Connie Hearn and Norma Minnis first met when their paths kept crossing at business luncheons. Then they met again at the 2004 March for Women’s Lives in Washington, D. C. where over one million women participated in one of the largest marches in U.S. history. What were the chances of them running into each other half way across the United States at such a huge gathering? They have been close friends ever since.
The two became involved in Women’s Issues Network (WIN), a local organization formed in 1980 which has worked continuously for women’s rights and equality. Each had a particular incident in their past that shaped their lives.
Connie was greatly influenced by her dad in her teen years when he served in the Air Force. He played on a baseball team with fellow soldiers, but when the game was over, he could not have a drink with the African American players because of the segregation laws. He was angry over the injustice of the laws. Then she personally experienced social prejudice as a teen in Hawaii where she was the minority. Connie’s first job in the business world in the late 80’s was for a small company that rapidly grew to an INC. 500 company. She quickly rose to the position of CFO and that’s when she discovered that both she and the V.P. of Operations were being paid less than what their male counterpart was being paid as the V.P. of Sales. “It was shocking to learn that he was paid twice what we were and, when our owner was confronted, he had the nerve to say it was because John needed more income as a man. We threatened to resign until we were paid equally and the owner acquiesced.” Since that time, she has worked passionately for women’s equality and for equal rights for all.
Norma became politically involved when the city was planning to demolish houses on the street behind her house in order to build a thoroughfare. She worked with the neighbors to successfully defeat the plan. She then worked for Congressman John Bryant for 14 years as the District Director where she learned about the political process and became involved with many civic causes. She has worked on numerous neighborhood campaigns because she knows that one person can make a difference in the quality of life.
The pair will be at the Women's Equality Day celebration at Dallas City Hall on August 24 which has been celebrated annually by WIN for over 20 years. Over 100 women wearing white will descend upon City Hall for the program. White garments represent the suffragists who lobbied for women to vote, keeping their memory alive.
Although women's voting rights are taken for granted today, they were earned through a long brutal campaign by women that began in the 1700's and culminated nearly 150 years later when the 19th Amendment was passed on August 26, 1920.
Until that time, women were not allowed the right to own property, to have legal claim to the money they earned, nor the right to vote. Clothes, jewelry, and land were owned by their husbands or fathers. Bibles were one of their few possessions that they could hand down to their children.
“Although 66% of women are registered, only 46% actually vote,” said Norma. “The most important thing you can do to initiate change is to vote.”
Women’s Equality Day is scheduled for August 24 from 12:00 to 1:00 p.m. in the Flag Room on the 6thfloor of City Hall located at 1500 Marilla Drive. The keynote speaker is Debbie Branson, former Chair of Parkland’s Board of Managers and the 87th Linz Award recipient. The event will include a Proclamation recognizing the 96th Anniversary of Women’s Equality Day given by Mayor Rawlings, the City Council, and County Commissioners, and others. It will be followed by a program honoring the history and aspirations for full equality of women and girls.
Betty Ritchie and Jo Ann Jenkins are the event chairs. Jana Barker is the President of WIN.
Sponsors for this event are: Dallas Women’s Foundation, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Dallas Alumnae Chapter, Jane’s Due Process, Junior League of Dallas, League of Women Voters of Dallas, NARAL Pro-choice Texas, National Council of Jewish Women Greater Dallas, National Organization of Women N. Dallas Chapter, League of Women Voters of Collin County, Peacemakers, Inc., Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, S.E. Dallas Business & Professional Women’s Club, Temple Shalom, Texas Muslim Women’s Foundation, Inc., The Afiya Center, United Nations Association—Dallas Chapter, Women’s Issues Network.
The event is free and open to the public.