I venture to bet that more than one of us have said – “man, 2016 has been a rough year.” While the country and state’s political climate certainly contributes to that sentiment, we’ve also lost a number of people this year who no longer roam the earth with their light and love.
This month the team at Women AdvaNCe has been remembering the women we have lost on our social media pages, and our website. While many are household names, we think it’s important to understand what they contributed to our lives and how we can all act in honor of their memories.
Cynthia Brown came in fourth out of the nine candidates in the Democratic Primary for the Senate seat behind former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles, State Representative Dan Blue and North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall. Brown served on the Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Resourceful Communities Program and The Heirs Project.
Gwen Ifill was an American Peabody Award-winning journalist, television newscaster, and author. In 1999, she became the first African American woman to host a nationally televised U.S. public affairs program with Washington Week in Review. She was the moderator and managing editor of Washington Week and co-anchor and co-managing editor, with Judy Woodruff, of PBS NewsHour, both of which air on PBS. Ifill was a political analyst and moderated the 2004 and 2008 American vice-presidential debates.
Zora Felton was a Wake County School Board member and a lifelong educator. Her colleagues say Felton provided a voice from the classroom in all the board’s decisions. She worked for two-thirds of her life for the students of Wake County.
Harper Lee was an American novelist widely known for To Kill a Mockingbird, published in 1960. Immediately successful, it won the 1961 Pulitzer Prize and has become a classic of modern American literature. Though Lee had only published this single book, in 2007 she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her contribution to literature.
Alexis Arquette was an American actor, cabaret performer, underground cartoonist, and activist. She was well known for her gender transitioning, and for supporting other people making similar transitions.
Earline Parmon was the first black state senator to represent Forsyth County and a longtime advocate for Winston-Salem. Sheh also served five terms representing District 72 in the North Carolina House and spent 12 years as a Forsyth County Commissioner.
Theresa Saldana was an American actress and author. She is known for her role as Rachel Scali, the wife of Police Commissioner Tony Scali, in the 1990s television series The Commish, for which she received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role, in 1994. She was also known for raising public awareness of the crime of stalking, after surviving a murder attempt by an obsessed fan in 1982.
Ann Atwater was an American civil rights activist in Durham, North Carolina. Throughout her career she helped improve the quality of life in Durham through programs like Operation Breakthrough (Durham, North Carolina), a community organization dedicated to fight the War on Poverty. Her loud, demanding, and assertive personality enabled her to be an effective activist and leader when advocating for black rights, such as better private housing. Atwater promoted unity of the working-class African Americans through grassroots organizations.
Deborah Aguiar-Velez was an unstoppable force in the world, making her mark nationwide as an entrepreneur, technologist, and community leader. Her inspirational speeches gave people hope; her mentorship and dedication lent people direction; and her faith provided her strength.
Janet Wood Reno (July 21, 1938 – November 7, 2016) served as the Attorney General of the United States from 1993 until 2001. She was nominated by President Bill Clinton on February 11, 1993, and confirmed on March 11, 1993. She was the first woman to serve as Attorney General and the second-longest serving Attorney General in U.S. history, after William Wirt.
Pat Summitt was an American women’s college basketball head coach who, over the course of her career, accrued 1,098 career wins, the most in NCAA basketball history. She served as the head coach of the University of Tennessee Lady Vols basketball team from 1974 to 2012, before retiring at age 59 because of a diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.She won eight NCAA championships (a NCAA women’s record when she retired), a number surpassed only by the 10 titles won by UCLA men’s coach John Wooden and the 11 titles won by UConn women’s coach Geno Auriemma. She was the first NCAA coach, and one of four college coaches overall, with at least 1,000 wins.
Florence Henderson was an American actress and singer with a career spanning six decades. She is best remembered for her starring role as matriarch Carol Brady on the ABC sitcom The Brady Bunch from 1969 to 1974. Henderson also appeared in film as well as on stage and hosted several long-running cooking and variety shows over the years.
Suzanne Wright was co-founder of Autism Speaks. For more than a decade, she was a tireless advocate for children with autism and their families. Under her leadership, Autism Speaks has grown into a national and international force to raise awareness for autism issues.