Suzanne Montefinise, left, environmental educator at the state Parks, Recreation...

Suzanne Montefinise, left, environmental educator at the state Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation, and Janet Soley, president of Friends of Connetquot River State Park Preserve, stand by a sign honoring notable Islip women. The women's contributions will be highlighted in an exhibit at the preserve's South Side Sportsman's Club. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

For decades, women were prohibited from joining Islip's now-defunct recreational club for New York’s elite. Today, some of the town’s notable women from the past — from a bootleg buster to a wartime pianist — will be the honored guests at the club’s dining room, where their contributions will be highlighted in an exhibit.

To commemorate Women’s History Month, the Connetquot River State Park Preserve in Oakdale, home to the South Side Sportsman's Club, will host a free exhibit at noon Sunday featuring women who've had an impact on the community and nation. Among the women being highlighted are: Titanic victim Edith Corse Evans, who gave up a seat on a lifeboat to save a mother of six; Louise Machacek, who enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1918; federal agent Isabella Premm and entertainer Ruth Rossuck.

"These are women nobody ever heard of that made a real dent in the glass ceiling and really made a difference in their lives," said George Munkenbeck, the town historian who curated the exhibit.

The exhibit is organized by educators and Friends of Connetquot River State Park Preserve, the Oakdale-based nonprofit. The state park's regional education office is housed at the preserve, which coordinated a monthlong women’s history walk focused on women’s contributions to nature, manager Annie McIntyre said.

"New Yorkers consider themselves tough, but I think Islip women are the toughest and strongest," said Friends of Connetquot president Janet Soley.


At just 19 years old, Isabella Premm of Bay Shore became a federal agent who busted bootleggers on Long Island. Rumrunning was prevalent along the coast, where illegal organizations operated during prohibition.

Newspaper reports praised Premm’s bravery. In August 1923, she intercepted 650 cases of whiskey — a national record. She’d kept her employment a secret, but after the bust she proudly told her father about her career, she told reporters then.

The Newspaper Enterprise Association, a former wire service, called her "the nemesis of rum runners" in a 1923 article, where Premm criticized the government for its decision to kick women out of the prohibition unit. She recounted her fearlessness in facing down the bootleggers, many who fired shots at her.


Ruth Rossuck of Bay Shore entertained soldiers on the battlefield to boost their morale during World War I.

As part of the YMCA, Rossuck worked as an entertainer where she played a small piano alongside the soldiers. She traveled through war-torn Europe where she and others played music for allied troops. In the 1921 Islip Town World War I Journal, Rossuck wrote a firsthand account chronicling her work. While in France, she said she played to soothe 8,000 men who were digging graves to bury fallen soldiers.

"All in all, I can consider myself a very lucky girl, for when we would see the boys' face's brighten with our music, we felt a thrill and we thanked God that He had given us our blessed gift to entertain," she wrote.

Information about the exhibit is available online.

With Judy Weinberg and Caroline Curtin

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