Updated: Jun 18, 2022
I’m always on the look out for landmarks to women. Recently I serendipitously discovered
two. Driving on the Garden State Parkway, we passed the rest stop newly renamed for Judy Blume, a widely known, best-selling, and much honored writer of books for children and young adults. Born and raised in New Jersey, Judy Blume published books on groundbreaking and controversial topics, including sex, sexuality, and death, making her books among the most frequently banned. Since the 1980s, she has been a fierce anti-banning-books activist. As Linda, who was driving, was maneuvering in fast moving traffic so I could take pictures, I wondered whether or not other drivers noticed the new name. Judit Hajnal Ward, a research librarian at Rutgers University Libraries, heralded the renaming as a “big deal” because “when a name keeps jumping in my face, say, on a giant billboard while driving, it always makes me curious to find out more about the person.” Herself an anti-banning activist, Ward hopes that other people will become curious, in particular about book banning.
Then there was our landmark-find on a recent trip to Bear Mountain State Park. After exploring a bit and then walking the 1.4-mile paved loop around Hessian Lake*, we headed
for an ice cream stand, (with delectable such as pistachios/strawberry soft ice cream) in nearby West Haverstraw, only to drive by the Helen Hayes Hospital, one of America’s first specialty physical rehabilitation facilities. It was renamed in 1974 for Helen Hayes who donated her time and money to the facility, her commitment fueled by the death of her beloved daughter Mary who had died of polio at the age of 19 in 1949. (I grew up during the time of the several polio epidemics between 1948-1955. I remember my parents’ excitement with the news of a safe vaccine in 1955.)
*I was curious about the lake’s name—Hessian, the about 30,000 German soldiers hired by the British to help fight in the American Revolution. Originally known as Sinnipink by Native Americans who were part of the Lenni Lenape Nation, the lake is also known as Highland Lake or Bloody Lake. The “bloody” coming from a long ago battle in which 250 Hessian soldiers were killed, their bodies supposedly thrown into the lake, turning the water red. Ugh! I vote for restoring the original Native American name—Sinnipink.