Arizona holds a long list of powerful women who not only impacted their communities, but helped better the state and in some cases, the entire country. Here’s some influential women from the past and some today, all in celebrations of Women’s History Month.
Louis Foucar Marshall
Louis Foucar Marshall changed the college classroom for the state of Arizona when she became the first female professor in 1900, according to the University of Arizona Special Collections. She taught in many fields ranging from botany to four different languages. After teaching at the University of Arizona for three years, she moved on to work in business and property development. Marshall created the first suburban shopping center in Tucson known as University Square just at the edge of campus, according to the University of Arizona Special Collections. In 1930, Louis and her husband, Thomas, created the Marshall foundation, the first private foundation in Arizona. The foundation was created to provide scholarships for women hoping to attend college. According to the Marshall Foundation, nearly half of the donations made are to the University of Arizona primarily for student scholarship programs.
Rachel Emma Allen Berry
Rachel Emma Allen Berry made national history just two years after women won the right to vote in state of Arizona in 1912. Berry was the first woman in the United States to win a seat in the legislature, according to Arizona Women’s Hall of Fame. Her time in the Arizona House of Representatives included fighting for bills to improve education and child welfare or banish cigars and chewing tobacco, and adopt the state flag that Arizona still uses today, according to the Arizona Memory Project, a digital service of the Arizona State Library. After her time in the legislature, Berry returned to Apache County and continued to serve the community through social and religious work.
Sister Kathleen Clark
In 1973, Sister Kathleen Clark was simply an emergency room at St. Joseph’s hospital in Tucson, Ariz. when she decided to start a nonprofit organization that would light a passion for change across the country. According to the Arizona Women’s Hall of Fame, Sister Kathleen Clark was shocked by the amount of abused and neglected children who came into the hospital and she set out to create a safe place for the children to live, creating the first child crisis nursery in the country. The organization, named Casa del los Niños, became a template for similar efforts across the United States. The Tucson community immediately responded to the organization and still gives donations of clothing, diapers, toys, and financial gifts. In the first 30 years, Sister Clark’s compassion impacted the life of around 32,000 children, according to Arizona Women’s Hall of Fame.
University of Arizona President Ann Weaver Hart
President Ann Weaver Hart is making history at the University of Arizona as she is currently the first female president the school has ever inaugurated.
Hart, a Utah native, had previously been president at Temple University and the university of New Hampshire as well a vice president for Claremont Graduate University, according to information provided by the president’s office. She also spent time at her alma mater, the University of Utah, as a teacher, dean and assistant to the president.
Since Hart’s inauguration in 2012, she has implemented her strategic plan of “Never Settle”. According to the University of Arizona, this plan holds the manifesto that the University will never settle, but continue to develop and explore all the areas it is capable of. Through this plan, Hart and the University of Arizona Foundation launched the Arizona Now Campaign with the hopes of raising $1.5 billion to better the University. According to the Arizona Now Campaign website, the donations have reached $1.168 billion as of Feb. 27.
Beyond Hart’s efforts to improve, she holds active positions in the community as she hold over 12 member positions with organizations such as Southern Arizona Leadership Council, Arizona State Board of Education, and Tucson Festival of Books, according to the President’s office.
Mayor Georgia Lord of Goodyear
The Arizona city of Goodyear is currently one of the fastest growing cities in the state and with the leadership of the first female mayor, Georgia Lord, the success of the city has only increased.
Lord, who has lived in the city for the past 17 years, was born in Lansing, Michigan, where she grew up in the countryside. She completed her college education at Michigan State University where she was a member of the cheer squad.
Following her graduation, Lord expanded her experience in a wide range of fields.
“I worked for Michigan Bell Telephone Company for a number of years before moving to Arizona, while also working as a freelance fashion model, stateside and internationally, for the vast majority of my adult life,” said Lord, “I’m a military wife of 30 years as my husband served the US Air Force. I worked for a National Home Builder as a Sales Representative shortly after Ron, my husband, retired from the Air Force, and was elected to Goodyear City Council in 2005.”
After playing an active part in the city council for six years, Lord moved her career forward and was elected mayor position in 2011.
“I am most passionate about city government, as it’s the closest form of government to the people and allows me more direct access to my constituents,” said Lord, “I have the ability to better impact the quality of life of our city’s residents.”
Lord, who was the only elected official to be named one of the most influential business woman in Arizona for 2014, continues to be inspired through her love for the city of Goodyear.
“My husband and I have moved 22 times living in the United States, Europe and Asia. When he and I decided to finally retire, we visited Goodyear and I was struck by the city’s beauty, cleanliness and opportunity,” said Lord, “It was evident to me that the people of Goodyear cared about their city. In my career, I learned about what it takes to make a community successful, and Goodyear has all of the necessary attributes.”
And as the first female mayor, Lord recognizes just how impactful her position can be.
“I was actually inspired partially by my mother’s dedication to political causes that she believed in. My mother was a tenacious woman, and I greatly admired her courage. It’s interesting to reflect on the last several decades and all of the progress that women in politics, and all over the world, have made,” said Lord, “It didn’t occur to me initially and even until after the election that I would be the first female Mayor of the City of Goodyear, but I am pleased to have the opportunity to demonstrate to Goodyear’s young women that anything is possible.”
Kristi Tedesco, KVOA Anchor and creator of “Kristi’s Kids”
For Tucson locals, Kristi Tedesco’s face may immediately connect them to their daily news. As a reporter for KVOA since December of 2004, Tedesco has used her role as a journalist to better empower the community.
As a women who grew up in Tucson and returned after obtaining her degree in Kansas, Tedesco said she originally thought she was going to attend law school, but fell in love with broadcast journalism and never looked back.
Through her work in the field, Kristi developed a passion for bettering the lives of children and knew she wanted to create Kristi’s Kids, an organization that would help bring awareness to the issues.
“Kristi’s Kids was born when the remains of a little girl were found in a storage unit in midtown. I investigated that case and found that the little girl and her brother were supposed to be under the watch of Child Protective Services,” said Tedesco, “Both children died, with open cases. That case, and several others, prompted me to go to lawmakers and get laws written to reform Child Protective Services. In the end, investigations launched by Kristi’s Kids got six CPS reform laws signed into law in 2007. I’m a mom. Protecting all children is a passion of mine.”
Kristi’s Kids has now grown into an active organization focused on child advocacy, offering many programs to help prevent children from dangers, said Tedesco.
Annual campaigns such as “Lifesaver” which teaches water safety for kids, a back to school supplies drive and the Season 4 Hope that provides toys, food, and clothing for kids in Southern Arizona are all examples of how Kristi’s passion is impacting the community and raising awareness.
But Tedesco is nowhere near finished with her passion.
“There is still more work to be done when it comes to child welfare/neglect and abuse. The new system created in Arizona, to replace Child Protective Services, is a work in progress. I intend to keep a watchful eye on that and bring issues to light when I’m made aware of them,” said Tedesco.
When asked what was has touched her the most from her time working with the community, the answer was clear.
“When I put my head on the pillow at night, I know that I’ve done some good for someone out there. It’s a peace and comfort that I crave and appreciate. Nothing beats making an impact,” said Tedesco. “Often, I’m told that someone appreciates what I’ve done. I know there are lives I’ve touched that I never even hear about and that’s okay. It feels good just doing it.”
Dr. Nancy Sweitzer, director of Sarver Heart Center and Chief of Cardiology at Banner University Medical Center
Dr. Nancy Sweitzer, director of the UA Sarver Heart Center, professor of medicine and chief of the Division of Cardiology at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson, has made impactful strides in the field of medicine as well as the empowerment of women.
Sweitzer, a Wisconsin native, joined the UA Sarver Heart Center in 2014 and has since taken her passions for research, education and medicine to further develop the already nationally recognized Banner University Medical Center.
“I always liked math and science, but I was inspired to pursue scientific research when I was a teenager and watched my grandfather die of colon cancer. I really had had no exposure to medicine other than visits to my pediatrician. When I heard about MD and PhD programs, I decided I would like to pursue that so that my research might be on the cutting edge of medicine,” said Sweitzer, “I began my MD and PhD program somewhat non-traditionally with a year in my PhD program before starting my first year of medical school. Although I loved the basic cellular research I was doing, as soon as I started medical school I realized that patient care was something I loved and had a gift for. No matter what I did, I knew caring for patients was going to be a focus.”
Even though it has been over 20 years since she received her M.D. and Ph.D. in physiology at the University of Wisconsin, Sweitzer still finds tremendous value and reward throughout her day to day work.
“When I am taking care of heart failure patients, I often meet them when they are extremely sick, in “cardiogenic shock”, and actively dying. If there is a way to make things better and save a life, I feel I am very good at figuring that out. Seeing a patient who has been really sick, even dying, and using treatments wisely to help them feel better and have quality of life makes me so happy. I love to work with my patients to help them achieve their life goals, as we navigate the pathway of heart failure together – it is a chronic disease, and the relationship can be long,” said Sweitzer.
“I’m also very inspired by the potential to use clinical research to find new treatments to improve the lives of those with the sickest hearts. I am building a clinical research core at the Sarver Heart Center, available to all our doctors and researchers, which will help us work together to pursue important advances in cardiovascular care,” she said. “Building this infrastructure will allow us to bring the newest and latest tools and techniques in cardiac care to the people of Southern Arizona, and stay on the cutting edge of advances in medicine. “
As the first woman director the Sarver Heart Center has seen, Switzer recognizes the power and potential she has to build on a legacy for not only herself, but for women in the field of medicine.
“The leadership environment at the University of Arizona is unlike any other medical center in the country. We now have women leaders in the Department of Medicine, the Department of Surgery and the Cardiovascular Center. And really, we are all just smart, fun, normal women,” explained Sweitzer, “I hope in my role to show what is possible and encourage young, ambitious women to be deliberate and thoughtful in their career development.
Jaime Odom is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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