For decades, Myra Farr has helped run groups that assist families and improve the lives of the elderly. She has served as an officer for the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, the Tay-Sachs Disease Testing Program of South Florida, the Greater Miami Women.
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Eunice Watson Liberty is a pioneer who introduced African American history in the Dade school district's regular curriculum. She produced an alternative debutante ball for young black women and their male escorts who weren't from moneyed families to mark their arrival into responsible society. She has worked for Haitian children and to create a halfway house for women in distress. At 92, she still votes and was active in campaigning for William Lehman, Claude Pepper and Maurice Ferre. She taught in Dade public schools for 42 years until retiring in 1969.
Phoebe Morse is a legend in Dade's philanthropy circles. For decades she has raised millions of dollars for a host of charitable causes that range from castaway pets to children with AIDS. She made the Dade Humane Society into one of the best such groups in the nation. The Children's Home Society awarded her the Child Advocate of the Year for raising the money to build a daycare for children with AIDS. She has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for juvenile delinquents to be reformed through the ICARE program in South Dade. Morse was one of the early career women. She was one of the first women in the country to have her own radio program in the l930s. Since moving to South Florida, she has dedicated herself to volunteer work for more than six decades.
Marge Pearlson, an outstanding educator, has led efforts to develop community education across Florida as well as Dade and Florida Atlantic University. She has been Florida's International Ambassador for Community Education. She has been recognized for her efforts by the National Community Education Association. She changed the course of schooling in Dade. When the school board considered moving away from using schools for the entire community, she was able to mobilize a campaign that ultimately kept schools open for adults as well as children.
Liz Balmaseda is a nationally acclaimed columnist for The Miami Herald. Her columns explore the political, social, and cultural threads that run through Miami Dade County's diverse communities. In our great cosmopolitan South Florida, her voice is set against the provocative landscape of Miami's political passions, tourists, refugees, and celebrities. After a varied career in journalism, both with The Miami Herald and with other news organizations, Liz won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 1993 for her columns on Cuban American and Haitian issues. Her writings have also earned her many other prestigious awards from a variety of organizations. She also lectures nationally and has appeared on several television shows and documentaries. Liz is a Woman of Impact who very often speaks for those without a voice in South Florida.
Dr. Toni Margulies has devoted 25 years to the encouragement of Miami-Dade County's diverse residents to unite as a community which is open and fair to all people. Dr. Margulies has risen through the education profession from classroom teacher to Assistant Vice President, Office of Equal Opportunity, Florida International University. An expert on affirmative action and discrimination law, she has served as a consultant to many agencies and institutions, made numerous presentations and served as an expert witness in court cases. Dr. Margulies' contributions to our community are crowned by her 22 years of volunteer work as a member of Dade County's Equal Opportunity Board. She has been repeatedly elected Chairperson of this Board for the past 19 years. She was a member of the Metro Miami Action Plan's Employment Task Force for five years and is a founding member of the Feminist Alternative. Dr. Margulies has been the recipient of the President's Award for Achievement and Excellence at F.I.U. and the Individual Achievement from the International Association of Official Human Rights Agencies.
Kay Sullivan is a woman who has overcome many obstacles on her road to success, and has broken down barriers for other women and for African-Americans. She is the first woman and the first African-American to serve as Clerk of the Board of County Commissioners, and the first African-American to become chair of the Miami-Dade County Commission on the Status of Women. Kay is currently serving as Secretary of the National Association of Commissions for Women and she served as Chair of the 1996 Convention of the National Association of Commissions for Women held in Miami Beach. Kay is a graduate of the National Forum for Black Public Administrators. Despite her busy schedule, Kay finds the time to give back to her school, counseling inmates through the Prison Ministry at Broward Correctional Institution for Women, and serving as a mentor and foster parent to a young woman who has, in part because of Kay's involvement, just started college.
Cynthia W. Curry is Vice President for Business and Finance at Florida International University. She had previously been Assistant County Manager for Metropolitan Dade County, overseeing the Department of General Services Administration, the Department of Business and Economic Development, and five other departments or agencies. She has also served as Executive Assistant to the Deputy County Manager and to the interim County Manager. From 1991 to 1993 Ms. Curry served as President for the National Forum for Black Public Administrators. She is a member of the boards of directors for Chase Federal Bank, United Way of Dade County, YWCA Greater Miami, and the Zoological Society of Florida.
Throughout her career, attorney Ellen C. Freidin has been involved in efforts to eliminate gender bias in the legal system. She was chair of the Florida Bar Special Committee for Gender Equality in the Profession from 1991 to 1995, and has served on the executive committee of the Dade County Bar Association. In May 1996, Ms. Freidin was appointed to serve on Florida’s Constitution Revision Commission (CRC), a body appointed every 20 years to review the Florida Constitution. She successfully spearheaded efforts to persuade the CRC to include recognition of the equality of women in its proposals for constitutional change. She then led the successful campaign for voter approval. As a result of her efforts, a guarantee of equality for women is now embedded in the Florida Constitution.
Marleine Bastien is a clinical social worker, a crisis counselor, and an advocate for women’s rights and for the empowerment of all women and girls, especially in the Haitian community. Ms. Bastien received her undergraduate and graduate degrees from Florida International University. For more than a decade, she has provided counseling, facilitated support groups and developed educational programs, materials and workshops in Creole for families and victims of Sickle Cell Anemia, AIDS and domestic violence. In addition, Ms. Bastien has become well known in Washington, D.C. for her advocacy on behalf of the Haitian refugees. She is a talented songwriter and dancer who writes often in newspapers and magazines on the conditions of the Haitian refugees and the Haitian culture. Ms. Bastien is founder and President of the Haitian Women of Miami Organization. She is a member of the Boards of Safespace, the Health and Human Services, and the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center. Additional affiliations include the National Association of Social Work, the Women’s Interface Network of the American Jewish Committee, Sosyete Koukouy, a well-known cultural and literary group in Miami, and Sanba Lele, also well known musical group. Ms. Bastien has been honored by the American Red Cross, the Haitian Refugee Center the Miami-Dade County Commission, the Dade County Public Schools, the Haitian American Nurses Association and the Green Foundation. More recently, she received the “In the Company of Women Award.”
Linda Brown is Executive Director of the Bureau of Community Services for Miami-Dade Public Schools. In this position, she evaluates and facilitates involvement of individuals, businesses, and organizations in Miami-Dade County sponsored programs. She is a committed supporter of the Coalition of Community Education, whose mission is to promote the concept of community schools and education. She has expanded the local Turn on the Lights Project nationally. Ms. Brown has served as president of the Junior League of Miami, where she has focused on Inn Transition, a space for battered women. She secured funding for a second house in hurricane-ravaged South Dade. These structures help to reshape the lives and futures of battered women. Linda Brown is President of Youth Crime Watch of Florida and President-elect of the Jr. Orange Bowl Committee.
A psychologist and educator, Dr. Ruben has given courses at the secondary and college levels on the recognition of gender inequalities. She has created courses for teachers and counselors to help them recognize gender inequalities in schools. She promotes women through her two organizations, “Margaret for President” and “Women are Wonderful, Inc.” “Women are Wonderful, Inc.” reaches adults through seminars, magazine and newspaper articles, speeches, and a website. “Margaret for President” clubs promote female leadership in schools. Dr. Ruben has made an impact that has been felt nationally. She fought and won Wal-Mart’s withdrawal from sale of her “Someday a Woman will be President” T-shirt, which features Margaret of the Dennis the Menace comic strip. This T-shirt has since been distributed nationally to students’ and women’s groups.
Alberta B. Blecke, a University of Florida graduate, has worked for the rights of Florida’s at-risk children for the past two decades. In this work, she follows in the footsteps of her mother, Lucy Batchelor, who first introduced volunteers to Miami-Dade Juvenile Court. Berta Blecke has been an incredibly committed community volunteer whose determined effort to aid neglected, at-risk and abused children, especially girls and young women, has changed our school and judicial fabric for the better. She started as a Junior League of Miami volunteer observing the juvenile courts. This resulted in the 1980 founding of Guardian Ad Liteum, which now has 400 “guardians” who represent a large number of young girls. From this she realized that a lot of children, especially adolescents, had no stable, long-term care. Beginning in 1984 this sparked the development of the CHARLEE program, which has served more than 4,000 children in foster care. Blecke helped extend the Gladstone Center for Girls in 1991, where girls ages two to eighteen receive therapy, schooling and medical care. In 1999 she established a board representing all of the justice, treatment and children’s advocacy groups in the county to create Kristi House, Inc., to coordinate all programs in one place—the first time in the history of our community. A recipient of numerous awards, Alberta B. Blecke has made a great impact as a dedicated volunteer working on behalf of the children of our community.
Francena J. Koch, President of the Dade Counseling Association, is a volunteer for women's groups, civic organizations, and the United Way of Miami-Dade County. The designer and producer of the 21st Century Wisdom Project for AAUW, honoring the wisdom of women in the community, she is also a Women's Detention Center volunteer with juvenile girls, building self-esteem and teaching conflict resolution skills. She has worked on The Making of Champions Boot Camp, an inner city program for building self-esteem for girls and boys. She is involved with community mental health issues and further contributes through the Girl Scouts and senior citizens.
Nancy Dawkins is an honored educator and political activist. She works for the betterment of women and needy community members by assisting in the public acquisition and provision of crucial human resources, including housing, public services and health care.