Each March we celebrate Women’s History Month, a time to recognize the contributions of women in history and in our city today!
By Kendahl Plank
Posted On: March 1, 2023
Images in Graphic: Courtesy of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library, obtained from http://images2.toledolibrary.org/. See bottom of page for full source information.
Toledo has a rich history and a current landscape filled with influential women. The Glass City is the birthplace of women like writer and activist, Gloria Steinem, and Marcy Kaptur, longest serving woman in the history of the U.S. House of Representatives. Toledo was also the home of Ella P. Stewart, one of the first African-American female pharmacists in the United States and Josina Lott, a pioneer in the developmental disabilities field.
In Toledo we can also boast of Christine Brennen who became a sports columnist for USA Today, a commentator on ABC News, CNN, PBS NewsHour and NPR, and a best-selling author. We remember Mildred Benson, a journalist from Toledo who wrote some of the earliest Nancy Drew mysteries and created the detective's adventurous personality, and Stephanie Radar who was born to Polish parents in Toledo and later became a spy during WWII.
Whether it is looking at our past or present, the women of Toledo have and continue to pave the way for leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs of tomorrow.
The National Women's History Alliance designates a yearly theme for Women's History Month. The 2023 theme is "Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories." Throughout March, we are sitting down with women business owners to share their stories and hear about the challenges and triumphs they encounter as they strive to make our city a better place to live, work and visit!
Highlighting Toledo Women in Business Today
Katie is the proprietor of The Federal Inn, which is a self-proclaimed quirky historic home located in uptown Maumee, Ohio built in the Federal architectural style. She renovated this 1830s home and transformed it into a bed & breakfast that you can visit today.
Visiting guests are uniquely interested in the history of the home and those who lived there in the past. Katie shared about one such person, a woman named Miss Nell Nicks.
“She immigrated from Wales with her mother and brother…and they were orphaned shortly after they arrived. She got her culinary degree and she became a baker…she really made something out of nothing…she made a name for herself despite all odds…she was a single woman, received an education when she was in her 50s, so she has a later in life success story…when you put this into context, this is what really makes her story so magnificent.”
Katie was moved by Nell’s story and honored her significance to the house by naming one of the rooms at the Inn after her. Today, you can find Nell’s grave at Riverside Cemetery in Maumee.
We asked Katie what it has been like running her business at the Inn as a woman and she went on to share the some of her experiences.
“I am always very careful with sharing too much about myself because I don’t want people to discriminate against me because of my age or because I am a woman. I don’t want people to patronize me and condescend to me. When I open the front door and they see me and not an 80 year old inn keeper…people are really curious about how I got the house and how I did the renovations…people ask all the time ‘Are you the owner?’ ‘Is it just you?’ ‘Do you have a husband?’
For Women in entrepreneurship, there is almost this patronized version of it where we have to be boss babes and girl bosses…I just want my work ethic to speak for itself. I am just a business owner doing my job, just like everyone else.
Katie’s biggest challenges as a woman in business came when she started to renovate the inn.
“I had so many contractors in and out that were just wildly unprofessional…so many of them wouldn’t listen to me, I also had to raise my voice a few times…just to get my point across. When it comes to managing a bunch of men, It took a while to build up a repour with these guys so they would listen to me.”
Hearing of these challenges we then asked, what are the advantages? How does being a woman position you for success?
“Welcoming strangers into my home on a daily basis…as a woman being able to intuitively tap into people’s energies…that’s a hospitable experience that comes from women. People like staying in my inn more because of the warmth and compassion that I show.”
She also shared her thoughts on what entrepreneurship means and some advice for those looking to become business owners in the future.
“I think entrepreneurship is having grit…Its making judgement calls when you don’t know which choice is better, it’s being really scared and doing things anyways, its having confidence in something that you don’t know will work out, being prepared for the worst, adapting...there is no manager…all that responsibility is all you.
While none of those [her former jobs] were running an inn, I really think that growing the tough skin that all those jobs gave me is what gives me the drive to do this. For women in business, the one thing I want to say to them is...if you don't already inherently have grit or you aren't a problem solver go find yourself a shitty job, get yelled at by people...can you do it? That was the training I got for this."
What Katie is doing for the tourism industry in Toledo is providing a highly curated and warm experience that guests can't find in any hotel.
“I am inspired by small town flair…what I really am trying to hone in on are the people who are looking for an uncharted adventure…you can feel and act like a local…you get a taste of history and art…What I am trying to bring to the hospitality realm in Toledo, is a sort of new and old way to travel.
When you stay at an inn it really builds out a full 360 memory. I want people to be inspired when they stay at my house.
I want to contribute creativity to the hospitality industry. The tagline for The Federal Inn is An immersive stay for the modern sojourner"
Ambrea was having a successful career as a pharmaceutical sales manager when she decided to take a leap of faith and pivot to real estate development and construction in 2017.
"My husband Kevin and I had been renovating old, forgotten about houses and duplexes since 2006 and I kept having this feeling that I was suppossed to do more in this area. We had developed a unique skillset of breathing new life into structures and realized we could help others bring their vision to life as well and from there ARK Restoration & Construction was formed."
"I've faced a number of challenges I know for a fact my male counterparts in real estate and construction do not face. For example, when I started the business I thought it would be in our best interest to become a Certified Minority-Owned Business (MBE Minority Business Enterprise) through the State of Ohio, I believed having the certification would open us up to additional opportunities for funding, contracts and a chance to expand our network.
I received the State Certification and it was the hardest process ever, but I did it. When I filled out my local MBE application which is "reciprocal" to the state certification, I was interrogated and heavily scrutinized. The person in control of the process locally did not believe I was a legitimate business and launched an investigation into my company as if I was not telling the truth. Based on her own bias and stereotypes, she had a hard time understanding I was leading a team of masons, carpenters, painters and laborers. Luckily, her efforts were fruitless and the State found me not to be at fault, that I was in fact a legitimate company worthy of the certification. She tried to undo everything I worked so hard to earn and I'm thankful for the ally's who helped me advocate against this. The certification has been a huge factor into ARK's success."
Although there are many challenges still, Ambrea shared with us what advantages she had in developing ARK.
"Definitely the MBE/WBE (Woman Owned Business Enterprise) certifications has helped me access important resources that are usually not readily available for disadvantaged businesses. I do business via community, which means I get to know people and build friendships and relationships and as a result I have great customers who hire us again and again. ARK exists and is successful because of the love and support from The Toledo Region."
We asked what does being an entrepreneur mean?
"It is so very important for an ecosystem to have women entrepreneurs. Studies show women business owners give back to the community in a major way not only through job creation but through mentorship, philanthropic endeavors and investment. By doing business with a woman you elevate the entire community."
As the Toledo Region's destination marketing organization, we aim to shine a light on Toledo and highlight businesses and entities that are making Toledo a better place to live, work and visit. Ambrea shared the significance of what Ark Restoration does for Toledo.
"The work ARK does is integral to our community. We are pouring blood, sweat, tears and all the money we have into preserving Toledo's architectural history, if we do not do it, who will? We are ensuring the viability of important structures throughout Northwest Ohio for hundreds of years and to look around and point out all of the buildings we restored is a very special feeling. We enhance the quality of neighborhoods, increase property values, save buildings, beautify our hometown and build for the future generations. I love my job!"
Angela Lucas and her husband Will have been business owners and leaders in Toledo for many years now running their marketing agency, Creadio and other endeavors. But the idea for TolHouse, a private social club has been brewing for 6 or 7 years just waiting to take shape.
“We were thinking, where do the creatives congregate in Toledo? Where does everybody come together to hang out, to network, to create, to be inspired, and we couldn’t really name a place that existed. So, we decided that when this building came up for sale, and we walked up the steps and we knew immediately that this was building to do it in. It was the right time and the right place.”
We asked Angela what challenges she has faced as a woman in business?
“This just happened to me last week, a mentor of mine…said ‘Hey Angela, I just wanted to let you know that I nominated you for this business panel, but there was a little bit of push back because they said they really want an entrepreneur.’ I thought well what am I? They asked for my husband because they wanted an entrepreneur…thankfully she went to bat for me and said ‘She is an entrepreneur and you do want her.’
I tell that story to say that…sometimes you have to fight for that title, even though you earned it, and you’re still a little bit overlooked for things. For women…it’s this illusion…that we make it look pretty…we do the simple things…and the men are doing the finances, the men are doing the hiring and the men are doing all of those “important” tasks, which is simply not true. So, when you see a woman and she is an entrepreneur, and her husband is an entrepreneur, but we’re going to choose her husband because he is the real entrepreneur. It is implied like that.
The challenge of being a woman entrepreneur is sometime you get those little digs from people who don’t know any better and that can really take you out if you let it. You have to constantly remind yourself of who you are and what you are and what you are building.”
What does being an entrepreneur mean to you?
“It means to me that I have seen a need in the community and I have done something about it. For me it means being a visionary and not being afraid to take risks, it means working more that you want to work.
There has to be a purpose…it can’t be just because you are passionate about something or because you love something, it’s got to be bigger than that for it to succeed. So, who it is it serving? How long of a life does it have? What are you transforming? What vacancy are you filling? It has to check all of those boxes.
I am responsible for 12 families and 12 lives and so I have to show up and do what I do so that they can be successful in their lives. I don’t think people realize that it is a heavy task, You have no one to call when payroll is due but yourself…It is not for the faint of heart, but also I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.”
How does being a woman in business help you succeed?
“It’s open doors, right? It is people wanting to meet you, wanting to get to know you wanting to hear your story, and you get to pour into people you get to inspire people.
For me I always felt like Tolhouse should be a mirror, you should come in TolHouse and see yourself…you should come in here and say okay if they did something like this, then what creative idea or contribution to my city have I not done yet but always wanted to do.
I feel like I get way more support than my husband does, as far as sisterhood. I think women support each other in a way that men just don’t...I have had people surrounding me all the time supporting me, and that is such an advantage.”
Although Tolhouse is a private social club, Angela and Will kept EARTH, the coffee shop and Lucille’s Jazz Lounge, a spot to hear live music weekly, open to the public for those who aren’t members to enjoy. We asked Angela what part Tolhouse has in making Toledo a better place to live, work and visit?
“When people come into Tolhouse…I can’t tell you how many times I heard ‘Oh my God I don’t feel like I’m in Toledo.’ For me, I am like, that is not good…coming into a spot like this in Toledo should be normal…I want to get us to that place.
We wanted to be a part of helping to make Toledo what it could be, so we invested all we had.
We are doing our part to make this city wonderful, to make this city a place where people want to come to visit, to make this a place where people’s children are not leaving as soon as they graduate…we want Toledo to be that place. And we are just doing our part to help that.”
Notable Women from Toledo
Check out this list of Women’s History Month events, exhibitions and activities coming up to educate, honor and empower all month long.
Red Bird Arts District First Friday | Celebrating Women
Downtown Sylvania | Sylvania Ohio
Friday, March 3, 2023 | 5 - 8 p.m.
With over 30 women owned businesses in downtown, our March 3rd First Friday will be dedicated to the creative, strong-willed trailblazers in our community. We celebrate YOU -the artist, the creator, the business owner rocking your meaningful voice. Look for exhibit openings, live music, store specials and more!
Toledo Library Women's Artist Series
Toledo Lucas County Library Main Branch
Saturdays in March | 2 - 4 p.m.
Celebrate National Women’s History Month by commemorating famous women in art history and creating a masterpiece in their honor.
Women in Classical Music
Toledo Museum of Art | Peristyle Theater
Friday, March 3, 2023 | 8 p.m.
Louise Farrenc's symphonic works of the 19th century stand shoulder to shoulder with those of her male contemporaries.
Annual Forum | International Women's Day
Hiltons at Toledo Downtown
Wednesday, March 8, 2023 | 11 a.m. - 1 p.m.
In celebration of International Women’s Day, Women of Toledo (WOT) is hosting a luncheon. The International Women’s Day Luncheon will feature a panel speaker, #EmbraceEquity in workplace, marketplace, community, and family.
Imagination Station | 1 Discovery Way, Toledo, OH 43604
Saturday, March 11 | 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Girl Power! is designed to introduce girls in grades 3-8 to what's possible with STEAM. Through hands-on workshops and activities and opportunities to hear from a diverse group of local, female professionals, Girl Power! aims to ignite a curiosity for the sciences and empower girls to follow their dreams.
Steinem Sisters Collection Book Group
Toledo Lucas County Library Main Branch
March 30, 2023 | 7 - 8 p.m.
Beginning March 30, you can join the conversation at Main Library as they discuss feminist reads from the Steinem Sisters Collection. The first book is The Soul of Woman by Isabel Allende.
Celebrate women today and all year long by doing business with and supporting Women-Owned Businesses. Some great resources for finding Women-Owned Businesses in Toledo include, the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce and Her Hub of Greater Toledo.
Images in Graphic Source Information:
Top Row (Left to Right):
- Untitled, Image 7376, (1934), Image courtesy of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library, obtained from http:///images2.toledolibrary.org/.
- “Mrs. Ella P. Stewart portrait” (1955?), Image courtesy of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library, obtained from http:///images2.toledolibrary.org/.
- “Josina Lott”, (1962?), Image courtesy of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library, obtained from http:///images2.toledolibrary.org/.
- Untitled, Image 15084, (1915?), Image courtesy of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library, obtained from http:///images2.toledolibrary.org/.
- Untitled, Image 2465, (1940), Image courtesy of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library, obtained from http:///images2.toledolibrary.org/.
Bottom Row (Left to Right):
- Untitled, Image 6648, (1900?), Image courtesy of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library, obtained from http:///images2.toledolibrary.org/.
- Untitled, Image 2000.301.197, (1965), Image courtesy of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library, obtained from http:///images2.toledolibrary.org/.
- “Lucas County Equal Sufferage League”, (09/02/1912), Image courtesy of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library, obtained from http:///images2.toledolibrary.org/.