Hometown History #54: Stamp of Approval Came in 2010 for First Female Postmaster
Swearing in Franklin’s First woman as Postmaster in 2010. (L-R) Postmaster Jeanne Jackson, her sister Karen holding a Bible, and Mike Powers, District Manager. (Image courtesy of Jeanne Jackson)
Jeanne Jackson, a Rhode Island resident, had the distinction of becoming the first female postmaster in the history of the town of Franklin, going back to the 1840s when the position was first created.
A long-time employee of the US Postal Service, Jackson has risen through the ranks, handling a wide variety of roles, most recently on the management side. She arrived in Franklin initially as “officer in charge" in March of 2009 and then was sworn in as Postmaster in a ceremony held at the Franklin Elks hall on July 31, 2010. She was eventually succeeded by Michael Catalano in November of 2012.
There followed a sequence of management posts culminating in her appointment as postmaster in Providence, again making history as the first woman to hold that job.
Jackson recalls her time in Franklin with many positive memories of the people and community, noting that unlike many communities, there are no neighborhoods in 02038 considered to be risky or unsafe for letter carriers.
But that’s not to say her time in Franklin was uneventful. To the contrary, she explained, with much bulky letter sorting equipment taking up space at the Post Office building on Main Street, the growing scope of operations had necessitated setting up an annex, off of Constitution Boulevard. This made operations more complex and was particularly tough on customers. If a package or letter was “held” for later delivery, it could end up at the annex and then take days to retrieve and get it in the hands of its intended recipients.
Fortunately, most sorting activities were being regionalized, allowing Jackson to “clear the decks” in the main Post Office and bring all of the operations back in from the annex.
Then, early in the morning of April 15, 2011 flames broke out at 16 Dean Ave., adjacent to the back of the Post Office, in the former YMCA that had served as a Masonic Temple since 1938. Stretching the width of the block and fronting on Emmons Street, the fire went to multiple alarms and was eventually put out with the help of several area fire departments.
But the building was a total loss. And while the Post Office was “saved” it was not unscathed. Jackson explained that she had just installed modern windows in the building along with other improvements – and the windows on the back of the building had all been blown in and smashed by the heat. But, in short order, she got the repairs made and settled operations back to normal. “Franklin’s Town Manager, Jeff Nutting, was very helpful to us,” she added.
Jackson did lament that “Franklin is in the snow belt.” As a result, when snow was expected, she would often opt to stay with her parents in Cumberland rather than making the trek to family in Warwick.
“I used to start at 4:30 in the morning so it was a big help,” she said.
In Franklin, Jackson said she was involved with food drives and community gardens. “And I used to go into the schools for Read Across America.”
And, she noted, “all the employees were very good, we worked as a team.”
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Women in the Postal Service -- some other Firsts
- When Ben Franklin became the first US Postmaster General, he ‘inherited’ Mary Katherine Goddard, who was Baltimore’s Postmaster and served from 1775-1789.
- Polly Martin, a private contractor, is believed to have been the first woman known to carry mail on a “star route.” She did business nearby, between Attleboro and South Attleboro, MA, from about 1860 to 1876.
- Katherine Stinson, became the first woman to fly U.S. Mail in 1913.
- There were many women postmasters in Massachusetts going back to the 19th
century but one faced a boycott. Louise Imogen Guiney, a renowned Catholic literary figure of the late 19th century, secured the job in Auburndale. Her gender was less of an issue than her religion. She described the boycotters of the community as “retired missionaries and small-minded bigots.”
- Janene Gordon was one of the first women to become a Postal Inspector back in 1971 and in 2004, she was the first woman to retire with a federal law enforcement pension.