FEATURE | winter 2002
2002 WOTY photo gallery >>
12/9/2002 - More than 400 people packed into the National Press Club ballroom for the 2002 Ms. Women of the Year event - joining together to celebrate 13 honorees who share the goal of equality and revolution for women. Hosted by Gloria Steinem, Ms. magazine co-founder; Eleanor Smeal, Feminist Majority Foundation president; and Peg Yorkin, FMF board chair, the event marked the union of Ms. and the Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF).
"Welcome to the 21st annual Women of the Year issue of Ms. magazine!" Steinem proclaimed. "This the first to be held in Washington, the first to have among its honorees such a high ranking woman in Washington, the first to have such influential whistleblowers and such influential peacemakers. Why? Because they have now arrived in our lives and in the world."
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who recently became the first woman ever to be elected to lead a party in either chamber of the US Congress, opened the event with an inspiring speech to a standing ovation. "It is a great honor to receive this award from such a groundbreaking publication. I am particularly thrilled to share it with so many accomplished women," Pelosi said. "Ms. magazine has been there with us since the beginning. Who can forget the prognostication of such skeptics as Harry Reasoner, who predicted you would last six months before you ran out of things to say. Well it has been 30 years, and Ms. is still talking about issues that matter."
Smeal built on Pelosi's momentum with a rousing look at the future of Ms. "In the pages of Ms. we will not forget the women of Afghanistan, the women of Saudi Arabia, or the women living under Sharia law," she said. "Ms. will be on the cutting edge of issues that are important to women, from abortion rights and Title IX to the environment and domestic violence."
Patricia Bellasalma, a Women of the Year honoree who pursued the legal fight against discrimination tenaciously and won the largest single race discrimination settlement of $100 million in Los Angles County on behalf of safety officers, recognized the officers she represented as the true heroes. Together, their victory shows the true power of collective action, Bellasalma noted.
"You (the individual plaintiffs in the class action suit) had the courage to emotionally commit to struggle. Together, armed with your own sense of degredation as human beings, you came together and organized and changed the condition of your lives," she said.
Barbara Blaine (Photo by Paul Merideth), founder of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), was honored for her continued fight to achieve justice for victims of priest sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. She raised the important point that this fight for justice is far from over.
"It is critical to understand that Cardinal Law is fundamentally no different form his colleagues. What's different about Boston is that Cardinal Law and his colleagues have been caught and exposed. And it's because of a courageous judge, a woman judge, and because of some very brave survivors and some assertive reporters that the patterns of secrecy have been laid out there plainly for all to see," Blaine said. "It's appropriate that SNAP is receiving this honor from Ms. magazine - currently there is a debate among many involved in this issue about what some of us are convinced of is a disparate amount of time and attention paid to male clergy abuse victims. In SNAP nearly half of our members are women. It is critical to understand that this is not a homosexual issue, that abusive priests are equal opportunity molesters that priests are damaging girls as well as boys."
Stand with Sisters for Economic Dignity were honored for conveying the real lives of welfare mothers through skits and songs. Kathy Engel, a creative consultant to the group, read her poem "Stand With Sisters/A Love Poem in Progress," moving the audience to continue demanding policies that make sense for real people.
"Rosa almost couldn't come to Washington to be honored as a 'woman of the year' along with a movie star and university president and her beautiful sisters with no money. The factory boss was saying no you'll lose your job and what do we the people say to that," the sisters read from a poem entitled Love Poem in Progress. "No time to wait for the government office of this or that what does he think, handing out bits of nothing closing doors and books. What does the WEP no name Jigget steel bar on the heart tin man in a suit called reform think about Rosa Linda. She asks: Did I do something to deserve this? The bruises of the child's father left imprinted on her tender history."
The 2002 Women of the Year are women who demand justice in everything they do and look forward to ensure that future generations of women are not left behind.
"These women are a group of groundbreaking trailblazers and champions for justice," Yorkin said.