Ella Broussard Agard

We asked our members and supporters to share the story of a woman that they admire in celebration of Women’s History Month. The following entry is written by Toni Zimmer, LWVNJ Vice President, celebrating her extraordinary grandmother.

My late Grandmother, Ella Broussard Agard, was an incredibly strong and kind woman who became a role model for me, and for many other women who knew her and loved her.  She was African-American, born in 1909 in Shreveport, Louisiana, married at 15 years old, and had two children – daughter Mary (my late mother) and son Emile.  She was widowed at an early age and moved to New York City with her children in 1938 – a brave step for a single mother who had no family up North.  Fortunately, she was an accomplished seamstress and earned a living designing and making clothing for well-to-do ladies in the City. Word got around about her skills and she was hired as a window dresser for Lerner Shops in Harlem.  She worked diligently for the company and as a result, she became the first African American female Manager of Lerner Shops Corporation.  She eventually remarried a wonderful man (Poppy) and in 1951, the year I was born, they bought a new house together in the Bronx.

My grandmother endured many personal losses throughout her life. Her beloved husband Poppy passed away in 1967, and shortly thereafter, she lost her daughter, her son, and two of her grandchildren. She endured those losses without bitterness, and remained optimistic about life, determined to go on and see the glass of life half full, despite the deep sadness she felt. My grandmother was always there for me, giving advice and encouraging me to take my dreams and make them reality through hard work and respect for others and for myself.  She passed away five years ago at the age of 96.  I wrote this simple poem for her in celebration of 92nd birthday:

Ninety-Two

and still going strong,

she lounges in bed,

her slim brown fingers

tuck strands of silver-gray

back into the bun and

as she speaks, I imagine

that seeds would sprout

if placed beneath her tongue –

sweet pea and collard

chamomile and rye

mustard and magnolia.

-Toni Zimmer

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One response to “Ella Broussard Agard

  1. Toni,

    I couldn’t resist reading your article and poem.. We met at National last year, and I hope to see you again soon. Enjoyed reading both. Marcia

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