Finding inspiration in history: Women leaders of Cumberland Valley

By Lutricia Eberly

I have such a strong connection to Cumberland County – friendships, business relationships and an endless desire to learn and develop my own skills from some very smart people. Cumberland County has not disappointed. Part of that journey, and my journey with Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania, is to gravitate to leadership that our Girl Scout community can also look up to.

I reached out to the Cumberland Valley Visitors Bureau (CVVB) to see if they had any leader’s stories that I could share with our blog readers. They pointed my in the right direction. Here are a few of the very impressive women who played important roles in Cumberland Valley’s rich history.

Rosemarie Peiffer

Rosemarie Peiffer
Rosemarie Peiffer was the first female Cumberland County Commissioner.

The Peiffer Memorial Arboretum and Nature Preserve, in Lower Allen Township and New Cumberland, is dedicated to the memory of Rosemarie Peiffer, the first female Cumberland County Commissioner, and her husband, Howard. Rosemarie was raised on a farm in Schuylkill County and was a licensed registered nurse. She developed an interest in politics and was elected to the New Cumberland Borough Council before being elected as a county commissioner in 1979. Both Rosemarie and Howard were strong advocates of land preservation and the arboretum and nature preserve consist of 35 wooded acres with nature trails and some of the largest trees in the state.

Evelyn G. Sharp

The arboretum and nature preserve also honors the memory of aviatrix Evelyn G. Sharp, from Nebraska, who received her first commercial pilot’s license at the age of 18 and became an airplane instructor at the age of 20. She was one of the original Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron pilots and served until April 3, 1944, when the P-38 Lightning she was piloting lost an engine on takeoff from what is now Capital City Airport and crashed into land now owned by the arboretum, saving the lives of countless civilians by choosing an uninhabited location. Only 24 years old at the time of her death, she was a squadron commander and only three flights from her fifth rating, the highest certificate then available to women. Her fellow aviators, some of the best fliers in the country, raised money to pay for her coffin to be returned to Nebraska. Whistlestop Bookshop in Carlisle carries the only biography of her, “Sharpie: The Life Story of Evelyn Sharp, Nebraska’s Aviatrix,” by Diane Ruth Armour Bartels.

Marianne Moore

Marianne Moore
Marianne Moore was a Pulitzer Prize winning author from Carlisle.

Poet Marianne Moore was born in Missouri, eventually moving with her mother and older brothers to Carlisle in 1896. After graduating from Bryn Mawr College, Moore made her way back to Carlisle where she taught business subjects at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School from 1911 to 1914. Her first professionally published poems appeared in the spring of 1915 and, in 1916, she moved with her mother to New Jersey. After a distinguished career as an eminent poet, author, essayist and teacher, including the Pulitzer Prize for Literature and the Bollingen Prize in Poetry, she died in 1971 and her ashes were interred at the family’s burial plot at Evergreen Cemetery in Gettysburg. A state historical marker was dedicated to Moore in 2002 and is located at 343 N. Hanover Street in Carlisle.

To learn about more women who have made an impact in Cumberland Valley, check out CVVB’s blog post for Women’s History Month. To learn more about historical attractions or other things to see and do in Cumberland Valley, visit CVVB’s visitor’s webpage.

Source note: Cumberland Valley history and visitor’s information courtesy of Stacey Cornman, Cumberland Valley Visitors Bureau Content Marketing Manager.

Lutricia Eberly is the Director of Outdoor and Program Experience for Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania. Reach her by email at leberly@gshpa.org.

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