives and influences of each First Lady.

Dressed as Nancy Reagan, SHS student Naomi Matrai described Reagan’s desire to bring grace and glamor back to the White House while starting the “Just Say No” campaign.

“I championed the fight against substance abuse across the country and created the Nancy Reagan Foundation,” Matrai said.

SHS English teacher Wendy Noonan dressed in Jackie Kennedy’s signature pink suit and described her work as a journalist and fashion leader, in addition to her husband’s murder at Dealey Plaza.

“After his death, I found a way to continue projects important to my husband in his lifetime,” Noonan said.

Willard detailed Eleanor Roosevelt’s creation of the National Human Rights Declaration, work as a United Nations Delegate and advocacy for workplace regulations and laws.

“I believe I made it a better place for you, for people in my time and the future with the Human Rights Declaration and laws for the workplace,” she said.

Additional reenactors included SHS English teacher Jodi Guerrero who played Martha Washington, SHS student Niamani Knight who played Michelle Obama and SHS student Bethany Farnell who played Abigail Fillmore.

“We have a vim and a vigor that is very apparent,” Willard said.  “We all have a place in society today and we all have made a difference.”

Willard hopes students who see the program learn what difference women from throughout history made in the world.

“On a female level, I hope they take away that they can accomplish anything they aspire to do,” she said.  “These are rich women who give young girls a sense of empowerment and appeal to young men and show them the difference they made in society.”

This year’s Women in History program will culminate with a free performance at Barnes and Noble April 18 at 7 p.m.  The public is welcome to attend and hear the different reenactors share their stories.

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