By Barbara Harrison
After the death of her beloved husband, I watched my friend Katie Couric take on the mantle of single-mom, wage a worldwide war on colon cancer, and bravely face down an entrenched male-only tradition by becoming the first single female anchor of a network news broadcast. She is a stalwart soldier when it comes to fighting for what she believes in, and her shoes, as tiny as they are, are hard to fill.
Turning the clock back to nearly a hundred years ago, it’s easy to imagine Katie fighting for women’s rights among suffragists like Alice Paul. Six years before women were granted the right to vote, Paul called Washington’s attention to the disenfranchisement of women in this country. Along with others, she succeeded in stealing attention from newly elected President Woodrow Wilson’s arrival in Washington. Crowds instead lined Pennsylvania Avenue for the Woman Suffrage Parade, a moment considered a turning point for women’s rights.
Much of this history can be found at the Sewall-Belmont House in Washington, just a stone’s throw from the U.S. Capitol. In 1929 it was sold to the National Women’s Party and has served as its headquarters and museum to this day. The prestigious award, chosen by the staff, is given to a distinguished woman who has made outstanding contributions in breaking barriers and setting new precedents for women, as did Alice Paul and the women with whom she fought for women’s rights.
Katie Couric’s daring to eschew the “status quo” makes her a pioneer of the 21st century. Her positive impact on the lives of others across the country is why she was chosen for this year’s Alice Award.
As is tradition, the ceremony was held in the garden of the Sewall Belmont House. With the award, Katie has now joined a prestigious group of former honorees, among them Evelyn Lauder, Billie Jean King, Tipper Gore, Cokie Roberts, Susan Stamberg, Nina Totenberg, Linda Wertheimer, and Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and Mary Landrieu. All continue to serve as champions for women.
Katie is a fighter. Who knows what battles she’ll take on next?