Pioneering black women of state's past and present honored

Published on Sunday, 4 February 2018 22:27


NEW BRITAIN - Black women who fought for equality were remembered Saturday at New Britain Public Library in a presentation by the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame.

The program, “Connecticut’s African American Heroines,” was led by Lena Harwood Pacheco, director of education for Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame, a website.

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 her organization makes presentations at libraries and schools. It also puts 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 have been inducted into the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame.

The presentation included 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, the first black woman to speak publicly about abolition of slavery, and Martha Minerva Franklin, a black nurse who campaigned for equality and founded the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses in 1908.

The presentation also included Harlem Renaissance artist Laura Wheeler Waring; Ann Petry, the first black female author to sell 1 million copies of a book (“The Street”); and Rachel Taylor Milton, the first black woman to serve as a colonel in the 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. Board of Education, which helped to desegregate schools.

More recent inductees include Denise Napier, the first black woman to become state treasurer, and Maj. Regina Rush-Kittle, the highest ranking woman to serve in the Connecticut State Police. Rush-Kittle also became a sergeant major in the U.S. Army Reserve and toured in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom, for she earned a Bronze Star.

“All of these women have led the charge for equality, challenged the status quo, blazed new fields and effected 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 the women highlighted in the program and other inductees can be found on, the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame website, and that their profiles include biographical films.

After the presentation, Vira Riley, a black woman who attended the program, said she was impressed by 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 is a space dedicated to Franklin at the MidState Medical Center in Meriden.

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

Posted in New Britain Herald, New Britain, on Sunday, 4 February 2018 22:27. Updated: Sunday, 4 February 2018 22:29.