League of Women Voters honors 3 local media pioneers

By Brittany Erwin

Photo: Local suffragettes inspired the League of Women Voters to honor Dangerous Dames of Dayton, modern trailblazers
In a world where accusations of fake news abound, quality journalism is vital. Yet, the public can be critical of its truth-tellers, particularly if its tellers are female. Choosing instead to amplify those voices, the Dayton League of Women Voters (LWV) will honor three women in media—Cheryl McHenry, Lynn Hulsey, and Marsha Bonhart—at this year’s Dangerous Dames dinner.

The event raises funds to support LWV’s voter education programs on March 30 at the NCR Country Club.

Dangerous Dames was inspired by a library visit in 2010. Sue Hesselgesser, executive director of Dayton’s LWV, cites images of women protesting then-President Woodrow Wilson. “Here in Dayton, our ladies were busy marching down Main Street, making soap box speeches on street corners and holding rallies in Cooper Park. The media dubbed them ‘dangerous to polite society.’ We kind of liked that, and Dangerous Dames of Dayton was born,” she says. Hesselgesser notes Dayton’s history of promoting women’s empowerment: “Dayton was actually Ohio’s hotbed for the suffragists… and male leaders in the community—John Patterson, Orville and Bishop Wright, Col. Deeds, David Rike—were huge supporters of the women. I think that these guys thought that if man could fly, women should certainly be able to vote.”

Being named a Dangerous Dame requires this pursuit of excellence, despite all challenges. “The league is on the lookout throughout the year for women who are doing amazing things,” Hesselgesser summarizes. This year’s focus is on women in media. “Because of the attention drawn to women in the media during the 2016 presidential campaign, we decided to honor pioneering women of the media…they will tell their own stories and we will also discuss the idea of fake media and how journalists look for and fact-check their stories.”

The event is both celebration and education. Information sharing is, after all, the foundation of these women’s careers.

Cheryl McHenry—an anchor and reporter for WHIO-TV and a Dayton local since age 9—recalls she did not see herself as a reporter until high school, despite an early interest in news. “I started hearing more women’s voices on the radio and seeing more women on TV,” she remembers, “and thinking, maybe I could that.” She landed her first reporting position at Channel 7 in 1981, proving she could do that.

Now, McHenry is a pillar of the local news. “I’ve now anchored a local newscast longer than any other woman and longer than most men in the Dayton TV market,” she says. “I hope my everyday anchoring has informed our viewers about things important to them. I hope my special reports have gone further to educate and even enlighten them.”

McHenry has reported on topics like food deserts in the Miami Valley and PTSD among local combat veterans.

Her praise of fellow honorees Marsha Bonhart and Lynn Hulsey is effusive: “I hold both of them in the highest regard for their journalistic ethics and hard work, but—more importantly—for the quality of individuals they are. They are both great women!”

Lynn Hulsey—another Dayton native and a journalist for nearly 32 years—also credits her peers and predecessors. “I think the women who came before me are the real trailblazers. I came of age after it was far more common to see women in journalism covering all kinds of topics, and not just limited to the society page,” she says.

Her work as a political and investigative reporter for the Dayton Daily News and Cox Media Group Ohio carries on their legacy. “I think it is very important for people to be informed about their government and politicians, the important issues of the day, and to know how their tax dollars are being spent,” she says. “I feel like it is the job of journalists to help hold politicians and institutions accountable.”

For Hulsey—who has won numerous awards from such organizations as the Associated Press and the Society of Professional Journalists, and reports on topics ranging from abuse of the public employee disability pension system to big payouts for retiring government officials*—the Dangerous Dame designation is special. “The League has honored some real trailblazers over the years,” she says. “So to be looked at as someone who also has perhaps made a difference is a real honor.”

Marsha Bonhart—currently director of development for the award-winning Dayton Contemporary Dance Company—is renowned in Dayton. Her professional accolades include a News Emmy nomination for a series on “Crack Addicted Babies” and two Ohio Public Images Awards for stories promoting understanding of people with developmental disabilities. Some of her most lauded work focuses on health care and the medical field. She is also recognized as a community leader, earning such recognitions as a Spirit of Progress Award from the American Cancer Society and as the YWCA Dayton Lifetime Achievement Honoree for “empowering women, eliminating racism, and promoting peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all.”

Though Bonhart did not share any comments with Dayton City Paper, her storied career speaks volumes.

This year’s Dangerous Dames dinner honors women who are unafraid to tell the truth, who embody the league’s ideals. “The league was founded by women who stepped outside of the stereotype of what a woman should be and challenged themselves and others to do more. We hope that Dangerous Dames is an inspiration to and celebration of women,” Hesselgesser says. Celebrate with them.


Celebrate this year’s Dangerous Dames with dinner Thursday, March 30 at NCR Country Club, 4435 Dogwood Trail in Kettering. Event starts at 6 p.m. Tickets are $97; proceeds raise funds for the league’s voter education programs. For tickets or more information, please call 937.228.4041 or visit

*Editor’s note: This line was edited in the online version to clarify that Lynn Hulsey has won numerous awards from organizations like the Associated Press and Society of Professional Journalists, but not specifically for her reporting re: topics on abuse of the public employee disability pension system and big payouts for retiring government officials.

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