The Maryland Women Heritage Center in Baltimore showcase plaques of nearly 170 contributors to the state’s economic, cultural and political landscape.
The center’s Hall of Fame exhibit feature prominent individuals such as Harriett Tubman, recently retired Sen. Barbara Mikulski and activist Bernice Smith White.
Eight other women plan to join them during an annual Hall of Fame induction ceremony March 16 at the Miller Senate Office Building in Annapolis. Those being recognized include former Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Maryland) and 2016 Olympic gold medalist and swimmer Katie Ledecky from Montgomery County.
“It was a very tough year to select because the candidates were so strong,” said Judith Vaughan-Prather, executive director for the Maryland Commission for Women, which sponsors the free Hall of Fame event with the Women Legislators of Maryland. “We had an extraordinary year in the Olympics last summer. We usually pick four to six, but we chose eight. This is an exceptional group of women.”
Edwards, 58, of Oxon Hill, represents the only person from Prince George’s County in this year’s selection. She became the first black woman from Maryland elected to Congress and represented the 4th Congressional District since 2008 until her term expired Jan. 2.
During her time in Congress, Edwards became known as a staunch progressive, champion of women’s rights and hosted a college and career fair for eight straight years.
“I am honored by the award, but these awards don’t have to be a reminder [the] struggle for women’s progress, equality and representation is not over,” Edwards said during a telephone interview Monday, March 6 from Tucson, Arizona. “There are 104 women who serve in the United States Congress, a very small percentage of them are Black and Brown women. We need many more women in every step of our elected office.”
Edwards lost in a fierce battle in last year’s Democratic Senate primary to former House colleague Chris Van Hollen. She sought to become the first black woman in the Senate in more than 20 years.
After Edwards left Congress, she started a cross-country adventure Jan. 5 in an RV she nicknamed “Lucille.” She has cataloged some of her adventures on Facebook at locations such as Everglades National Park in Homestead, Florida; she stood on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama; and the Jamie L. Whitten Historical Center in Fulton, Mississippi.
She drove along the U.S.-Mexico border to see the Rio Grande River in Texas which made her think about politics and President Donald Trump’s plan to build a wall to separate the two countries as a way to control immigration.
“It helped me to put this into context. Building a wall is just the most ridiculous and absurd thing ever,” she said. “It’s kind of a dumb idea.”
She will park her RV and fly to Washington to attend the ceremony in Annapolis and head back west the next day to continue her road trip for one more month.
“One of the great things in being out around the country and visiting national and state parks and talking to people … it gives me a sense of people who are not centered around Washington,” she said. “It is an amazing, beautiful country and I have a little bit of time to do it. Then I’ll have to come back reality and find a job to pay my mortgage.”
Edwards will join Ledecky, 19, a five-time gold medalist who now attends Stanford University in Stanford, California. Last month, her school won the PAC-12 swimming championship.
The other six women inducted into the Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame, which began in 1985, are:
• Marsha Coleman-Adebayo from Montgomery County, author of Pulitzer Prize-nominated book, “No Fear: A Whistleblowers Triumph Over Corruption and Retaliation at the EPA;”
• Carolyn W. Colvin from Anne Arundel County, former acting commissioner of the U.S. Social Security Administration;
• The late Mary Elizabeth Garrett, a suffragist and activist from Baltimore;
• The late Katharine Blodgett Gebbie, an astrophysicist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) where scientists won four Nobel prizes in physics;
• 2016 Olympic gold medalist and wrestler Helen Maroulis from Montgomery County; and
• The late Lilian Welsh, a physician educator and suffragist from Baltimore.
The event sponsored by the Maryland Commission for Women and the Women Legislators of Maryland will also spotlight five middle and high school students as “Women of Tomorrow” for academic excellence, community service and leadership.
“Our tagline is: ‘Adding her story to history to tell our story,’” said Diana Bailey, executive director of the Heritage Center. “It is an opportunity to be inclusive to add the contributions of women that hasn’t always been there. Just like every month we should celebrate Black History Month, every month should Women’s History Month.”
For more information, go to www.marylandwomen.org or www.mdwomensheritagecenter.org.