Meet Barb B and Martha B

By Martha B

I joined International Neighbors (IN) in 1968 after reading an article in the Ann Arbor News looking for English Conversation leaders. Two years later, while in Lamaze childbirth class, I met Barb and invited her to the Discussion Group that I had recently joined. It wasn’t long before we were both also active at Board meetings.

Back in those days, when announcements were placed in the newspaper, women were referred to by their husbands’ names (for example I would be called “Mrs. Inderpal B., and she “Mrs. Bernard B.”). We won the right to be called by our own names (Martha B., and Barb B.), which was a victory for women’s rights. In no way did we want to be “Hidden Figures,” hiding behind our husband’s names!

Barb and I have been inseparable in IN for almost 50 years. But our family histories go back much longer than that. Through genealogical research, we have learned that our families lived in the same community in New Amsterdam (on New York City’s Wall St.) in the 1620’s. So it is no wonder that sometimes people make a mistake to call me “Barb” and her “Martha”!

In International Neighbors Barb is best known for her leadership at the Fall Open House and in the Welcome Corner. As such, she is the first person that a newcomer may meet when she arrives and is often the first person that explains all that IN has to offer. One of Barb’s newest creations is the formation of a Vegetarian Cooking group. This year, the group is focusing on the cuisines of ethnicities of groups that have immigrated to Michigan.

During my terms as President from 2010 to 2013, I am probably best known for creating email groups to facilitate communication with our members. My goal was to grow our membership by (1) asking current members to invite their friends (as I had with Barb many years prior) and (2) reducing the time a newcomer would hear about us, after she arrived in Ann Arbor. Because of these efforts, we have been able to grow the size of our membership by literally hundreds, in a short time, AND to our surprise–some groups of women even find out about us before they leave their home countries!