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Ms. Magazine Announces 2004 Women of the Year
Heroes For Extraordinary Times

LOS ANGELES -- Ms. magazine today announced its Women of the Year, celebrating the achievements of extraordinary women in 2004.

An unusual group topped the list: The Jersey Girls, also known as the 9/11 widows whose fierce efforts made the 9/11 Commission and its best-selling Report a reality.

“All of these women are heroes. As we recognize them, we find ourselves marveling at their courage and their commitment to excellence, to do and be the best for themselves and their communities and families. This year, another common thread revealed itself: All of these women displayed uncommon determination to accomplish specific goals that had global consequences,” said Elaine Lafferty, Ms. Editor-in-Chief.

Ms. magazine’s 2004 Women of the Year are:

The Jersey Girls
To uncover the truth about the day their husbands went to work and never came home, four 9/11 widows from New Jersey — Mindy Kleinberg, Lorie Van Auken, Kristen Breitweiser, and Patty Casazza — went from grieving housewives to unstoppable Nancy Drews.

They sleuthed, lobbied, protested and ultimately shamed a stonewalling Bush administration into creating the independent commission that exposed the incompetence and cover-up surrounding the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Kathy Najimy
You already know Kathy Najimy is funny: You guffawed through her classic, long-running The Kathy & Mo Show and you giggled every time giddy, scene-stealing Sister Mary Patrick appeared in Sister Act and Sister Act II.

But did you know that behind the scenes, in real life, Najimy is an action hero? A social action hero. Women’s rights, gay rights, animal rights, Arab American rights, AIDS, eating disorders — Najimy’s always on the front lines of progressive causes.

Samantha Power
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Samantha Power has spent 11 years criss-crossing the globe denouncing atrocities — a “genocide chick,” as she jokingly refers to herself. This April, Power testified before Congress on the 10th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda. But instead of focusing on Rwanda, Power rebuked American policymakers for failing to act elsewhere.

“I think the great fear that all of us have is that 10 years from now we will be sitting on a similar panel,” she said, “discussing Sudan’s genocide, looking back.” Power has made Sudan’s unfolding crisis her crusade.

Maxine Waters
Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., has been battling injustice, in all forms, for most of her life. This year, though, Waters picked a rescue mission that most staid legislators wouldn’t have touched: Her friend Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the democratically elected president of Haiti, alleged that he was forcibly removed from office, kidnapped and taken by U.S. Marines to the Central African Republic.

Within two weeks, Waters had assembled a delegation, taken a 40-hour flight to Africa on a small private plane and brought Aristide to Jamaica, which offered him asylum.

Betty Dukes
The lead plaintiff in the class-action gender-discrimination suit against Wal-Mart, Betty Dukes was hired as a cashier by the retail giant in 1994, and she hoped that her past experience in retail would help her advance. Yet her requests for further training and promotion went unanswered, and her complaints about her salary and rank resulted in what she considered retaliation.

“Never allow fear to get under your feet,” she declares. “That’s what I tell my coworkers because we women need to have the courage to speak out against the unfairness we have endured.”

Saudatu Mahdi
Saudatu Mahdi, a onetime school administrator-turned-feminist, is a devout Muslim who argues passionately that Sharia — Islamic law — treats women equally when it is fairly implemented. Mahdi worries, however, that in an impoverished Nigeria, it is the country’s poor — and divorced or widowed women are the poorest of all — who are victims of the law.

By pushing for adherence to due process, she and her legal team have won acquittals for impoverished young women sentenced to death by stoning for bearing children out of wedlock, including Amina Lawal in 2003.

Lisa Fernandez
If softball superstar Lisa Fernandez had hung up her glove at age 29 — having played competitively for 21 years and earned two collegiate championships at UCLA and two Olympic gold medals — no one would have blamed her for taking a breather.

But she and her fans would have missed her most spectacular performance yet, at this past summer’s Olympic Games. Fernandez, a pitcher and third baseperson, threw four winning games, including the gold-medal contest, and batted .545, an Olympic record.

A Special Legend Award
Suzanne Braun Levine, the editor-in-chief of Ms. for 17 years, from its founding in 1972 to 1987, will be presented with the 2004 Legend Award. This is only the second Legend Award presented by the magazine. Ms. Levine, an author, remains the longest standing editor of Ms.

The Ms. Winter 2004/2005 issue, with the Women of the Year cover story, will be on newsstands Dec. 20.

Ms. magazine, the oldest and largest thinking woman’s magazine in the world, is published quarterly. Editorial offices are located in Los Angeles and New York and publishing offices are headquartered in Arlington, VA.

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