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Announcing the 2013 Women of Courage!

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In 1983, Brenda Clubine was imprisoned for murdering her husband after being abused by him for years. She was incarcerated at the California Institution for Women, with a sentence of 15 years to life. She and other abused inmates worked together in 1989 to form Convicted Women Against Abuse (CWAA). They then worked to gain clemency for battered women in prison once Battered Women’s Syndrome was a recognized defense. Clubine was released from prison in 2008, becoming the 20th CWAA woman to be released. Clubine has since inspired legislation in California and been featured in a documentary, Sin by Silence. She is also the director of Every 9 Seconds, an organization dedicated to ending survivor incarceration through education, prevention, intervention, and lobbying.

When Sissy Farenthold was first elected to the Texas House, she was the only woman serving at that time. During her time in office, she was a member of the “Dirty Thirty,” a group of legislators who rebelled against a corrupt Speaker. In 1972, she was nominated for Vice President of the United States. In 1973, she became the first chair of the National Women’s Political Caucus. She was President of Wells College from 1976-1980. During this time, she founded the Public Leadership Education Network, a networking and educational organization for college women. Farenthold has also worked with peace, anti-nuclear, and human rights groups. She has acted as a human rights observer in countries such as Cuba, Guatemala, South Korea, Iraq, and El Salvador.

Gabby Giffords represented Arizona’s 8th congressional district from 2007 until January of 2012. During her time in office, she fought for border protection and small business tax relief, and was a strong supporter of the health care reform bill of 2010. In January of 2011, Giffords was shot in the head during a meeting with constituents in an attack that also killed six nearby people. Since the attack, Giffords has made a remarkable and difficult recovery, eventually resigning office in order to focus on her health, and she has become an outspoken advocate for gun control. Giffords co-founded the gun control group Americans for Responsible Solutions with her husband, Mark Kelly, and the organization has raised $11 million.

Grace Napolitano has represented California in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1999. Napolitano was the daughter of a Mexican immigrant, is a former chairwoman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and currently represents a primarily Hispanic district. She has also participated in political caucuses to further the interests of a variety of other ethnic groups. During her extensive time in office, she has fought for women, minorities, children, and those struggling with addiction. She has worked hard to help the mentally ill on many occasions, including co-founding the Congressional Mental Health Caucus, naming May as Mental Health Month, and introducing the Mental Health in Schools Act to fund school-based mental health services for youth. Napolitano has also worked on important efforts to improve railroad safety, water quality, and transportation, and is a strong proponent of immigration reform.

Barbara Pyle is an award-winning executive producer, environmental activist, and filmmaker. She is credited with the idea of using broadcast programming for social and environmental activism. She is the executive producer of the television show Captain Planet and the Planeteers, and also founded the Captain Planet Foundation., which funds environmental projects for children. She has produced and directed over 50 films, and has worked extensively with the United Nations. She also works to empower women and native populations. She has previously won awards from organizations such as Planned Parenthood Foundation, the United Nations Environment Programme, and Women in Film. Pyle has championed Corporate Social Responsibility Policies. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Tulane University’s Newcomb College where she was named a Woodrow Wilson Fellow.

Diane Savino represents the 23rd Senatorial District in the New York Senate and is a long-time champion of workers’ rights. She got her start as a caseworker for the Child Welfare Administration in New York City, assisting abused and neglected children. Savino eventually rose through the ranks of her local labor union to become the Vice President for Political Action & Legislative Affairs, where she successfully campaigned for the first rise in the New York minimum wage in over a decade. As a state Senator, she has passed laws to end the statute of limitation on sexual assault, establish a task force for the prevention and treatment of cervical cancer, and ensure labor rights through the Prompt Pay Bill, Paid Family Leave, and the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, among numerous other accomplishments. Savino also sponsors many programs, including New York City’s only Kosher soup kitchen, Staten Island’s Downtown Drive-In Movies, and a mobile mammography unit.

Elizabeth Warren currently represents Massachusetts in the U.S. Senate. Warren came from a working-class family in Oklahoma, and is known for standing up for the middle class, as well as working to regulate the banking industry. She began her professional life as a teacher, later attending law school while raising a young child and working as a professor at Harvard Law School for almost 20 years. Warren has published nine books and has received numerous honors, including being selected as one of the Most Influential Lawyers of the Decade by the National Law Journal and being named Bostonian of the Year in 2009 by the Boston Globe for her oversight efforts as Chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). After winning a difficult election for her Senate seat in 2012, Warren has continued her work to hold big banks accountable while serving on the Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs committee, and has also introduced her first bill, the Bank on Student Loans Fairness Act, which would allow students to take out government education loans at the same rates that banks pay to borrow from the government.

Women of Courage: President's Awards

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Wendy Davis is a Texas State Senator who attracted national attention when she filibustered severe anti-choice legislation for 13 hours in June of 2013. Davis was a single mother by age 19 and worked to put herself through college, eventually graduating with honors from Harvard Law School. She began her political career when she was first elected to the Fort Worth city council in 1999. After serving on the city council for nearly a decade, Davis was elected to the state Senate in 2008, and has held the seat since. During her time in the Texas Legislature she received numerous awards and recognitions, including the “Bold Woman Award” from Girls, Inc., being named one of “12 State Legislators to watch in 2012,” by Governing Magazine, and the “Texas Women’s Health Champion Award” from the Texas Association of OB-GYNs. Davis is now a national icon because of the courage she showed by standing up for hours without breaks or rest in order to fight for women’s rights.

Leticia Van De Putte is a Texas State Senator who is also a practicing pharmacist. She was first elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1990, and won a special election to the state Senate in 1999. During her lengthy political career, she has consistently advocated for children, veterans, education, and access to health care. Van De Putte’s accomplishments as a legislator have not gone unrecognized, as she has been honored with the Center for Policy Alternatives “Arthur S. Fleming Leadership Award,” the Charles M. West Distinguished American Award, the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill “Texas Legislative Champion Award,” and numerous other awards. On the night of Wendy Davis’s filibuster of anti-choice Texas legislation, Van De Putte asked the much quoted question, “At what point does a female Senator have to raise her voice or her hand to be heard over her male colleagues in the room,” a powerful statement that exemplifies Van De Putte’s courage as well as her commitment to women’s rights.

Women of Courage: Diversity Leadership Awards

First elected in 2006, Sheryl Cole is the first African American woman elected to the Austin City Council. Sheryl earned her B.A. in accounting from the University of Texas and became a Certified Public Accountant in 1986, working for two years with the Big Five accounting firm Ernst & Young. In 1989, Sheryl returned to the University of Texas for law school, earning her J.D. in 1991 and joining the law firm Wright & Greenhill. In 1995, Sheryl became staff counsel at the Texas Municipal League, where she served until 2001. Sheryl is a past president of the Lee Elementary School PTA, a former Board member of Leadership Austin, the Austin Area Urban League, and Communities in Schools. Sheryl also served as Tri-Chair of the 2004 AISD Citizen Bond Committee, and was appointed by former mayor Kirk Watson to serve on the 1998 City of Austin Citizen Bond Committee.

Amy Wong Mok is the Founder & CEO of the Asian American Cultural Center and the President of the Asian American Community Partnership. She is a psychotherapist by formal. Amy has been deeply involved in community service both locally and nationally. She has championed social causes in regard to education, cultural diversity and women’s health issues. Nationally, Amy has served on the National Advisory Panel on Violence Against Women and was the Vice President on the Board of the 80-20 Committee (a national Asian American Political Action Committee).

Francis Jaimes is the President of the Copa Bar & Grill and our generous host for the Women of Courage Awards this year in Austin, TX. As a strong and vibrant entrepreneur she has served as an inspiring example for businesswomen in the Austin, TX area and hospitality industry.

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