Marian Spencer

Marian Spencer, renowned civil rights activist and UC alumna.

Evelyn Venable (1913-1993)

As the voice of the blue fairy in Disney’s “Pinocchio,” Evelyn Venable radiated the sound of ethereality — an essence that was mirrored in her on-screen presence in films like “Death Takes a Holiday” and “Cradle Song.”

A Cincinnati native, Venable attended the College-Conservatory of Music, but she left the college in 1933 to join a Shakespearean acting troupe, according to UC Magazine. After playing Ophelia in “Hamlet” at the Los Angeles Biltmore Theatre, she signed a film contract with Paramount Talent.

The starlet played timid leading roles which, according to IMBD, resonated with her off-screen presence as well. Often described as luminous, Venable has claimed to be the inspiring figure for Columbia Pictures’ “lady of liberty” logo. The actress eventually earned her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and married cinematographer Hal Mohr.

After the birth of her two daughters in the early 1940s, Venable gave up her film career to raise children. After her daughters were grown, Venerable enrolled at UCLA and earned degrees in Latin and Greek. Then, in 1967, she joined the staff at UCLA as a professor in classics and drama. She spent the rest of her days as an educator before she died of cancer in 1993.

Monica Nolan (1913-1995)

In 1979, UC inducted Monica Nolan into the James P. Kelly Athletics Hall of Fame for her incredible tennis career. While Nolan was an extraordinary athlete who played tennis, field hockey and basketball for UC, she was also a fierce, career-driven woman. She won many regional tennis tournaments and qualified for the Wimbledon Tennis Championship, but she was never able to compete due to then-ongoing World War II conflicts.

Nolan was actively involved in the tennis community and served on the Women’s Committee for the U.S. Lawn Tennis Association. She was also the first president of Ten Plus, a support group organized for UC’s women’s athletics, according to the UC Hall of Fame. Nolan, outspoken in her life as she was in her career, ventured into the workforce as a stockbroker who advocated for equality in the workplace. Often referred to as a “noisy feminist,” she campaigned as a Democrat for a congressional bid in 1962, but she ultimately lost to her opponent, three-time Cincinnati mayor Carl W. Rich.

Still, Nolan continued to be a dominant force in the business sector. In 1990, Cincinnati Magazine described her as “a stockbroker and a rather formable athlete, ran for U.S. Congress in the early ‘60s. She has an old-fashioned, enthusiastic, arm-swinging, pre-soundbite speaking style that reminded us of the days when the government seemed to be possible and even respectable.”

Marian A. Spencer (1920-present)

A beloved figure in the Cincinnati community and namesake of UC’s newly opened residence hall, Spencer graduated from UC in 1942 with a degree in English. She is considered one of earliest and most visible civil rights activists in Cincinnati, according to a biography by the Cincinnati History Library and Archives.

Spencer grew up in Gallipolis, Ohio, and from an early age, she experienced racism and its impact on the African-American community firsthand. When Spencer was 8 years old, the Ku Klux Klan hosted a moonlight march in her hometown, according to CityBeat. Spencer’s father used the experience to instill fearlessness in his daughter — a trait she carried with her for the rest of her life.

In 1952, Spencer displayed her fearlessness while fighting for equality for her own children as she chaired the NAACP Legal Action vs. Coney Island case. The case, which Spencer filed and won, desegregated Coney Island — allowing all children to enjoy the park regardless of the color of their skin. From there, Spencer’s momentum lead her to work as a civil rights advocate, and much of her work focused on desegregating public schools.

Spencer is a skilled negotiator, which she exhibited after successfully merging an African-American YMCA in the West End with an all-white YMCA to open a metropolitan YMCA downtown. She has spent much of her life working in the NAACP, and she became the first female president of the organization’s Cincinnati branch in 1981. Spencer went on to serve on city council as a Charterite, was a member of UC’s Board of Trustees and has received several other prestigious awards. At 98 years old, Spencer continues to be an empowering woman in the Cincinnati community who often appears on campus for events.

Dorothy “Dottie” Mueller Braun (1928-2014)

Like Nolan, Dorothy “Dottie” Mueller Braun was an incredible athlete. During her time at UC, Braun received varsity letters for basketball, swimming, rifle, archery, volleyball and bowling. She graduated from UC in 1950 and was a member of Phi Beta Kappa honorary and Mortar Board honorary and was awarded a “C” ring. For her incredible athleticism and superior integrity, Braun was inducted to UC’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 1981.

After earning her master’s degree in social work from Ohio State University, Braun worked as a social worker in Finneytown, Ohio. In a letter to the National Women’s Hall of Fame, Braun’s children said their mother “worked tirelessly to give to others the tools to succeed and to help them on their roads to achieving independent full lives.”

Through her roles as a Girl Scout troop leader and a member of the Finneytown’s board of education, Braun stood up for girls’ equality in education and athletics. “Throughout her life, Dottie has demonstrated, by both her actions and her words, that no girls should ever have limits to their dreams,” said her children. Braun lived her life performing small, everyday acts that culminated to become a bold feminist statement. She insisted on having a career outside the home at a time when many women were discouraged from doing so, and she fought tooth and nail to forge a path for the women who came after her.

Elizabeth Schmitt was with The News Record since 2016 as staff reporter, news editor and features editor. She was an editorial intern with CityBeat and graduated in May 2019.