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Women’s History Month – A Women Ahead Of Her Time

Written by: Brenda K. Johnson, Senior Level Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

Executive Contributor Brenda K. Johnson

Born as an identical twin on January 13, 1924, it was incredible for a Black American to achieve anything with all the state and federal laws blocking the roads. But Martha Johnson defied all the odds. She attended an integrated school in Springfield, Illinois, in the 1940s. Her mother, Hattie Martin, owned land and sold part of it to the city for a park with a pool that the Black kids could swim in on certain days.

Old picture of Martha and Mary

The black government girls

At twenty years old, she left Springfield, Illinois, and moved to Washington, DC, to work as one of the unknown Black Government Girls. The Black Government Girls were young women who worked helping the war effort as clerical staff in various government agencies. Since there were only 400 of them, they were dubbed the Black Government Girls. She married young to an older man and relocated to Minneapolis, Minnesota. She and my father opened a car wash using her entrepreneurial spirit. But the white people in the community burned it down.

Relocation from Washington DC to Michigan

They relocated back to Washington, DC, where I was born, and then moved to Detroit, Michigan. After overcoming the tragedy that most could not withstand, in the early 1960s, she left my abusive father and moved in with her twin sister. By that point, she had two young girls. One of them was me. Soon after, she left my father; he called her at work one day, begging her to return home, and shot himself in the head while talking to her on the phone. We found out later that he had cut up all her clothes and photos left in the home, so it was a good thing that she left him.

Using the life insurance money from his death, she had a new home built in New Haven, Michigan. I loved life in Michigan. It was very rural and beautiful. She opened a restaurant there called the Twins Café. It became the town's hit, with the foundry workers eating breakfast and lunch there. My sister and I worked in the café washing dishes and cleaning up. There, she met the love of her life, Thomas Mearidy. After their marriage in Canada, we went to the Holiday Inn in Canada every other weekend. We swam in the pool and had a great time. Now I understand why we went to Canada: because we could not swim in hotel pools in Michigan because we were Black. They were happy and in love. I felt and saw their passion for each other. He was a great stepfather, and I loved him. My sister and I were calling him Daddy.

My mother would leave our house at about 4 AM to go to the café. We had a live-in housekeeper whom we called Aunt Tommy. I remember her ironing her and my mom's uniforms for the restaurant. We had a big industrial iron, and Aunt Tommy taught us how to iron and clean. One morning, I woke up early and was startled to see an ambulance at the front door.

Just as I walked down the steps, they covered someone in the ambulance. Immediately, I hoped in my heart it wasn’t my mother. I ran down to our finished basement, which had a big baby grand piano, and Mama was sitting on the couch in tears with one of the neighbors consoling her. I knew then who had been covered up in the ambulance: the love of her life, Thomas Mearidy. She had gone to the restaurant that morning early, and he called her, saying he couldn’t breathe. She called the ambulance and sped it several miles from town. But when she arrived, it was too late; he was already dead. He had died of a massive heart attack. Working in the foundry with all that coal, dust, and smoking cigarettes had taken its toll on his life.

California to Las Vegas

Within a few years, we moved to Northern California because it was too difficult to remain in the home that we loved after such a tragic loss. After several years, we moved to Southern California and had another beautiful house in Inglewood, California, with a swimming pool. I loved my high school years at Morningside High School. My mother allowed my best friend, Tonya Taylor, to move in with us. Because she had lost her mother to cancer, and her stepmother was terrible to her. When it was time for college, my mother ensured that we all had scholarships, grants, and loans to attend college. We each attended different colleges. I attended Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, my sister Bernice attended UC Santa Barbara, and Tonya attended Fresno State University.

While in college, my mother relocated to Las Vegas, where she retired from the government, opened a personnel placement company, and then Allstate Flagging Company. Allstate Flagging had won multiple state contracts. We were the major subcontractors for several construction companies building the roads and new freeways in Las Vegas. My mother grew the company to over thirty employees and a quarter of a million dollars in revenue. I eventually worked with her as her vice president. She had a fantastic relationship with the two construction companies. She would send me to pick up checks from them every other week. One week, I would pick up a $30,000 check. And the next week, I would pick up a $50,000 check. This was in the 1980s. That was a lot of money, no matter what year it was. Her business was a success.

Unfortunately, she closed the business operations when I went to the military—opening a daycare center in her home.

The identical twins

Martha Johnson and her twin sister, Mary Tinsley, traveled the world. They also enjoyed cruise ship vacations. Later, driving a truck pulling a trailer, they went on vacations fishing all over the West Coast well into their eighties. A black woman in America born in the 1920s taking baths in a big silver tub in the kitchen went on to have a successful life. And she left behind an indelible impression on my life. I followed in her footsteps as a businesswoman.

Mary Martin: Black Government-Girl from Hillsboro by Beverly Harris-Schenz | BookBaby Bookshop


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Brenda K. Johnson Brainz Magazine

Brenda K. Johnson, Senior Level Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

BRENDA K. JOHNSON is a multi-focused retired U.S. Army Officer and businesswoman who has lived and worked internationally in both beautiful and dangerous locations. Brenda grew up in a single-parent home with a business-owning mother. She has volunteered with many veterans and prison reform organizations and currently is a board member for Keystone College in Pennsylvania. Coaching basketball for girls led to establishing a women’s basketball team for a College in Doha, Qatar. Brenda is a writer and motivational speaker.

Brenda K. Johnson is using her years of experience as a military training officer and business owner to write and share her professional heartfelt experiences as a co-author in Intuitive Living. Her chapter entitled “S + S = Success” elevates women leaders, providing them with the tools to achieve their ambitions. As the founder of the Powerful Women Business Academy, Brenda coaches and mentors women empowering women to live their business dreams and contribute to the world by assisting others.

Jump on your free 20-minute Business Dream Breakthrough Session call today.



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