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2011 National Women's Hall of Fame Inductees

Eleven Extraordinary Women include an Athlete, Inventor, Jazz Singer and a Saint

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Every year the National Women's Hall of Fame -- which recognizes the outstanding achievements of notable American women -- holds its Induction Weekend in Seneca Falls, NY, the birthplace of the women's rights movement in the United States. This year, 11 women were inducted into the Hall of Fame on September 30 and October 1, 2011. They are:

Lilly Ledbetter - Champion of Equal Pay

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A former Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. employee, Lilly Ledbetter sued the company when she learned of the disparity in wages she'd earned over 19 years with Goodyear as compared to the wages of her male co-workers --a gap of nearly $250,000. Although the case made it all the way to the Supreme Court, she ultimately lost due to the Court's interpretation of Title Seven -- that a claim must be filed within 180 days of the initial discriminatory pay decision. The setback did not stop her, and she pursued legislative action on a pay equity bill in Congress. This time she was successful; the act that bears her name was the first piece of legislation signed into law by President Obama on January 28, 2009.

Barbara A. Mikulski - Senate Trailblazer

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While other women served in the US Senate before her (typically filling in a vacancy left by the death of a spouse), Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland) was the first Democratic female senator elected solely on her own merits. She's been a vocal supporter of gender equity in health care, equal pay for women, and other issues that impact women's lives. She was instrumental in planting the seeds of what would become national recognition of Women's History Month in March; in 1981, she co-sponsored the first Joint Congressional Resolution declaring a National Women's History Week. She is Dean of the Women in the Senate and the longest-serving female Senator in US history, elected to the Senate for her first term in 1986.

Donna E. Shalala - Educator and Politician

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Dr. Donna E. Shalala, the longest-serving U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (1993-2001), is also prominent in the field of higher education. Currently President of the University of Miami, she was also president of Hunter College and chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She was one of the country's first Peace Corps volunteers and served in Iran from 1962-1964. She is a recipient of the 2008 Presidential Medal of Freedom and the 2010 Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights, and was named one of  named one of “America’s Best Leaders” by U.S. News & World Report in 2005.

Kathrine Switzer - Marathon Woman

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Kathrine Switzer was a student at Syracuse University when she filled out a race entry form to run the Boston Marathon in 1967, signing it K.V. Switzer as she did typically did. Race officials did not realize she was female, thus enabling Switzer to officially enter and run the Boston Marathon. She completed the marathon despite being harassed by co-race director Jock Semple, who attempted to pull her off the race route. Switzer has subsequently built a career advocating for women in sports and creating equal opportunities for female competitors, founding the Avon International Running Circuit in 1977. She was instrumental in establishing the women’s marathon as an official event in the Olympic Games in 1984. 

Coretta Scott King - Civil and Human Rights Advocate

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Although best remembered as the wife of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., Coretta Scott King stepped out of her husband's shadow to become a significant figure in the international human rights movement. During his life she partnered with him in advocating for civil rights, traveling and marching with him and giving speeches in his absence -- all while raising four children. After he was assassinated in 1968,  she founded the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change and continued to promote peace, justice and social change on an international scale. She also had a hand in guiding the National Committee for Full Employment (1974), the Coalition of Conscience (1983), and the Soviet-American Women’s Summit (1990)

Billie Holiday - Iconic American Vocalist

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Iconic singer Billie Holliday overcame a troubled childhood of neglect, sexual abuse, and  poverty to become one of the greatest jazz vocalists of all time. With no formal musical training, she began singing in a Harlem nightclub at age 16 and later worked with such jazz greats as Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Artie Shaw and Lenny Goodman. Her uniquely personal style and emotional clarity won her many fans and admirers, but a drug addiction led to her decline and eventual death at age 44.

Helen Murray Free - Groundbreaking Chemist

A pioneer in analytical and diagnostic chemistry, Helen Murray Freer is responsible for several significant developments in medicine. Although her name isn't a household word, one of her inventions revolutionized diagnostic testing in the laboratory and at home. She and her husband Albert Free became the world's leading experts on urinalysis and together invented the "dip and read" testing strips diabetics use to read glucose levels in urine. Today, dip and read test strips are used to test for diabetes, pregnancy, and other conditions in countries around the world.

Dr. Loretta C. Ford - New Model of Nursing

An internationally recognized leader in the field of nursing, Dr. Loretta C. Ford's studies of the nurse's expanded scope of practice in public health nursing helped create the model of the nurse practitioner. As Dean of the School of Nursing at the University of Rochester and the Director of Nursing in the University’s Strong Memorial Hospital, she implemented the unification model bringing together nursing education, practice and research. Among the numerous awards she's received include the the Living Legend Award from the American Academy of Nursing, the American College of Nurse Practitioner’s Crystal Trailblazer Award, and the Elizabeth Blackwell Award

Dorothy Harrison Eustis - Seeing Eye to Eye with Guide Dogs

Dorothy Harrison Eustis' interest in German shepherd dogs led to the first school to train guide dogs in the US. An American living in Switzerland, she'd had success breeding police dogs and guide dogs for blinded war veterans and told her story in for Saturday Evening Post. When a blind American man contacted her about starting a philanthropic guide dog training school, she collaborated with him and established The Seeing Eye in 1929. Since then, 15,000 dogs have been bred and trained to assist nearly 8,000 men and women.

St. Katharine Drexel

Only the second American-born saint recognized by the Catholic church, Katharine Drexel was born into a wealthy Philadelphia family in 1858. Interested in improving the lives of black and native Americans, Drexel began by donating money but soon realized individual effort was needed. At age 33, she founded the the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament in 1891, a religious order devoted to the betterment of Native Americans and African Americans. For the next 64 years, until her death in 1955, she dedicated her life -- along with 20 million dollars -- to her work. Drexel was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1988 and canonized by him in 2000.

Abby Kelley Foster

Passionately opposed to slavery and just as committed to women's rights, Abby Kelley Foster (1811 – 1887) became involved as an anti-abolitionist after reading Garrison's Liberator. In 1839 she began lecturing about abolition and women's rights, and within a year was appointed to the American Anti-Slavery Society, a move which split the organization over whether a woman could hold such a position. She was involved in planning for the National Womens' Rights Convention in 1850 and in 1868 was one of the organizers of the founding convention of the New England Woman Suffrage Association. Her efforts were instrumental in the ratification of the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments to the Constitution.

Sources

"Abby Kelley Foster." Beaver County History at bchistory.org. Retrieved 3 October 2011.

"Education: The Seeing Eye." TIME magazine. 18 May 1936

"Eleven Extraordinary Women Named as National Women's Hall of Fame Inductees." National Women's Hall of Fame, greatwomen.org. Retrieved 3 October 2011.

Kislevitz, Gail Waesche. "The Real Story of Kathrine Switzer's 1967 Boston Marathon-Life is For Participating." Excerpt from The Spirit of the Marathon. Breakaway Books. 2002

"Loretta Ford, EdD, PNP, FAAN." Nurse Practitioner Healthcare Foundation at NPhealthcarefoundation.org. Retrieved 3 October 2011.

"St. Katharine Drexel." Catholic Online at Catholic.org. Retrieved 3 October 2011.

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