The Untold Story of Great American sHeroes:
Notable Women of NW Michigan

Below please find the beginning of a “Notable Women of NW Michigan” HERstory archive. These women have been nominated by "Traverse for Women" web site users.

We welcome your nominations of “Notable Women of NW Michigan” to be displayed at this web site. Your nominee must currently live, or have lived at some time in her lifetime, in NW Michigan.

Please include your nominee's name, birth year if known, and a description of why you are nominating her. CLICK HERE TO VIEW NOMINATING FORM

E-mail: Nominations@TraverseForWomen.com
Write: Traverse for Women, PO Box Nine, Traverse City, MI 49685-0009

Alma Routsong

Alma Routsong (B. 1924 - D. 1996)

Alma Routsong was born in Traverse City, Michigan, in 1924, and graduated from Michigan State College in 1949. Her pen name, Isabel Miller, is the combination of an anagram for "Lesbia" and her mother's birth name. Her first novel, A Gradual Joy, is the story of a young married couple, MSU students living in a quonset hut apartment.

In 1963, Isabel Miller moved to New York and began writing her best known book, A Place for Us, printed in an edition of 1,000 copies paid for and sold by the author. With this title, based on a true story of a 19th-century couple from New York state, Miller began her career as lesbian novelist. In 1971, the novel won the first annual Gay Book Award of the American Library Association. Under its later title, Patience and Sarah, Miller's novel became the most-cherished lesbian love story of all time. The title story in A Dooryard Full of Flowers and Other Short Pieces is a sequel.

Miller died in 1996, shortly before her last novel, Laurel, was published.

Beckett

Barbara Lee Beckett (B: 1953 Mount Pleasant - )

Barb Beckett was born in Mt. Pleasant Feb. 21 1953 where she lived until 1971 when she moved to Traverse City in order to attend Northwestern Michigan College where she studied nursing. Ms. Beckett worked for the Grand Traverse County ambulance service for two years. She worked at the Murchie House for girls from 1976 to 1984. In 1984 Barbara took a position as program director at the YMCA where she still works to this day.

Ms. Beckett has been a sports official for MHSAA & ASA, for 21 years. She has been awarded the Vern Norris award. She has been chosen to officiate 9 state final games. She led a women's softball team to 3 state championships. She is the president of the Northern Sports Officials Association. She has organized several softball, basketball, and football leagues for adults in Traverse City. One of Barb's most notable traits is her ability to help athletic directors, coaches, players, and officials out in difficult situations - as she is gifted with the ability to develop solutions that are in the best interest of all involved. READ MORE

Beth Collins

Chef Beth CollinsBeth Collins, Executive Chef (B. 1957 - )

Prior to relocating to Traverse City Beth was the Executive Chef at the Ross School, a private school in East Hampton. On an average day she and her group served about 1,500 fresh, wholesome, flavorful, healthy meals each day to its students and staff. Executive Chef Beth Collins describes her mantra for food procurement and preparation as “regional, organic, seasonal, and sustainable.”

Her goal is to promote life-long health and well-being. A joint study by the Harvard Medical School and the Centers for Disease Control found that Ross students eat substantially better than typical American kids. They eat twice the fruits and vegetables while consuming less fat, sugar, and salt, and more fiber and antioxidants. And 75 percent of parents have been inspired to change the way they cook at home. Our children are the future of our community. Their health (mental and physical) is vital.

Binsfeld

Connie Binsfeld (B. 1924 - )

When Connie Binsfeld was first elected Michigan's Lieutenant Governor, she earned a special place in state history. She became the only woman to hold a position of leadership in each branch of state government: House, Senate, and Executive Office. As an advocate on behalf of children, family life, and women, Binsfeld authored domestic violence legislation, which is considered among the strongest in the nation. As chair of the 1994 Michigan International Year of the Family celebration, she helped form the Chance at Childhood Foundation. The Foundation is raising an endowment to identify and replicate proven, effective intervention and treatment programs aimed at child abuse, neglect, and exploitation. Additionally, she chaired the 1991 Commission on Adoption and the 1996 Binsfeld Children's Commission. Under her leadership, many of the Commissions' recommendations were enacted into law to improve the lives of children.

Environmental issues affecting family life have also benefited from Binsfeld's involvement. She authored the Sand Dunes Protection Act and introduced the 1983 Quality of Life Bonding Bill which improved environmental cleanup and the state park system. At the national level, she served as President Ronald Reagan's appointee to the North Country Scenic Trail Council and President George H. W. Bush's appointee to the National Park System Advisory Board. She spent ten years on the Great Lakes Commission working to preserve Michigan's most precious natural resource, the Great Lakes.

Not all of Binsfeld's contributions have been in the realm of government, however. A lifetime Girl Scout, Binsfeld was a camp counselor, den mother, and a scout troop leader. She has worked with underprivileged children as a camp counselor for St. Vincent de Paul, volunteered with pediatric patients at Royal Oak's Beaumont Hospital, and helped found Caring Arms, a statewide network between existing programs and services for children and their families.

All of Connie Binsfeld's life has been devoted to children and families, particularly children in need. Her belief in the importance of Michigan's future generations is clear when she said, "Children are our joy, our hope, our promise, our assurance of a better tomorrow. Tomorrow, society will reflect how we treat children today." SOURCE: Michigan Women's Hall of Fame

Bond

Kay Bond (B. 1945 - )

Kay Bond, along with her husband Randy, began their work for international peace during the Faith and Resistance Retreats/Actions in l987. In l993, they went with a Michigan Peace Team delegation to intervene in the violence in Bosnia. In 1994 they went to El Salvador as observers to that country's democratic elections. In November, l995, they were part of a delegation that supported the beginning of the Christian Peacemaker Team in Hebron in the occupied West Bank. Kay and Randy have anchored the long term Michigan Peace Team in Chiapas during much of l998-2000. They have also participated in numerous MPT peacekeeping efforts throughout Michigan as well as MPT trainings in nonviolence.

In the summer of l998, they left their inner city home and work in Grand Rapids (Kay as founder and ten-year director of In The Image, a free store of furniture and clothes for homeless, the mentally disabled, and poor; Randy as an engineer at Steelcase). The Bonds moved to a wooded area in Beulah, "off the grid," and have decided to dedicate the rest of their lives to peacemaking at home and abroad.

Dodd

Margaret Dodd (B. 1942 Rutherglen, Scotland - )

Born in the tenements of a small town south of Glasgow in Scotland, Margaret's tenacity lead her to become the youngest qualified teacher in Scotland. She completed her graduate work in Canada, and taught in Scotland, Canada and and in the United States. In 1991 she ran for a seat on the Traverse City Commission "because decisions were made by people who did not necessarily represent all viewpoints."

In Traverse City she was voted "Best Elected Official" and "Best Local Hero". The Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council honored Margaret Dodd as the first public official to receive their "Environmentalist of the Year Award". Ms. Dodd was our first popularly elected Mayor in over 60 years; in fact she was the first woman to be elected Mayor in Traverse City's history. She also was the first elected official in NW Michigan to ever receive the prestigious statewide Catalyst Award (The Catalyst Award is conveyed upon individuals / organizations who have promoted dignity and human rights for all - securing freedom from violence, intimidation and discrimination.) Most recently Margaret was selected by the Sierra Club Traverse Group to receive their highest recognition — "Environmentalist of the Year."

Ms. Dodd has sung in church choirs, been a Red Cross leader, a church deacon, and a volunteer at summer camps for physically and mentally impaired children. She has taught English to non-English speaking immigrants, worked on a crisis hot line, and been a long time library volunteer. She's served as president of a Women's Club and a condo association. She was co-founder of the citizen activist group Grass Roots People, and enjoyed eight years as a volunteer jazz disc jockey on local public radio.

Hardy

Sara H. Hardy (B. 1931 Detroit - D. 1992 Traverse City)

Sara Hardy was a local community leader, pioneer, and human rights activist long before it was popular, especially for women, to assume the moniker of "activist". Born in Detroit Sara moved to the Traverse City area in 1952 with her new husband Larry Hardy. She was no stranger however to Northern Michigan having spent her childhood summers at the family farm, which dated back to the late 1800's, on Torch Lake. Sara's interest in environmental causes dates back to her initial arrival up north and her active involvement in the Three Lakes Association. After settling in the Slabtown area of Traverse City she began a lifetime of community involvement. Sara helped organized the Traverse City League of Women Voters, drafted the enabling ordinance for the T.C. Human Rights Commission, served on the Downtown Development Authority, and later, after moving from Slabtown, helped start the Central Neighborhood Association.

Sara always fought hard for the rights of the disadvantaged and was especially concerned about community-police relations, conflict resolution, and Native American rights. She also was instrumental in implementing the initial Grand Traverse Area Housing Study.

It is her work, however, in 1970 drafting the ordinance for the new Human Rights Commission for which she is most notable. She not only established the commission but also served two terms on its' board. This led later to her serving on the Community Relations Commission, the Community Dispute Resolution Committee, the Indian Inter-Agency Community Council, on the board of Child and Family Services of Northwest Michigan, and the Advisory Council of the State Department of Social Services. She accomplished all of this while, at the same time, raising a family of four children.

A graduate of The University of Michigan Sara also had a lifelong commitment to education and served for 10 years as the Regents Scholarship Chairwoman for U of M in the Grand Traverse area.

In May of 1990 Sara was given the Law Day Liberty Bell Award in recognition of her work on the Human Rights Commission and her representation of minority rights and just before her death she had the Traverse City Farmer's Market, which she helped start, named after her.

As former City Commissioner Carol Hale said upon her passing in 1992: "We've lost a real dynamic force in the community. She'll be remembered for her caring for people." SOURCE: Scott Hardy

Horton

Alison Horton (B: - )

Nominee - Environmental Advocate

Kromkowski

Marian Kromkowski (B 1954 South Bend, IN - )

Marian Kromkowski moved to the Traverse City area with her husband, Matthew Posner and two children, Esther and Claire in 1987, A third child, Ellen, was born the next year. Marian has been an attorney since 1979 with the Law Firm of Kromkowski and Posner, initially focusing on providing legal assistance to indigent criminal defendants. For the last ten years, she has concentrated on family law issues, both as a Domestic Relations Referee and Divorce Mediator. She has recently opened Traverse Mediation Associates.

Marian attributes the beginnings of her political awareness to her parents and siblings, who were not shy about discussing their support for civil rights and their opposition to the Vietnam War in the 1960’s. During her law school days in Detroit, Marian was involved in anti-racist and anti-Apartheid activities. With the coming of children and ultimately the move to Traverse City, Marian turned to educational and environmental concerns. She was active with the Montessori School in Suttons Bay and at the Shielding Tree Nature Center.

After September 11th, as many searched for answers, Marian renewed her political activism and began to study the history of the conflicts in the Middle East. Locally, she helped establish Mideast: Just Peace in support of the Palestinian cause for peace with justice. Since 2002, Mideast: Just Peace has sponsored monthly films, speakers and forums on issues related to this concern and other US foreign policy issues. She has traveled to Palestine with Traverse for Peace, has lectured and written on the topics of US/Israeli policies, life under Occupation and the prospect of One State Solution for all people residing in area of historic Palestine. She helped organize and sustain anti-war demonstrations in the Traverse Area in 2003 and 2004. Currently, she co-manages the Just Peace list serve that provides weekly updates to other local peace and justice enthusiasts.

She still has those three great daughters, a very supportive husband and now a first son-in-law.

Milliken

Helen W. Milliken (B. 1922 Colorado - )

Helen Milliken, wife of the former Governor of Michigan, has long been identified with women's issues and women's concerns. She was a distinguished National Co-Chair of ERAmerica and traveled throughout the country speaking on behalf of the Equal Rights Amendment. She also gave freely of her time and energy in raising needed funds to support this major cause. In addition, she was a convener of the International Women's Year Delegation in Michigan and a Member of the Delegation to the IWY Conference which met in Houston in 1977. She is presently associated with The Women's Research in Education Institute in Washington, D.C., and Chairs the National Women's Conference Committee.

Helen Milliken has also been a major patron of the arts in Michigan. She was in no small measure responsible for the development of a state public arts project and for the growth in public support of the arts generally over the past several years. Since its inception, she has served as Chair of the Michigan Artrain which has toured Michigan and 23 other states.

She is an Honorary Member of the Michigan Society of Architects, the Michigan Federation of Business and Professional Women's Club, and Zonta International. She has also received honorary degrees from Central Michigan University, Eastern Michigan University, Michigan State University and The University of Michigan.

In 1976 ERAmerica is founded by Helen W. Milliken.

Independent, committed, and principled, Helen Milliken has never sought, but she has never shrunk from controversy. When her commitment to equality conflicted with her political loyalties, she clearly chose the former. Her choice, her service, and her spirit have enriched the lives of countless Michigan citizens. SOURCE: Michigan Women's Hall of Fame

Neal

Only Woman Game and Fish Warden in the United States

Mrs. Warren Neal of Grand Traverse County, Michigan is a duly commissioned county game and fish warden. She is a slender, sprightly little woman in the prime of life with brown wavy hair and honest bright blue eyes. Mrs. Neal weighs 108 pounds, but can row and manage a boat with more skill than some muscular men.

Mrs. Neal's explanation of how she incurred her appointment is as follows: 'Why there was a warden, but he could not come up here and stop the spearing and netting of fish and killing game out of season, and I asked Mr. Osborn, State Game Warden, to appoint me, and he did."

Reprinted from the Official Bulletin of the Sportsmen's Association. From the Women in Criminal Justice Hall of Honor, established by Women Police of Michigan, Inc. in 1991 to honor those women who have contributed to the advancement of women in criminal justice. SOURCE: Criminal Justice and Law Center, Lansing Community College. Also printed in the Women's History Project of NW Michigan newsletter.

Text from "In Government Service" published in 1897:

In Michigan a woman has been appointed Game Warden for Grand Traverse County. During May of 1897 the State, Game and Fish Warden's Department prosecuted 109 alleged violators of the law, and convicted 96, growing out of 149 complaints. All but three of the convictions were obtained for violation of the fish laws, and the majority of these cases were established by Mrs. Neal. The duties of Game Warden are to keep a sharp lookout for violators of the game and fish laws. As Grand Traverse County is densely wooded and has many lakes, Mrs. Neal will be kept busy in seeking out and bringing to justice violators of the law. She handles a gun like an expert, rows a boat, and is a skillful woodsman and knows every inch of the country she has to patrol. She usually makes a trip over the entire county once a week. When out after the violators of the game law, she rides over the country on horseback, and when she comes to a lake, secures a boat and with a steady, swift oar, she rapidly covers her territory made up of water.

Perry
Belle McArthur Perry

In 1890 the Michigan Women's Press Association is founded at Traverse City. Belle McArthur Perry from Charlotte was its first president.

Quick

Brenda Jones Quick (B. 1948 Ravenna, Kentucky - )

Brenda was recently appointed by Governor Jennifer Granholm to serve on the Michigan Women's Commission. Brenda is an attorney with the law firm of Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge in Traverse City. Prior to joining the firm in an "Of Counsel" capacity, she served as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs (1995-1998) and Professor of Law (1989-2001) with the Michigan State University, DCL College of Law. While at MSU Ms. Quick also taught Property Law and Legal Ethics. At the time she "retired" from legal education, she was awarded the position of Professor of Law Emeritus. Brenda is a member of the State Bar of Michigan and the American Bar Association.

Recognized for her work in the area of Native American law, Brenda Jones Quick has written and spoken on several related topics including "Special Treatment is Fair Treatment for America's Indigenous Peoples," and "Religious Persecution of America's Native Americans." She also has taught and written extensively on various property law issues and in the area of legal ethics. She has spoken at numerous events and has published several articles on a myriad of issues, including sexual harassment in the workplace.

In 2004 Brenda is a visiting Professor of Law at Barry University Law School, and is teaching Constitutional Law and Native American Law.

She currently serves on the Board of Zoning Appeals of Traverse City, the Board of Trustees of Goodwill Industries of Northern Michigan, and is Secretary for the Board of Trustees of G.W. Services, Inc., a non-profit corporation dedicated to providing employment opportunities to the severely handicapped. She also is certified to provide national disaster relief services with the American Red Cross.

Brenda is committed to women's issues and is willing to devote the time and energy necessary to promoting these issues. She also is in a position to provide insight into the culture and future of Northern Michigan.

Brenda is married to Albert T. Quick and is a mother of six children.

Rogers

Ann Rogers (B. - )

Nominee - Human Rights Advocate and 2004 Sara Hardy Award Recipient

Schmidt

Claudia Schmidt (B. 1953 Highland Park - )

Twenty-six years as a touring professional have found her traversing North America as well as Europe in venues ranging from intimate clubs to 4,000 seat theatres, and festival stages in front of 25,000 rapt listeners.  She is familiar with the mediums of radio and TV, including regular stints on Public Radio International's "A Prairie Home Companion", and starring in an hour-long documentary called "I Sing Because I Can't Fly," produced by KTCA TV in St. Paul. She has recorded mostly original songs, exploring folk, blues, and jazz idioms featuring her acclaimed 12 string guitar, mountain dulcimer, and incredible vocals. 

Ms. Schmidt has always hated categories, she describes herself as a "creative noisemaker," which has irritated some critics but delighted many audiences, who learn to expect anything at a Schmidt concert, hymn, poem, bawdy verse, torch song, satire, and the gamut of emotions. 

Claudia resides in Leelanau County and has donated countless hours toward regional efforts that support women's health and safety, as well as efforts to protect the environment.

Smyka

Linda Smyka (B. Detroit - )

Nominee - Traverse City Mayor Elect 2003 - 2005 (Traverse City Commissioner 1997 - Present)

Linda is a Detroit transplant and the wife of a Traverse City dentist. Together they have raised 4 children in Traverse City. Ms. Smyka has served as a Planning Commissioner and a two-term City Commissioner.

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE CITY OF TRAVERSE CITY

Steadman

Bernice "B" Steadman (B. 1925 - )

In 1961, Bernice "B" Trimble Steadman had the distinct honor of being one of the first 13 women, the Mercury 13, to qualify as American astronauts. She was not, however, allowed to gain even more distinction as an astronaut because the Women in Space program was canceled before any of the Mercury 13 were airborne.

B Steadman always knew she wanted to fly. After graduating from high school during WWII, Steadman took a job as an inspector at Flint's A.C. Sparkplug to pay for flight lessons. The lesson paid off, and in 1945 she qualified for her private pilot's license even before receiving her driver's license. Steadman then became a flight instructor, and later operated a flight school, a charter service, and Fixed Base Operation. After WWII, B instructed 10th Air Force Officers.

Steadman was an avid air racer and has competed in numerous competitions. She won the All Women's Transcontinental Air Race and the All Women's International Air Race to Cuba in 1955.

B Steadman's greatest achievement, however, may be her participation in the Mercury 13 Women in Space program. She was one of the 13 women who endured and successfully passed the psychological and physical tests given to male astronauts. Even though these 13 remarkable women were not allowed to complete their space mission, they proved to the country that women were equally as qualified as their male counterparts. They also changed the course of women in aviation. Lt. Colonel Eileen Collins, U.S. Air Force, the first woman to command a space shuttle said, "I didn't get here alone. If the Mercury Thirteen had failed, it would have been a different story for me." Steadman, with the assistance of Jody Clark, has captured her story of that important time in history in Tethered Mercury: A Pilot's Memoir: The Right Stuff.The Wrong Sex.

Bernice Steadman currently possesses an Airline Transport License, the FAA's highest rating. Her career flying hours total over 16,000. Mrs. Steadman is the co-founder, past President and Chair of the Board of Trustees of the International Women's Air and Space Museum in Cleveland, Ohio. She has served as a charter member of the Federal Aviation Agency's Women's Advisory Committee on Aviation and as the Chair of the Airport Commission in Ann Arbor.

In 2002 Bernice Steadman was inducted into the Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame. She is now recognized by the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame for her remarkable spirit, her determination, and, most importantly, for the advances she has made for women. SOURCE: Michigan Women's Hall of Fame

Wolfe

Joan Luedders Wolfe (B. 1929 - )

Joan Luedders Wolfe brought environmental concerns to the forefront in Michigan long before interest in these matters swept the country. The result is legislative, administrative and legal history.

From the early 1960s, Wolfe educated and worked in revolutionary ways. In the mid 60's, she chaired what was considered to be "the first great environmental teach-in." In 1968, she founded the West Michigan Environmental Action Council. This unique organization included PTA, union, service, minority, student, church and conservation groups. By this means, she developed a powerful Michigan network to support legislation deemed impossible to pass.

Wolfe initiated, coordinated, and led the way toward the passage of the landmark Michigan Environmental Protection Act of 1970, a model for legislation in nine other states. She played a smaller but crucial role in the National Environmental Protection Act. Finally, she led the hotly fought battle for the Inland Lakes and Streams Act of 1972.

Under her leadership, WMEAC plowed new legal ground, initiating with the Environmental Defense Fund, a suit that ended most uses of DDT in America; taking a case that standardized Michigan's air pollution enforcement policy; and successfully tackling a major national safety case regarding plutonium in breeder reactors.

In 1973, despite vigorous opposition to a woman appointee, Governor Milliken appointed Wolfe to the Michigan Natural Resources Commission. She became the first woman in the country to serve on such a powerful state natural resources commission; later she served as chairperson. She also served on the Governor's Advisory Committee on Electric Energy Alternatives and the first Natural Resources Trust Fund Board.

Other service, such as in the League of Women Voters and leading town school millages, also took her attention. Later, she authored the book (sec. ed., Island Press, 199 1), MAKING THINGS HAPPEN: How to Be an Effective Volunteer.

Wolfe has received international recognition and many awards for her environmental contributions, including an Honorary Doctorate in Public Service from Western Michigan University. SOURCE: Michigan Women's Hall of Fame.

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