The Honorable Jacquelyne Weatherspoon and Nadine Abraham Thompson recently published a book about African-American women from all different fields and the influence they had on New Hampshire.
Last Friday, the two co-authors appeared before a large crowd at the Water Street Bookstore in downtown Exeter to discuss the book, “Influential and Phenomenal Women of New Hampshire.” The tables were decked with colorful fabrics made by Ibo women of Nigeria.
“We really need to let the world know there are black women in New Hampshire,” said Thompson, a marketing entrepreneur who recalled the days years ago when “you were shocked to see another black person driving up Portsmouth Avenue.”
She also recalled a time when the Ku Klux Klan was active in New Hampshire “but white people came together and said, ‘This will not happen here!’”
The formation of the book began two years ago. The idea mostly came from other women. “Women told me to write,” said Weatherspoon. With her neighbor, Nadine Thompson, they began researching women who fit the role of importance that the authors wanted. But Weatherspoon said, “it was hard to get women to talk about themselves.”
Yet along the way, the authors discovered a significant number of women who could be included in the book. At first, it was difficult to persuade the women to include their stories. “They felt their stores weren’t significant enough to be apart of the book,” said Weatherspoon. But with calls, letters and emails, the authors were able to involve 29 different women to be a part of the book.
Throughout the pages of the book, the women represented discuss their different fields and roles, which range from Civic Duties and Politics to Religion and Social Worker. One of the women included in the book, Melanie Levesque, is a former New Hampshire legislator. As a child, Levesque faced discrimination but was able attend college and become a legislator advocating for women across New Hampshire.
“Being a legislator in New Hampshire is the ultimate way to give back to society,” Levesque said.
She and her husband, who is white, once tried to buy a house in Nashua, NH. but the realtor wouldn’t sell it to them. “So,” she said, “friends bought it and sold it to us.”
Thompson and Waetherspoon, the two authors, who also are included in the book, have influenced their own communities. Thompson, a Smith College graduate by way of Toronto, is a businesswoman who started a beauty products company called Warm Spirit. Weatherspoon, a former NH legislator, has mentored and helped women across New Hampshire get elected to public office. She is married to the Exeter minister Russell Weatherspoon and is also engaged in the Hillary Clinton 2016 campaign.
In the question and answer period, Weatherspoon was asked, “Where do you get your strength from?”
“I have very deep, strong roots,” she replied. “That’s what sustains me.”
Both authors voiced hope that the book would be considered forceful and “impact generations.”
“When you leave a written record, it’s a path to encouragement,” said Thompson.