Janet Ferguson was not afraid to explore the world.
By Michelle E. Shaw
Janet Ferguson enjoyed a good adventure. From bicycling across Europe in the 1930s with a girlfriend, to taking a trip to France in her 90s, she looked forward to things she deemed exciting.
“She was not afraid to explore and she thought of herself as that intrepid explorer in life,” said her daughter, Anne Boyte. “She was not afraid of door No. 3.”
Janet McCormick Chatten Boyte Ferguson, of Decatur, died Oct. 1 at Hospice Atlanta after a brief period of declining health. She was 97.
A memorial service is planned for 11 a.m. Oct. 27, at the Atlanta Friends Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends in Decatur. Wages & Son, Stone Mountain Chapel, was in charge of the cremation.
When she was a young girl, growing up in Winnetka, Ill., Janet Chatten wrote plays for the neighborhood kids. She, of course, had the lead role, even though that character was often male.
“She had a very early sense of women being able to do anything, and that was given to her by her mother and grandmother,” said Ms. Boyte, who lives in Decatur. “So she was that pirate, or swashbuckler, or whatever.”
So when she, a college graduate who also had a master’s degree in journalism, landed a job as a news writer for a Chicago Sun radio program in the ‘40s, she was a bit perturbed that her copy was read by a male broadcaster. Getting the job was a feat, Ms. Boyte said, but her mother was rarely satisfied with the first step.
“If she’d written it, she wanted to know why she couldn’t read it,” her daughter said. “She always wanted the next step.”
Even after she married Harry George Boyte in 1944, and he later took a job with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference as a field secretary, Mrs. Ferguson wanted groups and organizations she was involved with to take the next step, said her son, Harry Boyte.
“She had a role in campaigns to desegregate the Atlanta public libraries and the League of Women Voters,” said Mr. Boyte, who lives in St. Paul, Minn.
The elder Harry Boyte died in 1977, the year of the couple’s 33rd wedding anniversary. Mrs. Ferguson married Dwight Ferguson in 1983, and the two had been married eight years when he died in 1991.
Mrs. Ferguson had a desire for people to be informed, so she wrote letters and essays, and for newspapers and newsletters whenever she had the opportunity. Some of her writings are even in the Civil Rights archives at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
“Words came naturally to her,” Ms. Boyte said of her mother. “Until about a month ago, I could call her and say, ‘Do you remember that quote from Emily Dickinson that was about whatever,’ and she could call it right up in her mind.”
But over the last few months, she spoke fondly of the next phase of her life, her daughter said.
“She would say to me, ‘I’m ready for my next adventure,’” she said. “She’d say, ‘I want to see what’s behind that last door.’”
In addition to her children, Mrs. Ferguson is survived by three stepdaughters, Joanne Clements of New Castle, Colo., Audrey Doehne of Woodland, Calif., and Carol Turner of Portland, Ore.; four grandchildren and one great-grandson.
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