MARION, Ohio (AP) — When Mary Ellen Withrow first ran for public office, she wasn’t allowed to have a credit card in her name. In 1969, credit cards were only for men.
Today, the 92-year-old Democrat’s signature appears on more US paper money than any other person. Just check the Guinness Book of World Records.
The story of the journey that took Withrow from his first school board seat in rural Ohio to county, state and then United States Treasurer is told in a new collection on permanent display at the Marion County Historical Society . The native of Marion is the only person to have been treasurer at all three levels of government.
The Mary Ellen Withrow collection, which opened in June, not only celebrates a woman’s achievements, said museum executive director Brandi Wilson, but places Withrow in Ohio’s educational history. pioneers – from inventors and presidents to tycoons, astronauts and feminists.
“Ohio has always been forward-thinking, progressive and inventive,” Wilson said. “So, I think she is one of them. It just shows that anyone is capable of doing whatever they want.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Withrow said she began exploring a permanent home for her memorabilia collection as she got older, thinking “I’m not going to live forever.” She is now recovering from a broken leg, but said she was otherwise healthy and active. Part of his collection had been on display at his retirement home in Marion, but the sheer volume meant more space was needed. The history museum, open from spring to fall, seemed perfectly suited.
For the museum exhibition, she chose a representative sample of her political career. His collection includes bumper stickers, t-shirts – even a nail file – from his 70s, 80s and 90s campaigns, awards and commemorations, photographs, newspaper clippings, nameplates from desk and a print of former President Bill Clinton’s 1993 pop art poster by Peter Max. Also on display is the outfit Withrow wore to be sworn in as U.S. Treasurer by Clinton in 1994. She held this position until 2001.
And money. Signed money, shredded money, uncut money and a $20 bill – bearing both Withrow’s signature and his autograph – that the late John Glenn, a friend and fellow Democrat from the Ohio, took with him when he returned to space in 1998. A tie on display serves as a reminder of the countless money-themed gift items – children’s paper money, mugs, puzzles, beach towels – where Withrow’s name appears randomly.
Her Guinness World Record certificate is also there, as is the pair of scissors with which she cut the ribbon when the Cleveland Federal Reserve issued the new $5, $10, $20, $50 and 100 bills. $ who helped her achieve this.
She also included in the display the cardboard target she was aiming for during her federal law enforcement training. This proves that Withrow is an excellent shooter. “Yeah, they said I didn’t need a security sign, just put it on the porch,” she laughed.
For young Wilson, Withrow is impressive in other ways. She said the set-up of the exhibit was eye-opening. In addition to not being able to own a credit card in her name, Withrow was only known as “Mrs. Norman Withrow” in local press coverage of her first run for office.
It wasn’t that long before Wilson grew up and learned that girls “could do anything, it was limitless.”
“So she was a trailblazer who did things to make it easy for later generations to progress in their careers,” Wilson said.
Withrow said inspiring young people is part of bringing her story to the public. She remains active in politics — she supported Marion Mayor Scott Schertzer in his unsuccessful 2022 bid for state treasurer — and urges others to get involved.
“I hope if they’re interested in racing for something and they’re excited about it and they want to do it, I think they should do it,” she said. “You shouldn’t be afraid and you shouldn’t expect everything to be perfect, because it will never be perfect.”