More than 400 people packed into the National Press Club ballroom today for the 2002 Ms Women of the Year event – the first ever to be held in Washington, DC. 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).
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, spoke to a standing ovation as one of the 13 women honored as the 2002 Women of the Year. “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 looked ahead to the next 30 years of Ms. with groundbreaking stories that will continue to change women’s lives around the world. “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.”
Other 2002 Women of the Year honorees in attendance included Barbara Blaine, who founded the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) to fight for justice for victims of priest sexual abuse in the Catholic Church; Maha Abu-Dayyeh Shamas, a Palestinian peace activist who has worked with Terry Greenblatt, another honoree who could not attend the event, for peace in the Middle East; Patricia Bellasalma, 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; Jill June, president of Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa, who stood up for the right to privacy by refusing to yield patients’ medical records to the state of Iowa; Sisters for Economic Dignity, who lobby for better welfare policies through skits and songs that convey the real lives of welfare mothers; and Nikki Teasley, rookie star of the LA Sparks, who accepted an award on behalf of Lisa Leslie, MVP of the championship women’s basketball team.