From Hattie McDaniel to Madeleine Albright: great CO women, past and present
Pride enveloped me as I entered into the hall where the 25th anniversary of the Colorado Women's Hall of Fame was about to take place. All along the way, girl scouts from Troop 417 greeted us with excitement and awe. The energy was electric as some of the most influential women in the state gathered to honor one another.
Past inductees, current Colorado Women's Hall of Fame (CWHF) board members and volunteers, as well as the general publi,c came to pay their respects and recognize this year's recipients. A maximum of 10 women are honored every two years. And this recognition is shared between those who are with us today as well as those who have passed on. The CWHF is dedicated to recognizing and preserving the history of the accomplishments of past and present Colorado women, so both historical and contemporary recipients are inducted.
To date, 122 women with diverse backgrounds have been honored, from pioneers to politicians, educators to entrepreneurs.
"We try try to pick a good mix of careers and try to portray the heritage of CO," said Lindy Conter, Chair of Selection Committee. "It's been one of the most positive experiences of my life. But it was tough for our Selection Committee to narrow 60 nominations down to 10; it took six weeks of soul-searching."
The CWHF inducts women who have lived in or had significant ties to Colorado. These women have:
o Made significant and enduring contributions to their fields of endeavor
o Elevated the status of women
o Helped open new frontiers for women and for society
o Inspired others by their example
So, it is no surprise that this year's recipients encompass all of those qualities. The Contemporary Inductees are:
o Madeleine Albright - Diplomat, First female U.S. Secretary of State
o Elinor Greenberg, EdD - Educator, Social/Political Activist
o Maria Guajardo, PhD - Educator
o Philippa Marrack, PhD - Medical Researcher
o Ramona Martinez - Politician
o Jill Tietjen - Engineer, Author, Community Activist
And the Historical Inductees are:
o Hattie McDaniel - Actress, 1st African-American woman Academy Award winner
o Susan O'Brien - Journalist
o Bartley Marie Scott - Rancher (Ouray County)
o Alice Bemis Taylor - Philanthropist (Colorado Springs)
Past and current inductees undergo a range of emotions when being honored by the CWHF.
"The experience is rather humbling," says Stephanie Allen, a business and civic leader inducted in 2006 inductee. "It's odd to get recognized for things you did without trying and then a huge fuss is made over you. It's actually rather awesome to think of ourselves in the same category as some of those recognized in the past or those who are being honored tonight."
Later that evening, she accepted the award for Madeline Albright, former Secretary of State and childhood friend, who was not able to attend.
The CWHF started as result of a school assignment to write about an inspirational female leader; however, the reference materials in the library were scarce. Once M.L. Hanson, then the state President for the Colorado BPW (Business & Professional Women's Society), realized the situation, she decided to leverage her role to "discover and honor our state's heroines (both historical and contemporary) who have shared foresight, vision, and the power of accomplishment but have lacked a forum for recognition."
Twenty five years later, CWHF continues to ensure that these women of consequences are appreciated and their splendid achievements are not be forgotten.
My biggest takeaway for the evening was that all these women were doing something they had a personal passion for. They were neither looking to be recognized nor trying to be inspirational; but as a result of their efforts, they had become so. And, although secretly thrilled to have made a difference, many actually were uncomfortable in that role or with all the public attention.
The CWHF's mission is to inspire, by celebrating, and sharing the lifetime contributions of Colorado's extraordinary women. Two of its goals are to educate society about the contributions of Colorado's remarkable women and to ensure their legacy for future generations. As I left the great hall, I felt the CWHF's mission had been accomplished.
For more information on the CO Women's Hall of Fame and/or the biographies of past/current inductees, please check out www.cogreatwomen.org.