Women’s commission honors Donna McDaniel at Statehouse
By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Southborough – Southborough resident Donna McDaniel was named an Unsung Heroine at a ceremony April 29 at the Massachusetts Statehouse. She has displayed the virtues of community service through varied careers including teacher, historical author, local journalist and public information coordinator for the State Department of Revenue. In 1978, McDaniel was the first woman elected selectman in Southborough.
The ceremony is presented annually by the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women, an independent state agency that was legislatively created in 1998 to advance women of the commonwealth to full equality. This year, 83 women were recognized.
According to the commission’s mantra, “The Unsung Heroines are women who don’t always make the news, but truly make the difference.” McDaniel offered her spin on that sentiment.
“Women don’t always make it into history books, but they always make the difference,” she said. “People who wrote the history books tended to forget about the women and what they were doing. Even though women didn’t have the vote, they actually kept the communities going by taking care of the people.”
McDaniel was nominated as an Unsung Heroine by state Rep. Carolyn Dykema, D-Holliston.
“Donna has done a whole range of things that bind a community together,” Dykema said. “This gives me an opportunity to give back to women like her, who cleared the way at a time before there were many women in elected office.”
In 1972, McDaniel and her family moved to Southborough. A few years later, she ran for selectman and won by a large margin.
“We campaigned the old-fashioned way: door-to-door,” she said. “Whether they meant it or not, most people I met would say it’s about time that a woman was running and got elected.”
McDaniel remembers the years she served as selectman as a time when residents were encouraged to become more involved.
“We started the longest-named committee in the history of the town: the Committee to Increase Participation in Town Government,” she relayed. “We tried to do things like a community supper before a town meeting.”
Quick to welcome newcomers to town, McDaniel visited the Southborough Public Library two weeks after Jane Cain began as director four years ago.
“Donna made herself known to me as soon as I started here and she offered up any help that she could,” Cain said. “I go to her for everything now. We have a genealogy club at the library and Donna is helpful when I have patrons with local history questions I can’t handle.”
Among the presentations McDaniel has offered at the library is a discussion of her book, “Southborough Memories,” which includes interviews with 40 residents over age 70 to nearly 100.
“That was well-attended because people wanted to hear more than what is in the book,” Cain said. “People asked a lot of questions.”
McDaniel is also helpful editing the annual town report. Vanessa Hale, the assistant town administrator, particularly appreciates the report’s dedication to a community leader, which McDaniel writes each year.
“Donna is great about researching the history for the dedication, and adding that cultural part to the report so that it’s not just the facts and figures,” Hale said. “She brings such a well-rounded perspective. I can’t imagine the town report without her.”
McDaniel noted that the honor is special because it was given by the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women.
“The good news is that they do good work for women,” McDaniel said. “But the bad news is that we need to have a special commission on the status of women. We look forward to the day when that won’t be needed.”
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