I also discovered this out in Cyberspace:
I don’t want to fault some young kid’s high school project. But frankly, the circle of my longtime Bridgewater readers from years back know that Mary Elizabeth Connors was no Saint Joan of Arc. No Susan B. Anthony. No Harriet Tubman.
Apparently, Miss Connors has been feeding her grand niece a story, for internet publication, about how she broke the barriers of conservative, male-dominated secondary school education in 1970’s New Jersey. (“Back then, kiddo, we used to have to drive the gas guzzling Plymouth with the Pennsylvania vanity license plate to school in TEN FEET OF SNOW!”)
Despite the account that Miss Connors gives about very respected administrators and boards of long ago, here is the real scoop from someone who had been there before Connors showed up with her chip.
When Bridgewater was more of a community, they trusted their school district to people like Harmon Wade and Emmet Fitzpatrick. These gentlemen were probably among the most liberal and worldly folks you could come across, from back when so-called “traditionally Republican” areas like Somerset County produced very progressive leaders and community figures. I think Wade was so well respected as an educator that the Administration Building was quickly named in his honor, and even after it moved to a new location, the name went with it.
What Mary Elizabeth Connors had to say about the board members is equally difficult to fathom.
From what I had heard over the years, is that a Pennsylvania transplant and in my view community menace, the late Audrey Dittman, personally recruited Connors into the Bridgewater-Raritan district. Mary Elizabeth’s “credential” was that she was a fellow Pennsylvanian from back in the woods. And as longtime New Jerseyites know, these people tend NOT to respect good government but rather seek out every crony connection they can.
And so for Mary Elizabeth Connors, it was made clear that if she would do what the Dittmans wanted, she would be set up nice in Bridgewater-Raritan.
There are no doubt some people who worked in B-R who had biases against women. Especially so many years ago. But Bridgewater, New Jersey was as progressive a place as any on those issues in the 1970’s. If I am not mistaken, we were one of the few Congressional Districts to have a female member of Congress.
Last I read, the 1947 New Jersey Constitution was one of the first states to guarantee the equal rights of men and women. In fact, a 1974 proposal to “amend” the state constitution was defeated on the simple fact that it was redundant–the highest state document already had equal rights written in!
Pennsylvania took 20 years to catch up to that . . .
So I don’t think Mary Elizabeth Connors’ portrayal is very fair. I think it’s self serving. In fact, most of her tenure in Bridgewater-Raritan had that shoulder-chip quality to it.
And too bad that she couldn’t easily get her parents a mortgage back in crony Pennsylvania. But what does that have to do with Bridgewater? Maybe the Pennsylvania bank didn’t like the fact that she was an out-of-state signer?
The fact is Mary Elizabeth Connors was a minor disaster for Bridgewater-Raritan. She was incompetent as an administrator. She was promoted by the Dittmans–it’s the only reason she lasted there. When the Dittman influence waned during the 1980’s, the board suggested that Mary Elizabeth resign. There had been several disciplinary scandals at the school–enough that the state began to make inquiries.
Additionally, Connors did seem to have problem with who was Irish and who wasn’t. Students with Irish surnames seemed to curry favor with Mary Elizabeth–and she quite often also seemed to feel that “Irish pride” was part of the curriculum. Enough so that after four years any graduate definitely knew that Connors was an Irish American, but also had to wonder what the big deal was.
To me that is the shocking news coming out of an American school district.
In short, Mary Elizabeth Connors was (and is) for the most part full of shit. She was brought in as a administrator shill and crony, if not also a token of the time. She was promoted for similar reasons. And when her patrons were moved along politically–and the headlines in the Messenger-Gazette and Courier became a little too uncomfortable and embarrassing–she was asked to move along.
Nobody is seeking to name anything after her in that district.