Chatham's Juliet Bernstein Presented With Woman Of The Year Award

By: Russ Allen

Juliet Bernstein, this year's Mercy Otis Warren Woman of the Year award winner, with Caroline Smith, a fifth-grade student at Bourne Middle School and winner of the 2019 Mercy Otis Warren Freedom of Expression essay contest.  NANCY VIALL SHOEMAKER PHOTO 

The Eighteenth Mercy Otis Warren Cape Cod Woman of the Year Award was presented to Chatham’s Juliet Bernstein in ceremonies at Tales of Cape Cod/Olde Colonial Courthouse in Barnstable Village June 5. The 105-year-old activist received a bronze statuette sculpted by Cape Cod artist David Lewis, based on his full-size statue of Warren that stands in front of the Barnstable Superior Court Building. The award was presented to Bernstein by Nancy Vaill Shoemaker of West Barnstable, last year’s recipient.
Mercy Otis Warren (1728-1814) was a self-taught native of West Barnstable who during the pre-Revolutionary War period became increasingly active in the political life of her husband James Warren, publishing poems, plays, and pamphlets challenging British royal authority and urging colonial resistance. Later she would be a strong advocate for inclusion of a “Bill of Rights” in the new nation’s Constitution and emphasized the importance of woman in politics and society.
Soon after her statue was dedicated outside the courtroom in 2001, the Mercy Otis Warren Woman of the Year selection committee was formed and in 2002 named its first honoree, historian Marion Vuilleumier. Each year a statuette is presented to a Cape Cod woman who has “demonstrated leadership in the community and has made a significant contribution to the arts, education, business or community involvement while embracing the ideals of patriotism.”
Bernstein’s name was submitted for consideration by the Selection Committee by Lee Roscoe of Brewster, as were other candidates from across the Cape. After careful consideration the committee unanimously chose Bernstein for as the recipient of this year’s award, a decision which the Barnstable County Commission affirmed on May 15.
The main room of the Olde County Courthouse was near capacity when Ann Canedy, program chair and secretary of the Tales of Cape Cod Board, welcomed those attending and introduced Matt Pitta, director of communications for the Davenport Companies, who served as the master of ceremonies. After the National Anthem was sung by Marc Isaac Howard of Yarmouth Port and most of those present, Pitta introduced Caroline Smith, a fifth-grade student at Bourne Middle School and winner of the 2019 Mercy Otis Warren Freedom of Expression essay contest.
In her essay, Smith spoke of her efforts as a Girl Scout to improve the safety of the Bourne and Otis rotaries. She argued that “kids can change the world,” adding “why wait to be a grown-up when I can change the world now.” She concluded by reminding her adult audience that “education without expression” lacks value, and “expression without education is meaningless.” Following her essay Smith was presented with a plaque and book as tokens of her accomplishment.
Mary LeClair, the 2009 honoree, read an essay detailing the many facets of Mercy Otis Warren’s life. Following that Shoemaker, along with David Lewis, formally presented the 2019 recipient with her statuette. Several proclamations from the Commonwealth honoring Bernstein were also read.
Juliet Bernstein’s comments were brief. She thanked the selection committee for the award, Roscoe for the nomination, and those present for attending. She went on to relate that at one time there had been a group named after Warren who brought speakers to the Cape, including Maya Angelou. The group disbanded, but not before founding what in 1979 became Hyannis’ Independence House, which offers aid to survivors of domestic and sexual violence.
The ceremony ended with Howard singing “God Bless America” followed by refreshments and fellowship.