NEW BRITAIN – Black women who fought for equality and helped pave the way were remembered Saturday at New Britain Public Library in a presentation by The Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame.
The program, titled “Connecticut’s African American Heroines” was led by Lena Harwood Pacheco, director of education with The Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame, an online hall of fame. It was attended by about a half-dozen people.
“The Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame disperses cultural myths about women’s abilities and our 118 inductees are proof that women can be courageous and confident and inspiring to following generations,” said Pacheco.
Pacheco said that her organization does presentations for libraries and schools of all grade levels. They also put together traveling exhibits and resources for school lesson plans.
“The traditional curriculum doesn’t focus enough on women or people of color,” she said.
Pacheco’s presentation included numerous influential black women past and present who lived in Connecticut and all of whom were inducted into the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame.
The presentation included black opera singer Marian Anderson, who by living her dream and performing in front of the Lincoln Memorial in 1939, helped to inspire a 10-year-old Martin Luther King Jr. Also discussed was Maria Miller Stewart, who was the first black woman to speak publically about abolition of slavery and Martha Minerva Franklin, a black nurse who campaigned for equality and founded the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses (NACGN) in 1908.
Additionally, the presentation included Harlem Renaissance artist Laura Wheeler Waring, and Ann Petry, who was the first black female author to sell one million copies of a book, with her novel “The Street” and Rachel Taylor Milton who was the first black woman to serve as a colonel in the U.S. Air Force.
Constance Baker Motley was remembered for being the first black woman to become a federal court judge and was involved in the case “Brown vs. The Board of Education”, which helped to desegregate schools.
There were numerous other pioneering women discussed during the program, but some more recent examples included Denise Napier, the first black women to become state treasurer, and Major Regina Rush-Kittle, the highest ranking woman to serve in the Connecticut State Police Force. Rush-Kittle also became a Sgt. Major in the U.S. Army Reserves and toured in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom, where she earned a bronze star medal.
“All of these women have led the charge for equality, challenged the status quo, blazed new fields and affected change,” Pacheo concluded. “There still is a long way to go before women achieve true equality but many of the freedoms we take for granted are possible because of these women and the sacrifices they made.”
Pacheo noted that biographies of those women highlighted in the program and the other inductees can be found on cwhf.org, the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame website, and that their profiles include biographical films.
Following the presentation, Vira Riley, a black woman who attended the program, said she was impressed to learn about Martha Minerva Franklin’s accomplishments.
“My daughter is a nurse and I will have to check with her to see if she or any of the black nurses she works with know about her,” said Riley.
Pacheo told Riley that there was a space dedicated to Franklin at the Midstate Medical Center.
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or bjohnson@firstname.lastname@example.org.