Local women who changed the world
Women fuel Fairfield’s progress.
They run businesses and homes (often both at the same time), and serve on committees, commissions, and boards throughout our community. They also engage in issues beyond their backyards. At the Women’s March on Washington held in late January, hundreds of local women journeyed to D.C. to stand up for issues they believe in and to stand together with more than a million others from across the country.
Activist and artist, politician and photographer, many women with Connecticut roots have left their mark on the world. Some emerged as cultural icons, others as everyday people walking their talk. They advanced society, achieved unprecedented success, and shattered stereotypes.
On March 21, Kathryn Gloor, executive director of the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame, will present “Pushing Past ‘No’: Overcoming Obstacles on the Path to Success,” at the Wilton Library Brubeck Room. The talk celebrates the extraordinary accomplishments of some of these women. Q&A follows.
Ladies, the next time you vote, thank Alice Paul. Her dedication to women’s rights helped put that ballot in your hand. Founder of the National Women’s Party, Paul dedicated her life to achieving equality for women. During WWI, she picketed the White House, protesting a government that denied half its citizens the right to vote and was incarcerated. While in jail, Paul went on a hunger strike and was force-fed by prison officials, garnering sympathetic press coverage that pressured the White House to eventually enact the Nineteenth Amendment. She then helped draft the Equal Rights Amendment, which she valiantly championed until her death.
Closer to home, Jacquelyn C. Durrell earned a place in the history books when she was elected in 1983 as first female first selectman. Other formidable Fairfielders include State Representatives Brenda Kupchick, Cristin McCarthy-Vahey, and Laura Devlin. March is National Women’s History Month.
Barbara Hackman Franklin
Barbara Hackman Franklin knows people in high places. Under the direction of President Nixon—one of five presidential administrations in which she served—Franklin led the first White House initiative to double the number of women holding high-level government positions. She tripled that number, and helped advance over 1,000 women in mid-level jobs. Franklin later became the first vice president of the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission, focusing primarily on children. She returned to public service as the 29th U.S. Secretary of Commerce under President George H.W. Bush, and served on the board of directors for 14 public companies
Margaret Bourke-White believed it was an artist’s duty to change the world. Her talent, moxie, and pioneering use of the photographic essay altered the face of journalism. The first photographer for Fortune, Bourke-White documented the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, and Soviet industry. When Life launched, she became its sole female photographer, traveling to Russia when WWII erupted. As the bombs fell, Bourke-White spent 22 nights risking her life to capture the air raids. She then traveled with General George Patton, documenting the collapse of Germany and the atrocities of Buchenwald. Her haunting images shocked the world, capturing the human face of war, poverty, and injustice.
Annie Leibovitz - Internationally renowned photographer of presidents, queens, rock stars, and everyday folk, Leibovitz’s iconic portraits are legendary.
Catherine Roraback - Roraback challenged Connecticut’s archaic anti-birth control laws and won in the U.S. Supreme Court.
Harriet Beecher Stowe - Lifelong anti-slavery campaigner, Stowe authored Uncle Tom’s Cabin, one of the most important novels in American history.
Prudence Crandall - Crandall’s courageous commitment to the education of African-American girls continued to impact school desegregation over a century later.
Helen Frankenthaler - Revolutionary abstract painter, Frankenthaler is heralded as having the most successful career of any female artist. Ever.
Helen Keller - Smart and tenacious, Keller overcame extraordinary challenges and emerged as one of the world’s most respected civil-liberties champions.
These portraits are courtesy of the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame, an organization that is dedicated to honoring the achievements of Connecticut women. cwhf.org