Meet a Matriot: Mandy Jennings

1. You initially learned about The Matriots at a fall house party. Can you share why you think The Matriots’ vision for more women in elected office is something you support?  The “ME TOO” movement in recent years really opened my eyes to the entrenched cultural and professional restrictions women are still facing.  Thinking I was in the modern age and not under the same prejudices as our mothers, I didn’t realize how much further women had to go to obtain equality in social standing and in politics, particularly.  Hearing how less than half of our state is represented by women, I was moved to join the group to help get more of us in office.  Women are affected by so many of the decisions made in government, we need to have a voice to talk about issues unique to us and those issues that would benefit from our diverse perspectives.  It is important for us to get involved and support each other

2. You are a historian by training and profession. Are there stories you’ve researched that amplify for you the mission of The Matriots? I was always inspired by the history of Anne Hutchinson.  Before the women’s liberation movement of 1973 and the larger women’s suffrage movement of 1840-1920s – there were the early reformers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the 1630s.  Anne Hutchinson was a Puritan who practiced church meetings in her home with other women.  She believed a personal connection with God could be attained by all and that anyone had the ability to go to heaven, regardless of your gender or position in society.  These ideas were against the ideals of the Puritans, so she was placed under arrest for heresy and sedition. She was excommunicated from the church and she fled to Providence, Rhode Island – a place of refuge for people of other religions and beliefs different from the Puritan worldview.

As a student learning about Hutchinson, I keyed in on one of the main problems the Puritans had with her – that she organized meetings with other women to share in worship and discourse over their own spirituality.  It frightened me to think that there was once a day when women could not meet and share their own thoughts.  Anne risked her life every time she called a meeting of women together.

Now – here we are – The Matriots – a group of women who can gather together and have the freedom to share ideas and express personal opinions and thoughts.  We are continuing a legacy that women like Anne Hutchinson set into motion for us. Let’s respect the past and continue moving forward to release the restrictions that still hold us bound to old stereotypes and years of social conditioning.

3. Tell us about your community-building activities in Zanesville. We understand you’ve recently been working to revitalize your historic community. I was elected the Vice-President of a newly founded community group called the Friends of Putnam.  Putnam refers to the oldest historic district in Zanesville, Ohio.  The area has been ravaged by poverty, homelessness and now the opioid crisis has hit the town extremely hard.  We understand that there are many solutions we have to take in combating the complicated issues of our neighborhood.  One solution we are trying is the economic revitalization of the area so we can bring in new local businesses and promote job growth.  At the same time, we are starting street and home beautification projects to show our citizens that we care about our community and want to make it better.  Appalachian towns are hit hard with high poverty levels, low high school graduation rates, and a lack of jobs for educated individuals. I realize it will take time and it will take work on all fronts.  I don’t want to find a quick fix – I want to combat the problem at its root.  The first step we are taking is to build pride in our community and create jobs for our people.  

4. Before you took up a volunteer role as community-builder, did you look to mentors or were any particular women in office an inspiration? When I decided to do something about helping my community, my first thought was to reach out to an historic preservationist I met when I was fresh from college – Nancy Recchie. I met Nancy when I was at my first job at Wayne National Forest as an archaeologist. She was working on historic revitalization projects in collaboration with the Forest Service.   She made an impression on me when I was young.  She had a positivity, energy and vision that was inspiring.  Now, years later, the memory of her came to me when I thought about how I was going to start rebuilding my little historic neighborhood. I met back up with her recently to ask for her mentorship.  Her devotion to helping other women move up and forward is much appreciated and admired.

5. Now for something fun: You live in Zanesville and work in Columbus. Tell us how you spend that time on the road each day. My commute time can be anywhere from 50 – 90 minutes.  During that time, I listen to 1980s pop music on satellite radio.  The music makes me happy because it reminds me of my relationship with my sister.  My sister was 10 years older than me, so when I was a little girl in the early 1980s, she was going through her teen years and exposed me to all the pop culture of the time.  I idolized my sister and followed her around everywhere. The music gives me fond memories of her and our time together.

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