I am preparing for a series of speaking engagements at the University of Utah and began to wonder about she-roes from the Beehive State. As with women from every other state, women with ties to Utah have made significant contributions to U.S. history and culture. Match the woman with her accomplishment:
____ 1. The first woman elected to a judicial office in the country and the first woman elected to a state supreme court.
____ 2. Started in 1977 with one store selling cookies, today the company she founded is a $450 million company with 1,000 stores employing 5,000 people.
____ 3. As head of the Women's Bureau of the Department of Labor, she established the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women that led to the Equal Pay Act of 1963.
____ 4. An actress whose portrayal of Peter Pan on Broadway led to the co-design of what is today called the Peter Pan collar.
A. Esther Peterson
B. Florence Allen
C. Maude Adams
D. Debbi Fields
Born in Provo, Utah, Esther Peterson attended Brigham Young University and observed her first strike in 1918 when she was 12 years old. She moved to the East Coast after college and, in 1932, began volunteering at the YWCA. Encountering racial prejudice for the first time, her eyes were further opened when most of her students did not come to work because they were on strike. Her visit to a home (where the women were paid for piecework and a 3-year old was involved in the piecework), convinced her to join the strike and walk the picket line. She became a union organizer in addition to raising four children. In 1944, she became a lobbyist for the Amalgamated Clothing Workers Union and was assigned to John F. Kennedy (as at the time it was believed that he would not be a major figure in politics). After spending time in Europe due to her husband's career, the family returned to the U.S. where Kennedy was now a senator and Peterson agreed to work for his presidential campaign in Utah. Kennedy's election led to Peterson's appointment as the head of the Women's Bureau of the Department of Labor. Here, she was instrumental in the establishment of the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women that resulted in the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and many other steps toward gender equality. A voice for the consumers and a labor advocate for the rest of her life, Peterson received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and has been inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.
Born in Salt Lake City, Utah, Florence Allen achieved many firsts in the field of law. Allen was the first woman to serve as assistant country prosecutor. She was the first woman elected to a judicial office in Ohio. Allen was the first woman in the U.S. elected to a court of last resort - the Supreme Court in Ohio. In addition, she was the first woman appointed to a federal appeals court judgeship. Receiving her education in Ohio (at what is now called Case Western Reserve University), Allen went to law school at the University of Chicago since Case Western did not then admit women to their law school. Although she completed her education second in her class at New York University Law School in 1913, no one would hire her because she was a woman. Allen returned to Ohio and was admitted to the bar. Her climb through the legal ranks began in earnest after the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment enfranchising women. At the urging of her friends, Allen ran for a judgeship and was elected in November 1920. Her many trailblazing accomplishments were recognized when she was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.
Born in Salt Lake City, Utah, Maude Adams was an actress whose breakout role was as Peter Pan on Broadway in 1905. Adams began her acting career at the age of nine months, when she appeared onstage in her mother's arms. By the age of five, she appeared in San Francisco, and she made her New York stage debut at the age of ten. Adams returned to Salt Lake City for schooling where she lived with her grandmother until her return to Broadway at age 16. In 1905, when she was cast to play Peter Pan, she also set a fashion trend - the costume for Peter Pan, which she co-designed, had a collar that today is known as the Peter Pan collar. Adams retired from the stage in 1918 and then worked with General Electric to develop improved stage lighting and with the Eastman Company on color photography. In addition to a return to acting in the 1930s, she led a drama department and was known for her inspiring teaching of acting at Stephens College in Missouri.
The founder of Mrs. Fields Cookies (which for some years was based in Salt Lake City, Utah), Debbi Fields decided at age 20 that she wanted to start a bakery. In spite of resistance from bankers and initial skepticism from her husband, she launched what is today a $450 million company that employs 5,000 people and has 1,000 stores. From her first store in 1977, her company has grown because of her philosophy of using quality ingredients and treating people with care and respect.
Learn about more she-roes and celebrate amazing women. These women associated with the Beehive State are among the more than 850 women profiled in the book Her Story: A Timeline of the Women Who Changed America. We celebrate their accomplishments and are proud to stand on their shoulders.
(Answers 1-B, 2-D, 3-A, 4-C )