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Essie Wooten (1915-1996)

Essie Wooten was an inspirational woman born into poverty. Wooten was forced to drop out of high school to take on a $4.00 per week job. Fortunately, at age 24, she returned to school, receiving her diploma from Washington High School. After World War II, Wooten began to build clients as a seamstress, building a very successful business. She created drapes for The Massillon Club, Massillon YMCA and YWCA, as well as prominent private establishments.

Essie Wooten entered the political arena in Massillon in 1961 in an effort to prevent the Route 21 replacement project. The planned route would cause the displacement of a number of poor families, many of them minorities. She ran for city council in an effort to prevent the displacement. Before the turn of the twentieth century, Massillon women led the statewide effort to gain women the right to run for municipal office; however, it was 1958 before a Massillon woman was elected to city council. As the first woman elected, Essie Wooten focused her campaign on housing for minority groups in Ward 4.

Wooten was also one of the founders of the Massillon Urban League and served as a board member and several terms as league president. She was listed in the 1961 Who’s Who in America.

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