Governor Steve Beshear and First Lady Jane Beshear today joined the Kentucky Commission on Women to celebrate its 50th anniversary by paying tribute to one Kentucky Women Remembered honoree and announcing a new women's history project.
The Kentucky Commission on Women Foundation has received a $100,000 grant from Toyota to complete the production of a one-hour public television-style documentary based on the contributions women have made to the growth and development of the Commonwealth.
The documentary, devoted to the history of Kentucky women, is believed to be the first of its kind. It will air on public television and will be sent to schools across the state as an educational tool.
The Commission celebrated another first today by recognizing Marie Caldwell Humphries, who served as the first chair of the Commission after it became an agency of general government in the late 1960s.
"Kentucky women of every race, class and ethnic background have made contributions and strengthened our Commonwealth in countless recorded and unrecorded ways. Humphries is part of that history," Gov. Beshear said. "It is fitting that we announce the funding for this documentary during Women's History Month and on the golden anniversary of the Commission on Women. We thank Toyota for its generosity in jumpstarting the production of this new resource for Kentuckians."
Commission Chair Madeline Abramson, wife of Kentucky's lieutenant governor, approached Toyota executives last year to fund the production and distribution of the film. Abramson serves as an ex-officio member of the Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization that raises funds for designated projects of the Commission.
"We had immediate interest and buy-in from Toyota and Wil James, president of the Georgetown plant, regarding our latest women's history project in Kentucky," Abramson said. "We appreciate the involvement of Toyota team members, Helen Carroll, Rick Hesterburg and Nila Wells, and the hard work of Commission member Linda Roach and Kentucky media producer Michael Breeding. We wouldn't be here without them."
"At Toyota, one of our main tenets is "respect for people,' and, as part of that, we have a long history of supporting women both in and outside of the workplace," said James, president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky Inc. "The accounts of women from Kentucky's history whose creativity, intellect and strength have impacted the Commonwealth should be readily available for all to see. We are honored to be supporting the Kentucky Women Remembered film project and its mission to celebrate the past as it empowers our younger women of Kentucky who represent our future leaders and innovators."
The documentary subject matter will mostly involve material from the Kentucky Women Remembered exhibit that began in 1978 and consists of watercolor portraits depicting outstanding women in Kentucky's history. The Commission unveils new portraits to be added to the exhibit during Women's History Month each March.
With the induction of Humphries, the Capitol exhibit boasts nearly 70 portraits of outstanding women in Kentucky.
Humphries was appointed by Gov. Louie Nunn in 1969 and was a well-known advocate for the Equal Rights Amendment and other issues relating to gender equity. Humphries was described in a 1969 newspaper editorial as "going about the Commonwealth stirring up delusions of grandeur among the ladies of the Bluegrass." Humphries attended and spoke briefly at today's ceremony.
"Gov. Nunn was hopeful that the existence of the Commission would allow women to play a larger role in the growth of Kentucky," said Humphries. "What I witnessed today and the great honor I have received is proof I succeeded in my job."
"We initiated this project because it is long overdue and necessary for the next generation to learn of the many largely unrecognized achievements by women that have shaped our history," said Eleanor Jordan, executive director of the Commission. "Every Kentuckian will not be able to visit the State Capitol to read these stories and see the portraits, but capturing the content of the exhibit on film will make it much more accessible."
Michael Breeding Media Inc., of Lexington, has been contracted by the Foundation to produce the documentary, which is expected to be completed by December. Breeding has produced several documentaries aired on Kentucky Educational Television, as well as the Kentucky Mansion Centennial documentary.
The Foundation has not yet reached its goal in fundraising for the project and donations may be made by contacting the Commission at 502-564-2611.
Marie Caldwell Humphries
Marie Caldwell Humphries (Jefferson County) was the only girl in her graduating class of 10 students in Wren, Miss., at a time when girls weren't expected to benefit from education. Marie was the valedictorian, an early sign she was destined to change the way society viewed the role of women.
Marie entered business school, and after one year she landed a job as a secretary at the U.S. Air Force Base in Columbus, Miss. Because she was such a quick study, Marie was consistently promoted, and by the war's end, she had earned a top specialist position and a commendation by the secretary of war.
Marie was a devoted mother and wife, but in later years, she became a business owner, civic and political volunteer. It was in politics that Marie found her niche. She approached then-candidate Louie B. Nunn about crafting a woman's platform for his campaign. Marie wrote the content, but her main objective was to begin to prepare him for the next request she would make if Nunn was elected -- to issue an executive order making the existing Commission on the Status of Women a permanent agency of state government. Gov. Nunn honored her request after his election.
Marie was appointed as the first chair in 1969 of the newly formed Commission on Women and became an outspoken advocate for changes in the way women were viewed in society. She led the Commission to join with the Pro-ERA Alliance to advocate for the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In an era when an agency devoted to women's issues was somewhat controversial, Marie's leadership and ability ensured the continuation of the Commission on Women to see its 50th anniversary.