Carol Lynn Yellin

Women of Achievement
1989

VISION
for a woman whose sensitivity to women’s needs
led her to tremendous achievements for women:

Carol Lynn Yellin

Author, editor, activist, mentor — Carol Lynn Yellin has been part of the Memphis community since she moved from New York in 1964.

While editing Reader’s Digest Condensed Books, she quickly became active in civil rights, joining the black and white women in the Saturday Luncheon Club who tested desegregation laws by dining in various restaurants. Three days after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., she and her husband David founded the Memphis Search for Meaning Committee. She obtained grant funds and worked with volunteers in the massive job of documenting Memphis events of 1968. A National Endowment for the Humanities grant turned their labor into the Memphis Multi-Media Archival Collection at Memphis State University.

Carol Lynn’s commitment to women’s right is long-standing. From 1975 to 1977, she participated in the International Women’s Conference in Mexico City, the Tennessee Women’s Meeting and the National Women’s Conference in Houston. For the Tennessee meeting she helped to write and edit Tennessee Women: Past and Present.

Before the demise of the first campaign for ratification of the ERA, she organized pro-equality luncheons and helped organize a citywide celebration of the anniversary of women’s suffrage in Court Square, featuring the man who cast the deciding vote in Tennessee in 1920 that led to voting for women. She has marched on the county courthouse, pressing for women on juries; helped found the Memphis Chapter of Women in Communications, Inc., the Economic Justice for Women Coalition and Women of Achievement, Inc. Her article on the suffrage movement, published by American Heritage magazine in 1979-80, is regarded as source material by scholars. She is comfortable dealing with “old-timers” in the women’s and civil rights movements as well as with young women who are just beginning to understand the sacrifices of those who came before them.

Carol Lynn Yellin has a vision — a vision of equality and opportunity for women of all ages, races and backgrounds.

Carol Lynn incorporated VOTE70 Inc. with Paula Casey and Joan Horne Lollar in 1989 to celebrate the 70-year history of women’s suffrage. She is working on a biography of Mahatma Gandhi.

Paula Casey

Women of Achievement
1994

VISION
for a woman whose sensitivity to women’s needs
led her to tremendous achievements for women:

Paula Casey

Paula Casey has a vision of women taking their rightful place in the halls of power. She has worked tirelessly and creatively to make that vision a reality.

Paula is a co-founder of the Memphis Women’s Political Caucus, was president of the Tennessee Women’s Caucus, served as a charter member and secretary of the Economic Justice for Women Coalition, and is currently a board member of Woman’s Party Corp. in Washington, D.C., which maintains the Sewall-Belmont House, a depository for women’s suffrage memorabilia.

In 1989 Paula founded VOTE 70 and incorporated it with Carol Lynn Yellin and Joan Horne Lollar to celebrate the 70-year history of women’s right to vote. Frustrated with the lack of information concerning the suffragists in history books, she decided to take action. The result is a 12.5-minute video, Generations, detailing 70 years of struggle for the right for women to vote. It is now available in all 50 states and at the Smithsonian Institute.

Other activities include over a decade of work for the YWCA as both a volunteer and board member and as a board member of the National Federation of Press Women since 1977. A former newspaper journalist, Paula brings powerful energy and enthusiasm to her causes. She is a voice for Tennessee women on political issues. An example is this comment from a July 1991 story about Gov. Ned McWherter’s failure to appoint women to the University of Tennessee’s 24-member Board of Trustees: “The very fact that he cannot look at that and say ‘What’s wrong with this picture?’ suggests he needs some consciousness-training. He’d never dream of appointing an all-white board. Why doesn’t he know better than to have all men?”

Carol Lynn Yellin says, “She carries people along with her own spirit.” And Marilou Awiakta adds that “Paula has, as the Indian people say, ‘a good mind’ — that is, she is positive in thoughts and spirit and works for the good of the people.”

It is no coincidence that these past recipients of the Vision Award mention spirit. For Paula’s spirit is strong and a model to us all. Her nominator says, “Paula is indeed a hero, not only to me, but to every little girl in America who may grow up to realize all her dreams without limit and to every woman in America who already can.”

It is her vision of equality for women that makes this true.

Astrid Braganza

WOMEN OF ACHIEVEMENT
1987

VISION
for a woman whose sensitivity to women’s needs
led her to tremendous achievements for women:

Astrid Braganza 

Since 1969 Astrid Braganza has worked with women imprisoned in the Shelby County Jail. Her vision has been, and still is, more humane treatment for these women and an opportunity for them to rehabilitate themselves.

Her volunteer work is done inside the jail by personal contact and by providing opportunities for worship and personal enrichment. It is tiring and demanding but she has never given up on the imprisoned women who need help.

Astrid, a native of India, was already there when Church Women United in the early 1970s documented two appalling problems that were being ignored by the local justice system. Astrid later described them: those dragging, empty hours in which women had nothing to do but stare at the bars and walls of their cells, play poker and dice, or for the more energetic, start squabbles that often degenerated into brawls.

A second problem she identified was ironic in the region that prides itself on being with the so-called Bible Belt: the women were denied their basic human right to worship God in any formal way.

From worship services held in a wide hallway on the fifth floor of the old county jail, to the disappointment of seeing women barred from a beautiful inmates’ chapel at the Penal Farm, and finally to services in a stark, simple chapel in the Criminal Justice Center, Astrid Braganza has held true to her vision. Many times she met with resistance and resentment from jail officials. She never let them stop her, however.

In our society, women behind bars are nearly invisible. Astrid Braganza has demonstrated through her vision and work with the criminal justice system that a better life for these women is possible.

Lorrine Cunningham

WOMEN OF ACHIEVEMENT
1986

VISION
for a woman whose sensitivity to women’s needs
led her to tremendous achievements for women:

Lorrine Cunningham

Lorrine Cunningham has given outstanding and vital leadership in seeking economic and social justice for everyone, whether the issue is wife abuse, job discrimination, or jail and prison conditions.

She joined the Civil Rights movement in 1963 in Jackson, Mississippi, where she and her Methodist minister husband were involved in the struggle to open churches to persons of all races. That was, she has said, “a traumatic and radicalizing experience.”

Since her arrival in Memphis in 1970, Lorrine has demonstrated that constant vigilance and a strong will can solve glaring human needs. When this self-described “little old lady in tennis shoes” talks, people listen — and they act.

As a lead of Church Women United, Lorrine was instrumental in development of the Transitional Center for Women, a residential program for women offenders, and in creation of the Second Chance Fund to help those women afford education and job training. As a founder and past president of the Economic Justice for Women Coalition, she generated projects to heighten public awareness of economic and equality issues facing all women. In recent years, she has pursued Shelby County officials demanding equal treatment and opportunities for women prisoners in the county jail.

Lorrine Cunningham’s achievements to better women’s lives are the result of her vision of a world where women can do and be everything they imagine.

Bonnie Thornton Dill

WOMEN OF ACHIEVEMENT
1985

VISION
for a woman whose sensitivity to women’s needs
led her to tremendous achievements for women:

Bonnie Thornton Dill

Bonnie Thornton Dill received her Ph.D. in sociology from New York University and today is associate professor in the Department of Sociology and Social Work, and director of the Center for Research on Women at Memphis State University. Her vision improves the lives of many women.

Through her leadership the Center was established to promote, advance and conduct research on working class women in the South, and women of color throughout the nation. The Center has become an integral part of MSU and the wider community through its sharing of research knowledge and information for curriculum development and community education.

Bonnie’s childhood experiences as a student in the predominantly white University of Chicago Lab School, and her later active participation in the Civil Rights movement, led to her interest in examining the impact of racism, classism and sexism on the occupations, incomes and lifestyles of women of color.

What makes Bonnie Thornton Dill a woman of vision is said best in the words of her nominator: “She has made a difference in my life, and in the lives of many women.”

 

Bonnie left Memphis in 1991 for a teaching position in the Department of Women’s Studies at the University of Maryland – College Park.  She chaired the department for eight years and is Founding Director of the Consortium on Race, Gender, and Ethnicity at the University of Maryland.  She served as president of the National Women’s Studies Association from 2010-1012, was vice-president of the American Sociological Association, and has chaired the Advisory Board of Scholars for Ms. Magazine.  She currently serves as dean of the College of Arts and Humanities at the University of Maryland.