Sunday, February 7, 2010

Willetta Adams Michaels: Woman of Talent and Vision

When Willetta Adams graduated from Fremont Ross High School in Fremont, Ohio, in 1910, the right to vote for her and all women across the United States was still a decade away. Casting a ballot wasn’t the only restriction women faced in 1910. Their career choices also were greatly limited.

None of that seemed to matter to the talented Willetta Adams. Holding a firm vision for her future, she charted her own course. She joined the first women’s basketball team in Fremont. Willetta went on to attend secretarial school, eventually leading to employment at Claus Shear and the well-known Jackson Underwear Company.

A gifted vocalist, she studied at the Toledo Conservatory of Music and at Heidelberg University. Willetta joined Fremont’s Musical Matinee Club, Madrigal Glee Club, and the Brahms Choral Club. She performed in musical productions that featured lavish sets and costumes. Pictured here is one of her family’s photographs, showing the cast of the club’s performance of the popular Gilbert and Sullivan production “H. M. S. Pinafore.” Willetta can be seen standing second from the left dressed for her role as Little Buttercup.

She was one of the first to perform musical readings for Fremont composer Elizabeth Cox. Winning numerous honors, Willetta gave recitals throughout Ohio. A significant highlight was recognition by and the opportunity to sing for the internationally renowned opera contralto Mme. Schumman – Heink.

After her marriage to Hayes Michaels, one might have expected that being a wife and mother would have consumed all of her time and energy. But while caring for their ten children, Willetta continued her musical career. As a member of Trinity Evangelical Church, she also sang in the choir, taught Sunday School, and participated in the Dorcas Circle Class, Women’s Missionary Society. The Batesole Farm Women’s Club was part of her life as well.

Willetta lived until 1978, long enough to see career opportunities open up for young women. But in her era, the full and vibrant life Willetta Adams Michaels carved out for herself was accomplished only by a personal vision and a drive to make the most of every talent she possessed.
This post first appeared in Lifestyles 2000 Fremont, Ohio

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