Who knew that sultry Hedy Lamarr, the legendary screen siren of the ’40s, dubbed “the most beautiful girl in the world,” was also a scientist whose inventions saved lives and led us to cell phones and Wi-Fi?
Who knew that the “modern” struggle for women’s r ights was championed as early as 600 years ago by Christine de Pizan, an Italian writer living in Paris, who published in 1405 her shocking view that women were not inferior to men, and that given the right to an education they too could succeed in law and science?
Actress Meryl Streep knew, and she has sustained with $1 million in seed money her avowed passion to build a National Women’s History Museum near the Mall to celebrate these women and a host of others for their contributions to history.
Striding on stage with the ringing call of “Let’s go!,” Streep opened the museum’s De Pizan Honors Gala to supporters who filled the amphitheater of the Ronald Reagan Building, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Joan Wagers is president and CEO of the museum, which exists for now only online. She and Streep introduced the awardees, beginning with former senator, John Warner, who helped to champion the suffragist cause in the Senate.
The ceremonies featured pioneering women of the past paired with their counterparts of today. The Ida B. Wells Award went to Cathy Hughes, founder and chairman of Radio One, the first African-American owned company to dominate major American radio markets. Wells, born into a slave family, became a journalist to spread the word about the lynching of three of her friends. Run out of town because of her reporting, she went on to Chicago to help found the NAACP and work with Jane Addams to make sure that the city’s schools remained integrated.
The late Rear Adm. Grace Mary Hopper developed the computer language COBO, and predicted early on that computers eventually would be desk-top sized, and would be used in everyday life. The award named for her was given to Helen Greiner for her innovative work in robotics, including the familiar round robot that goes scurrying around to vacuum our floors.
The Hedy Lamarr Living Legacy Award was granted to Marissa Mayer, who oversees engineering, design and strategy for Google and has several patents for products related to artificial intelligence. Because of her work there have been important advancements in Google’s technology that everyone uses today.
A note from a friend, Princess Michael of Kent, turned up in the mail of Washington designer and hostess Aniko Gaal Schott: “Dear Aniko, Please take care of my cousin Gyorgy Szapary, who will soon arrive in Washington as the ambassador of Hungary.”
Aniko happily did, rounding up to honor him what seemed like half the Green Book including an Ethiopian prince, a former president of Bolivia, a score of out-of-town over-achievers and a gaggle of ambassadors.
Sentimental moment: When Nash Schott, surveying the stunning scene his wife had created, raised his glass in a toast to “my beautiful wife, the love of my life.”