2014 Honorees >> Women of Character, Courage and Commitment >> NWHP

National Women’s History Project

2014 Honorees

(In Chronological Order)


Women of Character, Courage
and Commitment

Chipeta (1843 – 1924)
Indian Rights Advocate and Diplomat
Chipeta was a wise and contrary advisor to her husband, a Ute Indian leader. Born into the Kiowa Apache tribe in the 1840s, Chipeta was raised by the Uncompahgre Ute tribe in what is now western Colorado. In her teens she wedded Ouray, who became a powerful Ute chief during the often violent and brutal times of western settlement.  Chipeta was a peacemaker who did not consider all settlers to be the enemy, often giving food to starving white families. Chipeta lived 45 years on a reservation in Utah, lauded as a wise elder and advisor to other Indian chiefs and an honored guest in the homes of settler families.


Anna Julia Haywood Cooper (1858 – 1964)
African American Educator and Author 
Anna J. Cooper was an author, educator, speaker, and among the leading intellectuals of her time. Born into enslavement, she wrote “A Voice from the South,” widely considered one of the first articulations of Black feminism. Throughout her long life, Anna worked for the betterment of African American women’s lives, which she saw as the foundation for a more just society for everyone. Cooper worked at Washington D.C.’s M Street — now Dunham High School for nearly 40 years, focusing the all black high school on preparing students for higher education, successfully sending many students to prestigious universities.



Agatha Tiegel Hanson (1873 – 1959)
Educator, Author, and Advocate for Deaf Community
Agatha Tiegel Hanson was a teacher, poet, and advocate for the deaf community. Unable to hear and blind in one eye from a childhood illness, she never allowed her disabilities to hold her back. She came of age at a time when most deaf people were denied access to education, and deaf women especially had few educational options.  She was admitted to Gallaudet University, which is still the only college in America dedicated to the education of deaf and hard of hearing students.  Graduating first in her class, her valedictorian speech argued for the recognition of the intellect of women, a cause she advocated throughout her life.


Katharine Ryan Gibbs (1863 – 1934)
Women’s Employment Pioneer
Katharine Ryan Gibbs founded Katharine Gibbs School in 1911 to provide women with high-level secretarial training and the opportunity to earn their own incomes.  Gibbs was a mother and housewife for much of her life, until she was widowed at 48 and left with no means to support herself or her two sons.  Teaming up with her sister, Mary Ryan, they purchased a failing Providence, Rhode Island secretarial school in 1911.  Her school quickly expanded, opening branches near many ivy-league universities. At a time when educated women were generally expected to become teachers or nurses, Katharine Gibbs School offered women an exceptional secretarial education and new opportunities, which made skilled office work a realistic career for women.


Frances Oldham Kelsey (1914 – Present)
Pharmacologist and 
Public Health Activist  
Frances Oldham Kelsey as the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) pharmacologist refused to approve thalidomide, a drug that was later proved to cause severe birth defects.  Kelsey required scientific rigor for all her clinical trials as well as ongoing oversight of drug testing at the FDA.   In addition, her research led Congress to pass the 1938 Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act greatly strengthening drug regulations by the FDA.  Dr. Kelsey continued her work at the FDA until her retirement in 2005 at age 91. In 2010 the FDA established the Frances Kelsey Award, an annual award given to a staff member for their commitment to scientific rigor


Roxcy O’Neal Bolton (1926 – Present)  
20th Century Women’s Rights Pioneer
Roxcy O’Neal Bolton is a lifelong advocate for women’s rights. She is the founder of Florida’s first battered women’s shelter and the nation’s first hospital-based Rape Treatment Center.  Her  extensive work also includes convincing National Airlines to offer maternity leave to (instead of firing) pregnant flight attendants; lobbying for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA); and persuading the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to name hurricanes after both women and men.  Bolton led the effort to create the Women’s Park in Miami, which opened in 1992 as the first outdoor space in the nation– honoring past and present women leaders.


Arden Eversmeyer (1931 – Present)
The Old Lesbian Oral Herstory Project Founder
Arden Eversmeyer founded the Old Lesbian Oral Herstory Project (1999), to ensure that the stories of lesbians born in the first part of the 20th century, who were labeled “mentally ill”, fired from their jobs, rejected by their families, and even raped and murdered with impunity, are recorded in history.  Project volunteers have documented over 320 diverse life stories recording the sacrifices and obstacles faced by lesbians of that era. The collection is now archived, and continues to grow, as part of the prestigious Sophia Smith Collection at Smith College.  Today Eversmeyer is proud to live in a time when she can be her true self with acquaintances, friends, family, medical professionals, and everyone


Carmen Delgado Votaw (1935 – Present)
International Women’s Rights Activist 
Carmen Delgado Votaw is a leading advocate for women’s rights both nationally and internationally. She served on the International Women’s Year Commission, collaborated with all United Nations Conferences on Women, and significantly influenced the advancement of women in Latin America.  Born and raised in Puerto Rico and inspired to fight for social justice by Martin Luther King Jr. and the 1963 March on Washington, she has worked for over 50 years for the betterment of women, children, Latinos, and other minorities throughout the world.  In 1996, she wrote “Puerto Rican Women,” a bilingual women’s history book. She received the Veteran Feminists of America Medal of Honor in 1999.


Ann Lewis (1937- Present)
Women’s Rights Organizer and Women’s History Advocate
Ann Lewis is a leader of progressive political reform focusing on the importance of personal engagement, social justice and women’s rights. She served as a White House Communications Director, is a national commentator on public policy, and champions the recognition of women’s history. Ann Frank Lewis grew up in a Jewish family who witnessed the Holocaust and its aftermath. Growing up with the name Ann Frank, she says “my parents, who talked often about current events, taught me how fortunate we were to live in a democracy, where we could choose our leaders. I would never take our political rights for granted.”


Jaida Im (1961- Present)
Advocate for Survivors of Human Trafficking
Jaida Im founded Freedom House, the first residential shelter for adult female survivors of human trafficking, in Northern California in 2010.  Im left her 20-year career as a health care professional to found the non-profit organization.  Under her direction, the program offers holistic case management, counseling, educational resources, and job training for victims of abduction and enslavement. In fall 2013, Freedom House opened The Nest to serve girls ages 12-17.  This new shelter provides a space to help girls to recapture their interrupted youth in a loving family setting.


Tammy Duckworth (1968 – Present)
Member of Congress and Iraq War Veteran
Tammy Duckworth, U.S. Representative from Illinois, is an Iraq War veteran and former Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs.  In 2014, she became the first disabled woman elected to serve in the House of Representatives.  Duckworth has a strong record advocating and implementing improvements to veteran’s services. In 2004, she was deployed to Iraq as a Blackhawk helicopter pilot.  She was one of the first Army women to fly combat missions during Operation Iraqi Freedom until her helicopter was hit by an RPG on November 12 2004. She lost her legs and partial use of her right arm in the explosion and was subsequently awarded a Purple Heart for her combat injuries.


Lisa Taylor (1974 – Present)
Civil Rights Attorney
Lisa Taylor is a leading civil rights trial attorney who has worked for over twelve years to ensure that civil rights laws are enforced around the country. While working with the Department of Justice, Taylor focuses primarily on educational and disability law and shows an unwavering commitment to ending discrimination and promoting equality and justice. Lisa was in Naval ROTC as a student and served as an officer aboard the USS Tarawa, where she developed the ship’s first program to address sexual harassment.  Taylor became a lawyer out of a strong desire to serve those who could not serve themselves.


2014 National Women’s History Month Nominees

The women who were nominated to be 2014 National Women’s History Month Honorees represent the wide-range of women’s accomplishments and achievements.  Each is a woman of courage commitment and character.  Included in this year’s nominees are educators, institution builders, business, labor, political and community leaders, relief workers and CEOs.  Many were pioneers in a variety of fields and all earned placement in numerous categories and endeavors.

Making Women’s Lives Visible 

  • Anne Montague  (1939 – Present)
    Director of non-profit Thanks! Plain and Simple, which creates projects focused on finding and honoring Rosie the Riveters
  • Edna Buckman Kearns  (1882 – 1934)  
    Imaginative suffragist who drove a horse-drawn wagon called the “Spirit of 1776” through Manhattan’s city traffic in 1913 to promote Votes for Women
  • Lynn Marie Madison Jackson  ( 1952 – Present) 
    Dred Scott Heritage Foundation Founder  developed St. Louis school penny drives for a statue honoring the historic anti-slavery litigants Dred and Harriet Scott.

Builders of Communities and Institutions

  • Kikako Nakauchi  (1931 – Present) 
    Role model for young students emphasizing the importance of giving back to their own communities
  • Victoria Wilder Crews (1946 – Present)
    Life-long anti-drug and alcohol advocate who founded City of Refuge Point of Impact (CORPOI)
  • Maria “Cuca” Robledo Montecel, Ph.D.  (1953 – Present)
    A strong and determined advocate for quality educational opportunities for all children and their families.
  • Frankie Sue Del Papa (1949 – Present)
    Champion for women’s rights who also advocates for domestic violence prevention and consumer fraud protection  and supports the arts, education, and the environment


  • Ann Marie Delgado, M.Ed., J.D.  (1972 – Present)
    Influential educator and role model at Buhach Colony High School in Atwater, CA, who developed a women’s studies curriculum for high school students
  • Grace E. Harris  (1933 – Present)
    Visionary leader of the Grace E. Harris Leadership Institute at Virginia Commonwealth University promoting  the development of current and emerging leaders. .
  • Nathalie C. Lilavois, Ed.D.  (1965 – Present)
    Educator who helped lay the foundation for rebranding the Malik Melodies Sisterhood, Inc, dedicated to fostering cultural enrichment and civic and social responsibility.
  • Ri’Cha ri Sancho  (1975 – Present)
    Educator, performer, and mentor who advocates for African, Native American, and Latina cultural awareness
  • Linda Pollack Shevitz  (1943 – Present)
    Maryland education leader who co-founded the National Association of Multicultural Educators and the Maryland Women’s Heritage Center
  • Virginia Estelle Randolph  (1874 – 1958)
    Educator and industrial teacher who championed upgrading vocational training in African American schools throughout the country

Mothers and Mentors 

  • Triana LaDane Kuniken  (1982 – Present)
    Dedicated community and church member, mother, and mentor who works to guide the values of children
  • Minnie Evelyn Greensmith O’Donnell  (1922 – Present)
    Drove an ambulance during the blitzkrieg in London, married a USAF  American, then travelled the world with her family for 27 years
  • Emma Gomez  (1934 – Present)
    Respected teacher and mother who works to improve the quality of life of families and working people
  • Katarina Ferencovic Horvat Mrezar  (1894 – 1988)
    Mother, landlord, saloon proprietor, and first woman licensed as a barber in Indiana

Volunteers/ Aid Workers/Diplomats 

  • Anna Arredondo Chapman  (1946 – Present)
    Highest rated Hispanic civilian woman before retiring in 2004 after working for over 32 years from Laughlin Air Force Base in Texas
  • Eleanor I. Robbins  (1942 – Present)
    Leads efforts to mentor Native American children to become scientists and to save our environment
  • Myrtle Gansu  (1872 – 1958)
    Became the longest serving elected official in Long Beach, California (from 1919 to 1951)
  • Katy Todd  (1987 – Present)
    Peace Corps volunteer who taught women in the Togo how to run a community savings program

Women Pioneers / Trail Blazers 

  • Anna R. Samick (1937-2003) 
    First woman to serve as a business and education representative in the Aerospace Workers Union (IAMAW)
  • Dorothy Arzner  (1897 – 1979)
    Directed the first “talkie” for Paramount, developed the first boom microphone, was the first woman in the DGA (Director’s Guild of America)
  • Elizabeth Anderson Hishon  (1944 – 1999)
    Trail-blazing attorney whose Supreme Court case forced legal firms to include women as partners
  • Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler [Hedy Lamarr]  (1913 – 2000)
    Movie star and inventor who developed a key technique necessary for wireless communication
  • Mary Whitfield Ramerman  (1955 – Present)
    Developed better health care in Haiti, converted to Catholicism and became a self-ordained priest and established her own parish Spiritus Christi Church in Rochester, NY
  • Maud Powell   (1867 – 1920)
    Pioneered the violin recital in North America, gave the American premiere of major concertos by Tchaikovsky
  • Small Business Owners/ CEO/Founders 
    Andrea McDowell John Baptiste  (1972 – Present)
    CEO of Axum Management Capabilities, whose character and leadership is demonstrated in her successful company and in her innovative fundraising efforts for her community.
  • Nicole Levine  (1967 – Present)
    A single mother who used the most basic grass-roots efforts to become the undisputed gold standard for cleaning and extermination business in the NY Metro Area.
  • Deborah Brenner   (1966 – Present)
    Organized Women of the Vine to bring sustainable grape growers and winemakers into a marketing collaboration under one brand

Government Workers

  • Donna Zickefoose  (1965 – Present) 
    Ascended through the ranks of law enforcement, during times when females remained a minority in the field, to become Warden of the largest federal prison in the United States
  • Janet E. Petro  (1959 – Present)
    Deputy Director at NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center (KSC) Florida helped the Center begin to transition to the nation’s premier multiuser spaceport.
  • Frankie Sue Del Papa  (1949 – Present) 
    Political role model who is the longest serving public servant in Nevada
  • Houra Rais  (1962 – Present)
    Senior engineer at the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dahlgren Division works to solve  some of the most difficult technical challenges facing today’s war fighters
  • Kimberly Stomach  (1968 – Present) 
    At the Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division in Keyport manages an annual maintenance budget of over 4 million dollars.

Women Religious   

  • Verna Fowler
    Founding President of the College of the Menominee Nation in Wisconsin
  • Mother Frances Warde  (1810-1884)
    Founded the Sisters of Mercy in America to improve the lives of the poor, uneducated, and others marginalized by society
  • Angela Duke Hicks
    Served as a missionary in India and Belize, then worked with women and children in Africa suffering from AIDS
  • Marilyn Lacey (1948- Present)
    Founded Mercy Beyond Borders in 2008 to work with displaced women and children overseas in ways that help them move up from extreme poverty


4 Amazing Black Women They Don’t Tell You About in School l AlterNet

4 Amazing Black Women They Don’t Tell You About in School

It’s doubtful that the names Elizabeth “Mum Bett” Freeman, Callie House, Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin or Johnnie Tillmon even draw a glint of recognition but they should.
March 17, 2013 |

As with Black History Month, the focus on already well-known figures has been an ongoing criticism of Woman’s History Month. When it comes to black women, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Ida B. Wells and Rosa Parks are on repeat. What makes these much-needed theme months thrive, however, is the spirit of discovery. It’s doubtful that the names Elizabeth “Mum Bett” Freeman, Callie House, Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin or Johnnie Tillmon even draw a glint of recognition but they should. In their own ways, each of these women made important contributions to the ongoing struggle for freedom and justice.

Even as a slave, Elizabeth Freeman, known as Mum Bett most of her life, had the audacity to sue for her freedom. Born into slavery in Claverack, New York around 1742, Freeman, at a reported six months old, was sold, along with her sister, to John Ashley of Sheffield, Massachusetts, a judge in the Massachusetts Court of Common Pleas. Enslaved to Ashley until she was almost 40, Freeman was spurred to action when the mistress of the house Hannah Ashley tried to hit her sister with a heated kitchen shovel. Freeman intervened and was hit instead, leaving the house, vowing to never come back.

Aware of the 1780 Massachusetts state constitution and its declaration of all men being free and equal from Sheffield’s many conversations, Freeman sought the services of Theodore Sedgwick, an attorney with anti-slavery sentiments. In 1781, a Massachusetts court awarded Freeman and another of Ashley’s slaves named Brom their freedom in Brom and Bett v. J. Ashley, Esq., even requiring Ashley to pay damages.

This set a major civil rights precedent. W.E.B. DuBois even claimed Freeman, who adopted the name after her legal victory, as his maternal great-grandmother – even though this connection was by marriage – as she was such an important figure to him. Freeman passed away in 1829.

Born into privilege in Boston in 1842, Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin used her education and background to uplift black women. Married at age sixteen to George Lewis Ruffin (who would later become Harvard Law School’s first black male graduate, the first African-American elected to the Massachusetts state legislature and to the Boston City Council, and the first African-American municipal judge in Boston), Ruffin, a suffragist, helped Julia Ward Howe and Lucy Stone form the American Woman Suffrage Association in Boston in 1869. After her husband’s death in 1884, Ruffin, also a journalist and early member of the New England Women’s Press Association, became even more active, launching Women’s Era, believed to be the nation’s first newspaper published by and for black women, serving as editor and publisher from 1890 to 1897.

With her daughter, Florida Ruffin Ridley, and Boston principal, Maria Baldwin, she launched the New Era Club for black women in either 1893 or 1894 depending on the source. In 1895, Ruffin helped organize the National Federation of Afro-American Women, convening its first national conference in Boston attended by 100 women representing 20 clubs in 10 states. A year later, in 1896, the organization merged with the Colored Women’s League to form the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs.

Although a member of several white women’s clubs, Ruffin advocated for black women as a suffragist. She rejected recognition as a delegate at a major conference in 1900, for example, because organizers only sought to confer the role due to her membership in several prominent white women’s clubs. Instead, Ruffin chose to stand up for the validity of black women’s clubs like her own New Era.

Active in other areas, Ruffin was also a founding member of the Boston branch of the NAACP. She passed away in 1924 at age 81.

Callie House, born Callie Guy in slaveholding Rutherford County, Tennessee in 1861, is still relatively unknown, despite the book about her lifeMy Face Is Black Is True: Callie House and the Struggle for Ex-Slave Reparations by Mary Frances Berry. But House, a laundress operating out of Nashville in the 1890s, is an important figure in the reparations movement.

In 1894, House, along with Isaiah Dickerson, who had worked with white political activist William Vaughn around reparations in Omaha, Nebraska, organized the National Ex-Slave Mutual Relief, Bounty, and Pension Association. Open to all, the Ex-Slave Pension Association, working nationally and locally, filled the void of the Freedmen’s Bureau, providing burial services as well as care for the sick and disabled to its membership in addition to advocating for legislation for ex-slave pensions.

Because of her success, House became a target. In 1899, the U.S. Post Office, emboldened by theComstock Act of 1873, issued a fraud order against House and the Ex-Slave Pension Association. Continued federal intimidation forced House to step down as assistant secretary of the Ex-Slave Pension Association in 1902 but did not stop her from organizing more local chapters throughout the South. The wind left her sail, however, when Alabama Congressman Edmund Petus’s reparations legislation failed in 1903.

Pressing on, however, House worked with attorney Cornelius Jones and sued the Treasury Department for just over $68 million in cotton taxes tied to slave labor in Texas, but the case they filed in 1915 was ultimately dismissed. In 1916, House and other Ex-Slave Pension Association officers were indicted for allegedly using the postal service to defraud ex-slaves by promising that pensions and reparations were forthcoming. Convicted by an all-white, all-male jury, House was sentenced to a year and one day which she served in a Missouri penitentiary from November 1917 to August 1918, obtaining an early release for good behavior. Returning to Nashville as a laundress, House died ten years later, but her pioneering and early contributions to the reparations movement should not be forgotten.

Born the daughter of an Arkansas sharecropper in 1926, Johnnie Tillmon never let lack stop her. Leaving her first husband in Arkansas for California, with her children in tow, Tillmon, who did not have a high school education, found herself on welfare where she learned first-hand of indignities — such as welfare inspectors rummaging through refrigerators and showing up at midnight to catch male company — that women suffered. Through anonymous letters, Tillmon organized more than 300 of her Watts housing project neighbors in protest in 1963, leading to the formation of the Aid to Needy Children-Mothers Anonymous shortly thereafter, which later inspired the creation of the National Welfare Rights Organization—an organization that one-time boasted over 25,000 members, mostly black women. Tillmon Blackston served as Executive Director starting in 1972 until the organization’s demise in 1974.

Tillmon injected the particular rights and concerns of poor black women into the national feminist and civil rights dialogue. In the pivotal essay “Welfare is a Women’s Issue,” published in Ms. magazine in 1972, Tillmon argued that because 99 percent of families on Aid to Families with Dependent Children were headed by women, welfare was indeed a women’s issue. In addition, she brought attention to issues of birth control and the sterilization of poor black women, as well as the economic exploitation of poorly educated women. She even called then-California Governor Ronald Reagan out for referring to welfare recipients as “lazy parasites.”

In a time when it was posh to bash the so-called black welfare queen, Tillmon, who passed away in 1995 at age 69, pushed back, dedicating her life in various capacities to bringing much-needed awareness to the struggles of poor black women.

Tillmon’s contributions, as well as those of Elizabeth Freeman, Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin and Callie House, may be unsung today — but there is no denying that each of these women played more than their part in uplifting their race and their gender, as well as in elevating the moral standard by which all human beings cooperating in a humane society should be measured.