About 160 women have been honored in the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame and about a dozen of them are from the Kalamazoo area.
“One of the remarkable women from Kalamazoo is Edna Ferber. She is actually the only Pulitzer Prize winning author in the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame,” says Sandy Soifer, Executive Director of the Michigan Women’s Historical Center and Hall of Fame in Lansing.
Ferber was born in Kalamazoo but lived most of her life in New York City. To be inducted in the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame, a woman has to be either born in Michigan or made a contribution in Michigan. Sojourner Truth was born in New York but came to Battle Creek. She was an abolitionist and women’s rights worker who was the first person inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame. She had already been inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame when Michigan’s began in 1983. Lita Snow founded the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra in the 1920’s.
“That was quite remarkable,” Soifer says, “especially under the leadership of the woman in those decades.”
Olympia Brown, a leading suffragist in Michigan and the nation is in the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame.
“Mary Brown is a remarkable woman from the Kalamazoo area,” Soifer says. “She was a politician. She represented the district for eighteen years in the Michigan House of Representatives. She was inducted into the hall of fame in 2007. And, she’s also very well-known not only in western Michigan but also throughout the state as a leader in the Girl Scout movement.”
Gwen Frostic endowed the art school at Western Michigan University and “definitely made her mark as an artist in our state,” said Soifer. Groups of women and organizations are also inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame.
“This year, we are inducting the Con-Con Eleven," says Soifer. "These are 11 women from around our state who were the first female delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Michigan. They are the first women who helped write a state constitution and that was in 1961 and ’62.”
Many states do not honor women with a hall of fame. Michigan is celebrating 30 years.
“We take nominations until March 31st of each year,” Soifer says, “and we get about a hundred each year.”
About ten women are inducted each year.
“There are so many outstanding women in our state that are role models for all of us,” Soifer says, “for men and women in our state as well as younger people who come to our museum. There are so many lessons to be learned from the accomplishments of these women.”
There are many other women honored in the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame from Kalamazoo, Battle Creek, and other towns and cities around West Michigan.