Josephine Darling Ford

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Welcome to the fourth installment of our blog series celebrating Women’s History Month. In this blog you can learn more about Josephine Darling Ford. 

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The 1960s and early 1970s were a difficult time in Harbor Springs despite its distinction as a summer resort town. In the mid-1970s the charming yet sleepy town was reborn, and Josephine Darling Ford helped foster that rebirth.

Born in Harbor Springs in 1911 to Willard S. and Bertha (Stutsman) Darling, Josephine Darling Ford loved her home town and the people in it. She showed that love through service to the community on the school board for eight years, city council for four, and a term as mayor in 1975-76. During her tenure as mayor, the City of Harbor Springs was recognized as an “All American City” by the National Municipal League. Harbor Springs was one of ten cities and the smallest among the honorees. 

“I feel Harbor Springs has a lot to look forward to,” Ford was quoted in a 1976 interview about the award. “We aren’t stopping, we want to continue to make this a better place to live.” Cited in the city’s application for the designation were revitalization of the downtown business district, creation of the Kiwanis Sports Park, community school programs and a new senior center. Also listed were projects Ford championed including the creation of a public boat launch. Today that boat launch bears her name.

Following her unexpected death in 1977, city manager Robert S. Anderson, Jr. delivered Ford’s eulogy: “Josephine Ford was in a very real sense a mother to all of Harbor Springs. Sitting in the window of Rosenthal’s watching Main Street as a mother watches her children at play, seeking a chance to solve citizens’ problems as a mother waits to bandage a scraped knee, Jo tackled her community responsibilities as a mother guards her brood.”

This short feature is a part of the fourth volume of the Essence of Emmet magazine. A digital version of this magazine can be found here and hardcopies are available throughout Emmet County. 

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Beth joined the Harbor Springs Area Historical Society's staff in November of 2013. Prior to this she received her undergraduate degree in Anthropology and Psychology from Albion College and obtained her Master's degree in Historical Administration from Eastern Illinois University.

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