Commission on Women
Governor Beshear Honors Kentucky Women
FRANKFORT, Ky. (March 10, 2009) – Governor Steve Beshear today joined the Kentucky Commission on Women to honor three inductees to the Kentucky Women Remembered exhibit at the state Capitol. The exhibit recognizes outstanding Kentucky women and their lifetime achievements.
The governor also read a proclamation declaring the month of March as Women’s History Month in the commonwealth.
“Since the beginning of Kentucky’s history, women have been essential to the development of our society in areas such as medicine, science, politics and religion,” said Gov. Beshear. “I am truly honored to recognize three such outstanding women for their commitment, dedication and contribution to our commonwealth and declare March as Women’s History Month to honor all women for their devotion to the betterment of Kentucky.”
“For years, many contributions women have made in the fabric of Kentucky history have gone unnoticed and unrecorded,” said Eleanor Jordan, executive director of the Kentucky Commission on Women. “This annual ceremony and recognition of women’s history month is our way of writing some of those women back into history and highlighting how significant their roles have been to the commonwealth.”
Emphasizing the importance of the role women have played in Kentucky’s history, the governor unveiled the three portraits of Nelle Pitcock Horlander, Clara Sanford Oldham and Doris Wilkinson. Their portraits will be hung alongside the 56 portraits already displayed in the west wing corridor of the state Capitol.
The late Nelle Pitcock Horlander, of Barren County, paved the way for women to lead in the labor movement. She began her career as a telephone operator for Southern Bell in Louisville and joined the Communications Workers of America Local 3310. At Southern Bell, she became the first woman communications consultant in 1964 and was elected first female president of her union in 1969. She served for over 50 years as a delegate to the Greater Louisville Central Labor Council and for 42 years as a delegate to the Kentucky State AFL-CIO conventions. She was a founding member of the Kentucky Women Advocates, the PRO-ERA Alliance, Jefferson County NOW, the National Women’s Political Caucus, the Women’s Network and Coalition of Labor Union Women.
The late Clara Sanford Oldham, of Daviess County, dedicated her life to improving the lives of women by founding Citizens Against Rape in 1977. Her organization led to the creation of Rape Victims Services and the Owensboro Area Spouse Abuse and Information Services, which are still in existence today. As the Director of the Social Welfare Program at Kentucky Wesleyan College she helped found the Center for Creative Choices. Oldham co-founded the Owensboro National Organization for Women, served as a delegate to the KY Pro-ERA Alliance, a delegate to the White House Conference on Family in 1980 and was active in the American Association of University Women. An award in her name was established at Girls, Inc., a local agency dedicated to developing girls who are “smart, strong and bold.”
Doris Wilkinson, of Fayette County, is the first African American student to graduate from the University of Kentucky (UK) in 1957. Wilkinson also became the first full-time African American female faculty member at UK. During her tenure at UK, Wilkinson became the founder and first director of “Black Studies,” renaming it the African American Studies and Research Program. She also created the African American Heritage Trail in Lexington, founded the Forum for Black Faculty and the Carter G. Woodson Lecture Series and the Black Women’s Conference. Wilkinson has received many honors including the American Sociological Association’s Dubois-Johnson Frazier Award, a Ford Fellowship to Harvard and the University of Kentucky’s Hall of Distinguished Alumni Award.
The Kentucky Commission on Women presented a Kentucky Colonel commission to artist Kathryn Burke, of Louisville. This is the first year Burke has painted portraits for Kentucky Women Remembered exhibit.
Kentucky Women Remembered began in 1978 and consists of portraits depicting outstanding women in Kentucky’s history. The exhibit found a permanent home in the Capitol in 1996 after many years of traveling around the state. Thousands of visitors to the Capitol view the portraits each year and learn about the heritage and contributions of Kentucky women.
Each year, the Kentucky Women Remembered Committee selects up to three Kentucky women to become part of the exhibit and assure their place in the state’s history. Nominees must have been born in or spent a significant part of their lives in Kentucky and may be living or deceased.
For more information on the Kentucky Commission on Women, visit www.women.ky.gov.