Hundreds of people packed into the ballroom at Monona Terrace Convention Center to honor eight remarkable women at the 45th Annual YWCA Women of Distinction Awards and hear an inspirational message from US Senator Tammy Baldwin, herself a Woman of Distinction honored in 1998.
“I remember when I found out that I had been chosen, I saw the names of the past honorees,” she said in her keynote address. “Madison leaders like Velma Hamilton, and so many women who I have built friendships with and who have been role models to me. I think of Shirley Abrahamson, Roberta Gassman, Midge Miller, Kay Clarenbach, Hannah Rosenthal, Carolyn Stanford Taylor, and so many other women who are breaking down barriers and working to make a difference. Before that moment I really hadn’t seen myself in the company of those women and it was incredibly humbling to be named alongside such a rich legacy of women leaders and changemakers. I remember thinking that, like my mentors who had been honored before me, I hoped that I could inspire others to pursue their passion.”
Baldwin was the US Representative for Wisconsin’s Second Congressional District then, and would be elected to the US Senate later that year.
Baldwin said that events such as the Women of Distinction Awards are an important sign of progress for women, but more work remains.
“We must not mistake progress for victory,” she said “With just 131 women currently serving in the congress and senate, we are well short of equal representation in government. And I think government works best when legislatures reflect the people we work for. When they look like America.”
Check out photos of the event by Hedi Lamarr Rudd in our Facebook album:
The theme for the event was “Legacy,” and Baldwin encouraged those in attendance to pay attention to what and who comes next.
“I want to challenge each of you. As you keep climbing higher in your careers and keep looking forward to the challenges ahead, I ask you never to forget to check behind you, to make sure the ladder is down, and to help lend a helping had to other women climbing their way up,” she said.
The honorees included:
Jacquelyn Boggess, co-founder and executive director of the Center for Family Policy and Practice
Marisela Gomez Castellanos, co-founder and facilitator of ReGeneración, a Latinx youth leadership program at Centro Hispano
Silvia Gomez de Soriano, ELL teacher at Madison East and founder of the Latinx Student Union
Lynn Green, director of Dane County’s Department of Human Services
Carolyn Morgan, Commander of VFW Post 8483
Nichelle Nichols, executive director of the Family, Youth, and Community Engagement Department at Madison Metropolitan School District
Rep. Shelia Stubbs, State representative for Madison’s south and southwest sides
Annie Weatherby-Flowers, Madison Public Library’s Community Engagement Coordinator
Additionally, Marisela Gomez Castellanos was honored with the first-ever Woman of Promise award, intended for a young woman with a bright future, for her work with Centro Hispano.
Each of the honorees spoke passionately about the women who led the way for them, as well as their hopes for the future.
“I stand here today on so many shoulders of my ancestors who have paved the way and so for them I accept this honor in their name,” said Stubbs. “I think that I can safely say that our work and our purpose is a greater Madison area is driven by a deep-rooted passion to build a more just and equitable community for all of us.”
Nichelle Nichols spoke of her mother Barbara Nichols, who was also honored as a Woman of Distinction and who was the first African American to head both the Wisconsin Nurses Association and National Nurses Association — and how she never felt that she quite lived up to her mother’s legacy.
“There were years that I was like, ‘Man, I am just so ordinary,’” she said. “But I’ve come to realize that the beauty of women is that we don’t have to compare ourselves to one another. And we can express the greatness in each of us and the gift of legacy, from my opinion, is that when it’s passed on its impact is not that it has to show up in the same way. That it’s recognized and used wisely. It has an incredible multiplying effect for the next generation.”
It was another legacy moment when Morgan received her trophy, as it was her mother Verona Morgan, herself a Woman of Distinction and co-chair of this year’s event, presenting Carolyn Morgan with her award.
More information on the honorees is available at the YWCA website, along with the opportunity to donate to support the YWCA’s programming and mission.
Madison365 is the exclusive media sponsor of the 2019 Women of Distinction event.