Urquides to hall of fame - at last
By Bonnie Henry
ARIZONA DAILY STAR
Call it a grudge, a snit, a control issue. Whatever. What we do know is that
when the Arizona
Women's Hall of Fame inducted Margaret Sanger into its ranks back in 1991, the
Legislature threw such a hissy fit that 11 long years would pass before the next
The drought is over. On Oct. 24, three women, including Tucson educator and
bilingual education pioneer Maria Urquides, will be honored in Phoenix for their
contributions to Arizona.
They join 63 other women in the hall, which held annual inductions from 1981 on.
Then came Sanger, who was nominated by the Tucson Women's Commission and Planned
Parenthood of Southern Arizona, which she started in 1934.
Almost as soon as the word got out, a group of conservative House Republicans
challenged the induction, citing supposedly racist comments made by Sanger.
Supporters pointed out that Sanger had been endorsed by the Rev. Martin Luther
King and that her detractors were almost all abortion opponents.
"It was because of her birth-control work," says Michael Carman, director then
and now of the Arizona Hall of Fame Museum.
Still, Sanger, along with four other inductees - all deceased - were duly
installed, says Carman,
despite a raft of protesters outside the ceremony.
Then came the threats, he says, to fire the directors of the two sponsoring
agencies - the
Arizona Historical Society and the Arizona Department of Library, Archives and
While that never happened, the threat was enough.
"We simply kept a low profile," says Carman. That advice, he says, came from
veteran legislator Polly Rosenbaum, now retired.
"She advised us to wait until the people who were so upset were no longer in
And so they did, though not always patiently.
By the mid-'90s, "historical activists" Elisabeth Ruffner from Prescott and Reba
Wells Grandrud from Phoenix were on the move.
"I got involved in memory of my husband, who thought it was so important," says
Ruffner, widow of author Lester Ward "Budge" Ruffner.
At the same time, Grandrud was speaking out on the issue to anyone who would
listen. "Everywhere I went, people said, 'What a shame.' "
By 1998, says Carman, he had endorsements from the leadership of both houses to
restart the inductions.
"The only question they asked was, 'Is Polly for it? Then so are we.' "
Bolstered by the addition of three new sponsors - the Arizona Humanities
the Governor's Division for Women and the Sharlot Hall Museum - the hall's
volunteers sifted through a backlog of nominees for what would be this fall's
induction, sending a short list to a selection committee of scholars.
Besides Urquides, this year's inductees include Yuma teacher Mary Elizabeth
and Annie Dodge Wauneka, who is credited with eradicating tuberculosis on the
Ironically, even those who helped stall the inductions all these years can't
how much time has passed.
"We haven't had one since 1991?" asked an incredulous Mark Killian, now state
Back in '91, Killian was House majority leader and a vociferous critic of
So was Rep. Lela Steffey, now retired. "I just remember I was very displeased
this person and I feel the same way today."
Meanwhile, Virginia "Ginger" Yrun, state senator and former executive director
Planned Parenthood of Southern Arizona, says she is just glad the inductions are
"It's unheard of in this day and age to stop honoring women and their
* Contact Bonnie Henry at 434-4074 or at email@example.com or write to
3295 W. Ina Road, Suite 125, Tucson, AZ 85741.