March is National Women’s History Month and the 2016 theme is Working to Form a More Perfect Union: Honoring Women in Public Service and Government. This year’s Honorees were chosen for their influence in public service and government leadership. Often overlooked and undervalued, they have individually and collectively dramatically influenced our public policy and the building of viable institutions and organizations. Women from diverse backgrounds in all levels of public service and government are essential in forming a more perfect union. The three Floridians chosen include the first woman Chairman of the Seminole Tribe, the first woman attorney in the Office of the General Counsel at the EEOC, and the executive Director of Equality Florida Betty Mae Tiger Jumper who was born in 1923 and died in 2001 was the first woman to be elected Chief of a federally recognized tribe. She founded the first Seminole newspaper—the Seminole Indian News, using it to publish and distribute Seminole stories, insuring the traditions and oral history of the Seminole Tribe. She created the initial United Southeastern Tribes (USET) coalition, which today consists of more than 26 tribes. Through her political work and preservation of Seminole oral history, young people are learning and honoring their history.
Sonia Pressman Fuentes is a co-founder of NOW and was the first woman attorney in the Office of the General Counsel at the EEOC, a government agency dedicated to enforcing federal employment discrimination laws. While there, she became the staff person who stood for the aggressive enforcement of the gender discrimination prohibitions of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. She is also a charter member of the advocacy group Federally Employed Women (FEW) and served on the advisory committees of the Veteran Feminists of America (VFA) and the Longboat Key Education Center. Fuentes is an author and spokesperson, who has dedicated her entire life to making equal rights for women in the work force a reality rather than just a promise.
Nadine Smith is a national leader in LGBT rights activism and is currently executive Director of Equality Florida. Smith began her activism in college, and in 1986 when she served on the founding board of the International Gay and Lesbian Youth Organization. She participated in the historic, first-ever meeting in the White House between LGBT leaders and President Bill Clinton. Smith has served four terms as co-chair of the Equality Federation. Smith is a lobbyist, activist, and leader who works tirelessly to improve the lives of Lesbian, Gay, bisexual, and Transgender Americans. In 2013, Smith was named by the Florida Diversity Council as one of the “Most Powerful and Influential Women” in Florida.
The 2016 National Women’s History Month Honorees will be honored at a special Awards Luncheon in Washington, DC on March 19th.
Photo Credit: LGBTweekly.com