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NEW YORK (WOMENSENEWS)–Women’s Enews announced today its 21 Leaders for the 21st Century–2003, an awe-inspiring, reader-nominated group of newsmakers demonstrating extraordinary commitment to creating change on behalf of all women.

“And we are filled with excitement, for what could be more cheerful, charge our engines more, than reminding ourselves and all our readers the wonderful dedication and accomplishments of our contemporaries?” said Rita Henley Jensen, Women’s Enews editor in chief.

Readers Submitted 300 Nominees

Women’s Enews advisory board made the final selection from a list of 300 nominees submitted by readers. Each leader makes news by confronting, often at great personal risk, issues of particular concern to women. Women’s Enews will honor each of the 21 Leaders for the 21st Century at its annual celebratory dinner, to be held in New York on May 20th. The event will be chaired by noted broadcast journalist Mary Alice Williams.

“The quality of the nominations and the detailed biographies we received were thrilling,” said Henley Jensen. “The responses were far beyond what we had hoped, full of exciting, newsworthy leaders making fantastic contributions to the well-being of women. I read each submission and was profoundly touched by the sincerity of the nominators and the idealism and leadership of the nominees.”

The 21 Leaders, with ages that range from 13 to 83, were selected after the Women’s Enews board members and staff pored over the nominees’ biographies for hours, researching, asking questions, seeking balance and diversity in every measurable way.

“In the end, we are delighted with our choices, but still regret that we have but 21 leaders to honor,” Henley Jensen added.

This year Women’s Enews will award Rana Husseini the Ida B. Wells Award for Bravery in Journalism. A reporter with the Jordan Times, Husseini created a beat covering honor killings of Jordanian women and continues reporting the story despite accusations that she is tarnishing the nation’s image and responding to Western influences.

The 21 leaders reflect the global reach and depth of Women’s Enews coverage. One leader this year brought the glare of the national spotlight to shine on the long-standing gender bias in the world of private golf clubs, Martha Burk; another is of the highest social rank in her homeland, Her Highness Shaikha Sabika bint Shaikh Ibrahim bin Muhammad Al-Khalifa; and some are virtually unknown except in the own fields, such as Esther Chavez Cano, founder, Casa Amiga, Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. She and another leader, Susan Burton, founder of A New Way of Life Foundation, opened their own doors to help women in harm’s way.

Former U. S. Ambassador Swanee Hunt used the gains in political clout and insight her post provided to insist that women, who bear so much of the costs and consequences of war, have an active role in creating the peace, including a place at the negotiating table. Elizabeth A. Sackler ensured that women and feminist values have place at the table in the fine arts world by using her philanthropy to sponsor two major exhibitions of the ground-breaking work of Judy Chicago, including the aptly named “The Dinner Party.” And investment banker Ann Kaplan leveraged the power of her position at Goldman Sachs to enhance women’s position throughout the municipal finance industry.

One leader is extraordinarily young, Atlanta’s Kenya Jordana James, a 13-year-old magazine publisher; another, Philadelphia’s Ernesta D. Ballard, has been an activist for women’s rights for nearly six decades, helping to create 25 years ago the ground-breaking fund-raising organization, Women’s Way, and still participating in its development.

Two approached the way women view their bodies in dramatically different ways: Judy Norsigian was a founding member of a collective that revolutionalized the approach to women’s health; Eileen Fisher redesigned the clothes women wear and how they are marketed, including their images in advertising.

Two exercised women’s legal rights to gain additional protection for all women: Luisa Cabal fought for abortion rights in international human rights court and Jill June faced down a threat of jail rather than accede to subpoena for the results of hundreds of pregnancy tests conducted by her Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa clinics.

Other leaders tunneled through to where women are living in isolation to bring them aid and comfort. Asseta Nagbila works to expand the rights of women farmers in her native Burkina Faso and Elaine Roulet, a Roman Catholic nun, has dedicated her life to help mothers in prison and their children. Henna White, as community liaison for a Brooklyn, N.Y. district attorney, spends her days combating domestic violence in the Hassidic Jewish community. And Jill Miller manages more than 1,000 programs that serve at least 400,000 women annually in the areas of employment, training and education.

Three are claiming new territory: Milbry Polk has dedicated her life to seeing that the nation’s and the world’s children know of the fantastic accomplishments of women explorers and scientists; Kavita Ramdas directs funds to women’s human rights organizations around the world; and last, but far from least, Amy Richards defined the word feminism for her generation and now helps channel funds to organizations helping to empower and embolden young women.

Over the next three days, Women’s Enews will publish biographies of the 21 leaders–2003, but for now, we will tell you just a bit more about them:

Ernesta D. Ballard, founder, Philadelphia chapter of the National Organization for Women; founder and first chair of Women’s Way, a fund-raising organization supporting women’s organizations in the Philadelphia region. Now 83, she remains active in the leadership of Women’s Way.

Martha Burk, chair, National Council of Women’s Organizations. Burk has made headlines most recently for her outspoken campaign to persuade the Augusta National Golf Club to admit women as members.

Susan Burton, founder, A New Way of Life foundation, which assists newly released inmates back into civilian life and helps them find job-training and other social services.

Luisa Cabal, human rights attorney, Center for Reproductive Law and Policy. Cabal represented a Mexican teen who was denied an abortion after becoming pregnant by her rapist.

Esther Chavez Cano, founder, Casa Amiga, Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. The organization offers medical, legal and psychological aid to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault in a city rocked by the murders and disappearances of at least 280 women and girls over the last 10 years.

Eileen Fisher, designer. Her goal is not only to design a popular clothing line, but also to create a business environment in which her employees find joy and satisfaction in their work. The advertisements for Eileen Fisher clothing is remarkable for the images of women featured, not stick-thin models, but her employees. The company also runs socially responsible programs for women in the United States and abroad.

Swanee Hunt, former U.S. ambassador to Austria. She returned from Europe determined to change how wars are fought and peace realized. She created Women Waging Peace and is director, Women and Public Policy Program at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Rana Husseini, reporter with the Jordan Times. Husseini was assigned the crime beat at the newspaper and began to expose the legal system’s tolerance for the murders of girls and young women by their family members.

Kenya Jordana James, at age 13, is editorial director and founder of Blackgirl Magazine, a bimonthly publication that promotes healthy images to black teens while covering lifestyle and entertainment news.

Jill June, president, Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa. In 2002 despite the threat of being jailed, June refused to turn over the results of hundreds of pregnancy tests to a district attorney investigating the death of a newborn.

Ann Kaplan, managing director at Goldman Sachs. Kaplan heads a group dedicated to increasing the firm’s involvement with women clients worldwide and has leveraged her influence on behalf of women throughout the elite financial world. She also helped Smith College launch a women’s financial education program with $2.5 million in seed money.

Her Highness Sheika Sabika Al-Khalifa, of Bahrain. Sabika led the call to vote in the country’s 2002 election, its first democratic election in 25 years. She is also leading a campaign in Bahrain to advance women’s rights by changing “the image of Bahraini women.”

Jill Miller, executive director of Women Work! The National Network For Women’s Employment. Miller manages the more than 1,000 programs that serve at least 400,000 women annually in the areas of employment, training and education. She also chaired a United Nations expert panel on vocational training and lifelong learning of women.

Asseta Nagbila, coordinator of the Hunger Project’s literacy classes, health and nutrition programs and training courses for women in her village in Burkina Faso. In a nation where women are not entitled to own land, the unusual project focuses on women gaining the rewards for what has been unpaid labor.

Judy Norsigian, executive director of the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective, which published the first edition of “Our Bodies, Ourselves” in 1970. As a perhaps the most reliable source on women’s health, Norsigian has continued to provide thousands of women each year the information they need to remain well or cope with illness.

Milbry Polk, activist and co-author of “Women of Discovery: A Celebration of Intrepid Women Who Explored the World,” a chronicle of the stories of 84 of history’s greatest women explorers whose achievements might otherwise be lost. She writes that “the story of women explorers is as old as time, as old as myth, and as real as memory.” Milbry is also working to ensure that discoveries of women explorers and scientists are included in public school history curricula.

Kavita Ramdas, president and chief executive officer, Global Fund for Women, a grantmaking foundation supporting women’s human rights organizations around the world. Born and raised in India and educated in the United States, Ramdas has spent her professional life working on issues of poverty, economic development and population. She has brought her international knowledge and understandings to bear as the fund attempts to assist women’s economic independence, increase girls’ access to education and stop violence against women.

Amy Richards, co-author of “MANIFESTA: Young Women, Feminism, and the Future.” Through her ability to strongly articulate the experiences and views of a new generation of feminism–Third Wave feminism–she kindled its growth and broadened its appeal. She is also a co-founder of the Third Wave Foundation, which strives to combat inequities and build lasting financial support for social activism around the country by empowering young women.

Elaine Roulet, creator, the Children’s Center program at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in New York. The center and other programs founded by this member of a Roman Catholic religious order provide mothers in prison opportunities to be with their children, including living with their newborns for up to one year and a seasonal day camp.

Elizabeth A. Sackler, public historian and philanthropist. In 2002, the Elizabeth A. Sackler Foundation donated Judy Chicago’s groundbreaking “The Dinner Party” to the Brooklyn Museum of Art. In 2004, newly renovated space on the museum’s fourth floor will permanently house the piece within the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art. The center will embody the values of gender equality, justice and freedom. Sackler also sponsored a major exhibition of Chicago’s other works at Washington, D.C.’s National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Henna White, Jewish community liaison for a Brooklyn, N.Y. district attorney where she reaches out to battered women in the close-knit Hassidic enclaves. White also co-founded Mothers to Mothers, which promoted dialogue and understanding between Jewish and African American women in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn following the 1991 riots there.

The leaders all have made a significant impact on the lives of women and girls by alleviating a problem; striving for change; using the law to pursue peace and justice; influencing the unaware; or showing others their human potential and possibility for change. We are pleased to honor them as our 21 Leaders for the 21st Century.

Jordan Lite is assistant managing editor of Women’s Enews.

Jan. 22, 1973: Supreme Court Issues Decision in Roe v. Wade

(WOMENSENEWS)–When Norma McCorvey, a 25-year-old divorced carnival worker with a renegade past discovered she was pregnant, she asked her Dallas doctor for an abortion. He suggested California, where the procedure, with a doctor’s approval, was legal. She couldn’t afford it.

A serendipitous series of events early in 1970 led McCorvey to Linda Coffee and Sarah Weddington, recent law school graduates eager to make abortion legal. A history stretching back nearly a century lay behind the belief that control of a woman’s body was the very basis for control of her life. A different but overlapping history asserted individual privacy over governmental jurisdiction. By 1970, a movement of many factions with many different agendas and tactics was demanding reform or repeal of abortion laws.

Coffee and Weddington won the first round: District Attorney Henry Wade, the Dallas judges said, had failed to demonstrate that the restrictive abortion law “represented a compelling state interest.” The state appealed.

On Dec. 13, 1971, Weddington made her first appearance before the U.S. Supreme Court. By then, Norma McCovey, known by the pseudonym “Jane Roe,” had given birth to a daughter and surrendered her for adoption. A second round of legal argument took place the following October. On Jan. 22, 1973, two days after Richard Nixon’s presidential inauguration, the court decision striking down most legal restrictions on abortion was announced.

Far from ending it, the day marked only the beginning of the movement to guarantee reproductive rights. It also marked the birth of an opposition–formerly dominated by the medical profession, now led by religious crusaders–that would grow in strength and passion in the years to come.

Louise Bernikow is the author of nine books, including “The American Women’s Almanac.” She takes her women’s history slide show to communities and campuses all over the country.