Early houses of worship, like the Zion Evangelical Church that became Naper Settlement’s Meeting House, were vital centers of community life. Women have often served as the organizers and leaders that provide the basis for community. Women in Naperville have been especially impactful through support for education and learning. Osie Davenport was the first African American woman elected to the Naperville Unit District 203 school board. She was elected president in 1999. Antonia Harlan shaped many Naperville schoolchildren and adults through the organization of multicultural artifacts to be shared with schools and community organizations and at cultural fairs. Saily Joshi serves as the chair of District 204’s Parent Diversity Adversity Committee (PDAC) to advance the district’s commitment to equity and education excellence. Mary Barbara ‘Matie’ Egermann was the longest-serving librarian at Nichols Library, famous for her doll collection and organizing letter and book campaigns for WWI and WWII service personnel. Madhu Uppal was the first Indian American teacher in District 203. She went on to serve on the Naperville Public Library board of trustees.
Betty St. Angelo was the wife of North Central College’s first chaplain. During her family’s time with the college there was a heavy emphasis placed on active participation in social justice. Students marched in Selma and often visited shelters and missions. Drawn by the St. Angelo’s support of civil rights, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. even came to speak at the college.
Another area of impact by Naperville women is organizing support. Mary Liz Burris served on the Naperville Human Rights Council and Commission advocating for fair housing. Nancy Chen started hosting Chinese New Year at her home for families in Naperville. She also served in a variety of political and governmental roles that helped advance issues important to women and Asian Americans. Deborah Rickert was the founder, president, and CEO of Operation Support Our Troops—America—the largest volunteer based military group in the nation.