After election posters for Romaine Chapin Rice Sr were discovered in a resident’s attic (see part 1), the Historical Commission began researching Mr. Rice (see part 2) to find the story behind the posters. What we found was a power couple who made a huge impact in our community.
In part 3 of this 3-part series, we’ll introduce you to Dawn Rice.
Scroll through these photos and see if you notice that “one of these things is not like the other”:
See that woman, surrounded by men? In a time where political office was still considered a man’s game, Dawn Rice was making a splash.
Dawn Banta Rice, born in 1909 in DeWitt, MI to Peter and Rosa Banta, got her start in politics while helping her husband in his campaigns for Justice of the Peace. She first ran for clerk, unsuccessfully, in 1953. After her husbands passing in 1958, Dawn worked in the real estate field, and then decided to try her hand at politics again. In 1961 & 1962, Dawn ran for Township Clerk once again, losing by only a few hundred votes. But Dawn’s persistence paid off. She ran again in 1963 and won, holding that position until 1970, when she became acting Supervisor after Supervisor Bellaire died suddenly, thus making her Redford Township’s first female Supervisor.
While in office, Dawn made several changes to the Township’s voting procedures, making voting more efficient for residents. Most notably, she introduced the punch-card ballot to the Township in 1969, eliminating long lines at polling locations, reducing Township expenses, and allowing votes to be tallied in record time. And as a candidate in 1972, she caught a major computer glitch in the primary election.
Mrs. Rice was not met without opposition during her time as Clerk. Headlines that read “Mrs. Rice Challenged to Lie Test” & “Democrats Level Guns at Dawn Rice” appear, to which Dawn submits a letter to the editor in response and signs it “Let’s get on with it. Dawn Rice.”
But holding office in the Township wasn’t all that Dawn was up to. Her lengthy resume of community involvement includes things like President of the Redford Branch of the American Red Cross, Co-founder of the Redford Township Music Society, President of Lola Valley PTA, and President of the American Legion Auxiliary. She also taught etiquette classes in her basement to the neighborhood kids. It’s no wonder she was featured in a 1967 newspaper article titled Women on the Go!
Dawn was not only a strong-willed woman, but also way ahead of her time. As an author of several short stories and poems (comparable to a modern-day blogger), she wrote about the things that were considered taboo at the time. One story in particular that stood out to me revolved around the fact that everyone was having pre-marital sex, but no one would talk about it.
This is my favorite verse from a poem she wrote, as she reminds us that even though someone may no longer be with us, they are all around us:
“Do not stand at my grave and weep…I am not there…”
A big thank you to Tina Rekau, Deputy Clerk for Redford Twp, for digging up old ballots for us 🙂
Do you have any memories of the Rice family you’d like to share? Please let us know in the comments!