Plainville speaker profiles Conn. Women's Hall of Fame inductees

Published on Wednesday, 21 March 2018 18:20


PLAINVILLE - Lena Pacheco of the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame shared stories Tuesday of women whose powerful voices helped to change democracy.

The program at the Plainville Historic Center, attended by a handful of residents, focused on the achievements of 20 inductees. Pacheco said the online hall of fame presents regular programs at libraries, historic societies, schools and other venues.

This year marks the hall’s 25th anniversary.

Rosemary Morante of the Plainville Historic Center, who also is a town councilor, welcomed Pacheco.

“It is our March tradition to hold programs in celebration of Women’s History Month,” said Morante. “Last year we had a presenter from the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame who highlighted inductees in each category. Today’s program will focus on women who have made significant contributions in the areas of politics, government and law.”

Pacheco said the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame has “spent the past two decades dispelling cultural myths and misguided notions about what women can achieve.” She said the organization is dedicated to educating the public and inspiring the continued achievements of women and girls.

“We will be focusing on women who changed our nation in profound ways,” said Pacheco. “They all used their powerful voices to affect real change in society.”

The first woman discussed, Marian Anderson, was the first black woman to sing at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. A clip of her famous performance at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington was shown.

Pacheco said Anderson was an inspiration to future civil rights leaders, including a 10-year-old Martin Luther King Jr., who listened to the performance on the radio.

The presentation also mentioned several founders of the women’s suffrage movement, including as Isabella Beecher Hooker, who founded the Connecticut Women’s Suffrage Association in 1869. She served as director of the organization for 36 years.

Another woman discussed was Alice Paul, who formed the National Women’s Party in 1917.

“She held multiple protests in front of the White House,” said Pacheco. “It was seen as unpatriotic to protest during the war and she was arrested seven times and jailed three times. She was also force-fed when she went on hunger strike. When word of her harsh treatment got around, public opinion changed to the side of the suffragists.”

Pacheco said that although women got the right to vote in 1920, only 19.4 percent of current members of Congress are women. “We still have a long way to go before we reach equality,” Pacheco said.

Among those political figures mentioned was Clare Boothe Luce, the first female U.S. representative from Connecticut. Pacheo then discussed former Hartford Mayor Antonina Ucello, who led the city through the Civil Rights Era; Denise Nappier, the state’s first female treasurer and first black female treasurer in the country; and Ella Grasso, the state’s first female governor.

Influential women in law mentioned were Mary Hall, the first female lawyer in Connecticut; Constance Baker Motley, the first black federal court judge, who ruled on Brown v. Board of Education, which struck down school segregation; and Catherine Roraback, who helped found the Connecticut Civil Liberties Union and ruled on Griswold v. Connecticut, which overturned the ban on birth control.

Advocates discussed included Helen Keller, who was born with sight and hearing but lost both.

She later learned to read Braille and became a lifelong advocate for people with disabilities.

Another female advocate mentioned was gay rights champion Anne Stanback, who fought to get same-sex marriage legalized in Connecticut in 2009.

Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or

Posted in New Britain Herald, , Plainville on Wednesday, 21 March 2018 18:20. Updated: Wednesday, 21 March 2018 18:22.