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Seven women selected to have portraits hung in the state Capitol

From Crystal Staley/Scottie Ellis

Frankfort, KY - On March 9, 2023, Gov. Andy Beshear, Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman and members of the Kentucky Commission on Women commemorated Women's History Month and announced the induction of new members to the Kentucky Women Remembered portrait exhibit in the state Capitol.

Members of the Kentucky Commission on Women unanimously recommended seven women to Gov. Beshear to be added to the exhibit, and the Governor announced all seven will be honored.

"Not since 2014 have women been honored in this way, and I am proud to say this administration and this commission are breaking the streak," Gov. Beshear said. "We are proud to welcome Lonnie Ali, Jane Beshear, Sharon Currens, Hannah Drake, the late Mary Margaret Mulvihill, Peggy Purdom Patterson and the late Gloria Watkins, also known as bell hooks, to the exhibit."

The Kentucky Commission on Women will soon commission portraits of the new inductees, who are:

  • Lonnie Ali: An inspiring humanitarian, Parkinson's research and awareness advocate, children's education defender and widow of Muhammad Ali, she currently serves as the chairwoman of the ALI IN ALL OF US Initiative, which honors the life of Muhammad Ali. She and her husband opened the Muhammad Ali Center in 2005, where she serves as the lifetime director.

  • Jane Beshear: A former First Lady of Kentucky, she has dedicated her life to the service of others throughout the commonwealth. She addressed the rampant spread of breast cancer, which is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths among women in Kentucky, by founding Her Horses and Hope. This initiative increases breast cancer awareness, education, screening and treatment referral among Kentucky's horse industry workers and their families.

  • Sharon Currens: A tireless worker on behalf of survivors of intimate partner and sexual violence, Currens was one of the founding women of Lexington's Rape Crisis Program in the 1970s. Later, she became the first executive director of the Kentucky Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

  • Hannah Drake: An activist, author, podcast host and poet, Drake serves as the chief creative officer at IDEAS xLab and co-lead artist of the (Un)Known Project, which seeks to discover the hidden names and stories of enslaved Black people in Kentucky and beyond.

  • Mary Margaret Mulvihill: One of the first women elected to the City of Louisville Board of Aldermen, she paved the way for young female leaders who came behind her. She also served her community on numerous nonprofit boards and commissions, including the Coalition for the Homeless, Transit Authority of River City, Elderserve and the University of Louisville.

  • Peggy Purdom Patterson: The first woman federal judge appointed in Kentucky, she served in Ashland and surrounding counties until her retirement in 2006. She was an outstanding member of the community through her volunteer service as one of the first board members of Pathways, the community mental health program that served the FIVCO and Gateway Area Development Districts. Through this service, she saw the need to start a domestic violence program and became a founding board member of Safe Harbor of Northeast Kentucky Inc.

  • Gloria Watkins: Better known by her pen name, bell hooks, she was an author and social activist who served as distinguished professor in residence at Berea College. The focus of hooks' writing was to explore the intersectionality of race, capitalism and gender, as well as what she described as their ability to produce and perpetuate systems of oppression and class domination. She published approximately 40 books.

"As Governor, but most importantly as a father, I am grateful that my daughter and generations of young girls are learning from the great role models we are honoring today," said Gov. Beshear. "They are paving the way for all our children to know they can do great things."

"The past year has been monumental for women in Kentucky," said Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman. "From unveiling the Nettie Depp statue, the first female to be permanently memorialized inside the Capitol, to today's induction of seven trailblazers into the Kentucky Women Remembered exhibit, we are highlighting the remarkable impact women have in the commonwealth."

"Over the years, the Commission on Women has conducted research, published reports, convened stakeholders, monitored legislation and hosted events, all with the goal of elevating the status of women and girls in the commonwealth," said Marita Willis, commission chair. "Today, the Commission on Women is made up of a wonderfully diverse group of women. We have worked hard to revitalize and renew our efforts and presence as a commission."

About the Kentucky Commission on Women
The Kentucky Commission on Women is dedicated to elevating the status of women and girls in the commonwealth, empowering them to overcome barriers to equity and expanding opportunities to achieve their fullest potential.

In response to President John F. Kennedy's creation of the Commission on the Status of Women, Kentucky Gov. Edward T. Breathitt established a state commission in April 1964 to study and report on the status of Kentucky women. The findings demonstrated a pronounced need for a permanent agency to promote the improvement of women's status. In November 1968, Gov. Louie Nunn signed the executive order establishing the Kentucky Commission on Women, and it became an official state agency through legislative action in 1970. The Kentucky Commission on Women became part of the Cabinet for General Government as an administrative body attached to the Governor's Office in 1980.

In January 2008, Gov. Steve Beshear relocated the Kentucky Commission on Women to the state Capitol for the first time in its history, and the Commission shared the same hall as the Kentucky Women Remembered Exhibit.

In 2018, during the previous administration, funding for the Commission on Women was eliminated.

When Gov. Beshear was inaugurated in 2019, he tasked Lt. Gov. Coleman with restarting the Commission on Women. The Governor has sought funding for the commission each budget cycle, but the General Assembly has failed to provide it. Currently, there are 24 members of the Commission on Women, plus the Lieutenant Governor, who serves as an ex-officio member. They represent a diverse mix of personal and professional backgrounds and hail from all parts of the commonwealth.

About Kentucky Women Remembered
The Kentucky Women Remembered exhibit began as a display at the 1978 Kentucky State Fair that included six portraits of women from various backgrounds as a campaign to bring attention to outstanding women who made significant contributions to Kentucky's history. In 1996, the Kentucky Women Remembered exhibit, due to the advocacy of the Kentucky Commission on Women, found a permanent home in the West Wing of the State Capitol and includes dozens of portraits of Kentucky's outstanding women. There is no record of any additions to the exhibit since 2014.

This story was posted on 2023-03-11 11:44:42
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