Six women to be honored for their impact on county; Hamer award event tonight in Annapolis


A chief executive officer trying to improve the quality of life in Anne Arundel County. An outspoken lobbyist striving for improvements in education. A local leader fighting to protect the environment.

Also, an educator tutoring children and adults. A federal attorney working to ensure that minorities receive equal opportunities. And a community activist guiding children in positive directions.

These are six accomplished women who have had an impact on the county this year through their involvement in politics, education, business and community issues. They will be honored with plaques and citations by Gov. Parris N. Glendening and County Executive Janet S. Owens at the third Fannie Lou Hamer reception at 7 p.m. today at the Banneker-Douglass Museum, 84 Franklin St. in Annapolis.

The six are are Edith M. Knight and Ellen O. Moyer of Annapolis, Marge Huggins of Glen Burnie, Jean Pitt of Lothian, and Lavertta Tilghman Harden and Glenda Gathers of Severn.

The keynote speaker at the event, which honors Hamer, a pioneer in the fight for civil rights, will be state Del. Virginia P. Clagett, a West River Democrat. Owens will deliver the opening remarks. The event is sponsored by the Fannie Lou Hamer Committee, a 12-year-old group of about 25 elected officials, business owners and community activists.

"The reception is to honor Hamer's legacy and to honor women who, like her, have done amazing things but haven't had a lot of recognition," said Paul A. Murray, the committee's chairman.

"The six honorees, each of them, have had the audacity to make a difference."

Hamer was born Oct. 6, 1917, and grew up a sharecropper in Mississippi. When she was 14, she was sterilized without her consent, Murray said.

"She decided to spend the rest of her life making sure that it didn't happen to other women," Murray said.

Hamer fought for the rights of women and minorities in the 1960s. She organized the Mississippi Freedom Party and worked to integrate the state delegation.

Hamer's work for human rights should be recognized nationwide, Murray said. "We wanted to make her a symbol," he said.

The six honorees, Murray said, have displayed the same kind of passion for social improvement:

Knight, who has spent the past 25 years working at the Community Action Agency in Annapolis, knew Hamer's story. She said she was surprised to have her social work with the homeless and the poor honored.

"My first question was, 'Why me?' " said Knight, an Annapolis resident. "There's no comparison between what she has done and what I do."

Since 1994, Knight has been executive director of the social agency, which provides counseling, referral and financial services to 10,000 clients annually. She has answered calls and helped clients at all hours of the night.

A few years ago, she took a call as she was sitting down for Thanksgiving dinner. Instead of enjoying a turkey dinner, she spent her holiday driving a homeless man to the hospital and finding him shelter for the night.

"I don't do this for recognition," Knight said. "But to just know someone else recognizes what I have done means a lot to me."

Moyer has spent more than 25 years in Annapolis as a community leader, first lady and alderman. She has been committed to the environment, helping to create Annapolis' Parks and Paths for People plan. She is executive director of the Maryland Commission for Women, increasing the appointments of women to boards and commissions.

Huggins has fought to bring community needs to the attention of political leaders. The outspoken lobbyist has been secretary of the Suburban Civic Association and served with other groups, including the Maryland Waste Coalition and the Northern Police Council.

Pitt, who was born in Rochester, N.Y., has been a home tutor, volunteer school librarian and elementary school geometry teacher since moving to Annapolis three years ago. She has taught adult basic education for the county schools and the Community Action Agency.

The mother of three and grandmother of two, Pitt has recently been helping adults improve reading, writing and math skills to increase their chances of employment.

Harden, a federal attorney working in administrative and employment law, has participated in the Alliance of Black Women Attorneys, the Maryland Volunteer Lawyer Service and the National Coalition of 100 Black Women.

Gathers, known as "Ms. G," began her community activism when she moved to Maryland from New York in 1975. She started a Girl Scout troop, which evolved into several community outreach services. She is involved with the Meade Area Task Force's Pioneer Drive Community Planning Committee; Mission Possible, which promotes a safe and drug-free community and annual summit through the Anne Arundel County Department of Health and Prevention Service; and several other organizations working to help young people.

"We wanted to get a fair representation from the entire county," Murray said.

The reception is open to the public. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at the door or by calling Carl O. Snowden at 410-533-7934.

Pub Date: 10/06/99

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