A visit with Esther Dunn

2 Mar

March, as you may know, is Women’s History Month. The Webster Museum recently sent out a notice marking the occasion, featuring one of the most influential women in Webster’s history, Esther Dunn.

Esther Dunn was a lifelong Webster resident and long-time Webster teacher. But she is most well known for the book she published in 1971, Webster …Through the Years. For many of us who are interested in Webster’s history and who like to write about it, the book has become a valuable reference.

So I read with great interest the email I got from the museum, which highlighted Esther’s life and accomplishments. It read,

It’s easy for the Webster Museum to find Webster women to celebrate during Women’s History Month. It’s harder to choose just one to feature. So, while raising a glass of Webster cider to all the women of Webster who served this community in the past and those who serve today, we present our 2022 Women’s History Month honoree. 

Esther Ann Dunn was born in Webster June 23, 1901 to a family of readers and writers and Lake Road apple-growers. She lived here until her death in October 1983, leaving Webster only to attend Geneseo Normal School for teacher training, to visit friends and family who lived away and to travel to Europe and Canada. 

Esther attended Webster schools fall through spring; childhood summers were spent helping her family pick apples. After training, she taught in Webster schools for over 35 years. She participated in activities at Holy Trinity Church, the Webster Women’s Republican Club and the Grange, where she served as librarian. Esther was a founding member of the Webster Historical Society as well as a member of the 1976 committee that organized the Webster Museum. She served as Webster Historian for 12 years and as trustee of the library, using her calm but powerful “teacher voice” to oppose the move of the Webster Library to the Town Hall. She was inducted into the Webster Women’s Hall of Fame in 1978, and that same year, Webster declared September 10 “Esther Dunn Day.”  

Due to the research talents of Eileen Brookins and the rich historical resources in historian Lynn Barton’s office, a more complete list of Esther Dunn’s contributions to the Webster community is taking shape. It will eventually find its way as a biography in the museum’s research site, currently being relocated to www.webstermuseum.org.

Esther’s obituary in the Webster Herald noted that she showed “the character, stamina and dedication of the people who made this a place ‘where life is worth living.’” Webster is lucky to have so many women and men of her caliber to have done so. 

You can learn more about the notable citizens of Webster at the Webster Museum, 18 Lapham Park in the village. The museum is open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 2:00-4:30 pm. 

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5 Responses to “A visit with Esther Dunn”

  1. Dave Wyble March 2, 2022 at 6:17 pm #

    For a year or two in junior high I was obsessed with “Webster Through the Years.”

  2. Kathy. March 2, 2022 at 6:18 pm #

    She was my 7th grade English trecher

  3. Mark March 3, 2022 at 6:31 pm #

    Esther Dunn was my 7th grade English teacher at Webster Central School (Spry) from 1962-1963. I can still vividly recall the old classroom with wooden floors, a wooden closet in the corner, the wooden desks, and the wood-framed windows that overlooked the bus loop. I would gaze out the windows on those special sunny days and be transported to a happy world where kids played all their days.

  4. Deb Oakley April 14, 2022 at 7:55 pm #

    This was a wonderful “read”. I volunteer at the Webster Museum, often in our storage areas in the attic where we have placed a giant-sized photo of Esther Dunn on a very tall shelf. She surveys our vast accumulations of Webster history and I hope is pleased with the stewardship she took a key part in initiating.

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