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Urquides to hall of fame - at last

By Bonnie Henry

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 induction.

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 Public

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 office."

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 Council,
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 Post,
and Annie Dodge Wauneka, who is credited with eradicating tuberculosis on the
Navajo reservation.

Ironically, even those who helped stall the inductions all these years can't believe
how much time has passed.

"We haven't had one since 1991?" asked an incredulous Mark Killian, now state
revenue director.

Back in '91, Killian was House majority leader and a vociferous critic of Sanger's

So was Rep. Lela Steffey, now retired. "I just remember I was very displeased with
this person and I feel the same way today."

Meanwhile, Virginia "Ginger" Yrun, state senator and former executive director of
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 contributions to
the state."

* Contact Bonnie Henry at 434-4074 or at bhenry@azstarnet.com or write to
3295 W. Ina Road, Suite 125, Tucson, AZ 85741. 



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