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Page last updated on March 21, 2019 at 10:25 am

Good afternoon.  It is my pleasure to be with you today, recognizing and celebrating the contributions of these outstanding women and Women’s History Month.   I am proud to be in your company, enjoying this lovely meal on a beautiful spring day. It takes a lot of effort from a lot of people to bring this event together; the Commission on the Status of Women and Chair Debby Herbenick, our wonderful performers today, all the nominators, the terrific staff of the City of Bloomington, the Community and Family Resource Department including Beverly Calender-Anderson and Sue Owens, and of course our generous sponsors who make it possible to be here enjoying the hospitality of the Monroe County Convention Center.  Please join me in thanking them and the team of people who prepared and are serving our meal today. 

I also want specifically to thank Gladys DeVane for her wonderful presentation / performance highlighting five extraordinary women….

I want to re-emphasize the theme for today’s luncheon:  “Working to Form a More Perfect Union: Honoring Women in Public Service and Government.”  Of course that phrase ‘to form a more perfect union’ comes from our constitution. And the potent and revolutionary phrase that leads that sentence is “We the People …..” in order to form a more perfect union….

It was Susan B. Anthony who said, famously, about that Preamble:  “It was we, the people; not we, the white male citizens; nor yet we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed the Union. And we formed it not to give the blessings of liberty, but to secure them; not to the half of ourselves and the half of our posterity, but to the whole people – women as well as men.  . . . .to Men [she said], their rights and nothing more; [to] women, their rights and nothing less.”

Of course when our country declared independence and began 240 years ago, for most of that history, women’s role in public service and government was formally limited.  For most of that history, women could not hold public office. For most of that history, women could not vote. And it makes a difference. We would be a different country today – with different laws and different society, if women had voted for the past 240 years instead of the past 96 years.  Indeed, even this year, it’s worth noting, that as our state legislature passed some, in my view, very regressive and punitive legislation restricting the rights of Hoosier women to control their own lives and bodies, five Republican women legislators stood up against the prevailing view of their own caucus and said no, spoke directly, about the issue, with a special power and voice.

And progress isn’t steady, direct or reliable. It takes continuous attention and effort. In my present job I work in the restored Showers furniture factory, a leading Bloomington company of the 19th and 20th centuries. As a family run business, Showers was known for its liberal hiring practices and employee benefits. It was exceptional in its hiring of women and African- Americans. It took pride in being one of the first furniture factories in the United States to employ women. Women entered the workforce to fill in for men who were serving in the military during World War I. An issue of Shop Notes published during the war reported that, “45 women employed in the finishing, cabinet and machine rooms [were] ‘doing their bit’ in a highly satisfactory manner.” An article in Shop Notes urged men “to understand that so far as her work is concerned, she is placed on the same level with the men.” However, in 1921, the foreman and managers of the company “...unanimously voted to revert to the prewar system of employing only men in the factory” in order to alleviate unemployment among men with families.

We have work still to do today about workplace equality, equal pay, fair leave policies, and more.

As mayor of the City of Bloomington, I am at times called upon to make some tough judgment calls, and yet, I do not envy the work of the committee charged with deciding who would be named the recipients of today’s honors. I look around and see a room full of committed and effective leaders.   Today’s honorees are certainly outstanding and deserving, and I don’t think would be described as average residents in Bloomington. But I ask you, have you ever met an average woman? I have not.

I have met working women, both in homes and workplaces, women who take responsibility for raising children, women who run organizations, women who volunteer, women who agitate, women who care for aging parents, women who are athletes, intellectual women, artistic women, savvy women, funny women, talented women, brave women and women who begin and end their days before the sun has risen or set and women who, at various times in their lives are many of these women at the same time, but I have never met an average woman.  

Our honorees today have made the focus of their lives about doing the most for others.  Whether it is evening the playing field for the marginalized in our society or nurturing the next generation of caregivers, they have dedicated their best efforts to raising others up.  

They follow in a long tradition of service in Bloomington. This event has been held for 31 years, and these awards have been given out each year, honoring 73 women and several organizations.  This is as it should be. It is right that we take this time to pause, reflect and celebrate these women’s extraordinary accomplishments.

Today’s honorees and their work make us proud and inspire us, hopefully challenge us to aspire to their level of service.  Their outward focus, keeping the betterment of the bigger community as a priority, is one of the reasons Bloomington is a place in which we want to live. It’s one of the reasons I am proud to serve as your mayor.  It’s one of those intangible elements that combine to make this a better place for everyone. Thank you for raising each of us up and inspiring us today with your stories.

I appreciate what Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund said: “I was taught that the world had a lot of problems; that I could struggle and change them; that intellectual and material gifts brought the privilege and responsibility of sharing with others less fortunate; and that service is the rent each of us pay for living, the very purpose of life and not something you do in your spare time or after you have reached your personal goals.”

In her own words, our Woman of the Year honoree recently said, “I wouldn’t say that my work is solely focused on improving the world for women.  It’s improving the world for people. But I think a lot of my early experiences of feeling like doors were shut in my face because I was a girl.” She speaks of being denied the opportunity to be an altar girl, to books being written in solely the masculine voice to having to fight for the right to marry the person she loved.  

She found that the world had a lot of problems, and got busy to changing them.  Yes, it was a struggle. Yet she committed herself to change and made the world a better place.  

It is now my pleasure to introduce your 2016 Woman of the Year, Jean Capler.  

One of her nominators for this award, Laura Ingram, says, “Jean’s advocacy work and her work with those that have experienced brain injury, shows her commitment to fight for those who may be marginalized in some way. Jean treats everyone she comes across with dignity and respect and exhibits unending kindness and patience to everyone around her.”  

Jean was nominated by friends Judy Malschnick and Laura Ingram who are well familiar with her extensive work on behalf of others.  It is so extensive in fact, that her nominators had to classify it in three different categories; Professional, Volunteer and Outstanding.  That struck me as a wise way to present Jean’s body of work, so I will follow suit.

Jean’s professional accomplishments include her private practice as a counselor serving the LGBTQ population and people living with brain injuries.

She is the Local Support Network Leader for Southern Indiana in the Resource Facilitation program through the Rehabilitation Hospital of Indiana. She provides outreach and advocacy for people with all types of acquired brain injuries and provides brain injury education to service providers.

Jean has worked at Amethyst House, providing Intensive Outpatient addiction counseling, at Stone Belt, providing employment and rehabilitation services to adults with developmental disabilities and in a mental health center serving a rural population. She also taught classes for 10 years at IUB and created a course: Developmental Issues for Transgender Persons.

She has been the keynote speaker at a number of conferences, rallies, events and workshops around Indiana.

Jean’s volunteer work is equally impressive.

Jean has been the Region 6 representative for the Indiana Chapter of NASW and is currently the Vice President.

As a member of the NASW Indiana Professional Educational Development Committee, she assisted in planning the Indiana NASW state conference.

She is the co-founder and past president of FairTalk, a grassroots GLBT equality advocacy group and she helped plan Rachel’s Run for Justice to help raise awareness and money for the organization.

She is a member of the leadership team for the Bloomington division of Freedom Indiana, working to defeat HJR3, the proposed marriage discrimination amendment to the Indiana constitution.

Jean played an advisory role in establishing both the LGBT Aging and Caring Committee and Prism Youth Community.

She is also active in local advocacy efforts to promote safer and more affirming shelter policies for transgender people in the Bloomington area.

And we are not the first to recognize Jean’s efforts.  Here are her accomplishments her nominators called “Outstanding”:

Jean has been recognized by the National Association of Social Work (NASW) as Region 6 Social Worker of the Year.

She has received the IU Gordon Faculty award, and she has been nominated twice for the IU GLBT Spirit Award.

Jean your words quoted in the paper hit home with me.  I want to repeat them. You said “I see all of this potential in people not being realized because either the community -- sometimes the laws of the community – are shutting people out or we’re not supporting their development as much as we could.  This interferes with their potential to contribute to the community, to develop their skills. So people suffer, and our communities suffer. I just find that really sad.”

That is so right Jean. When someone, anyone, is shut out or limited in their potential to contribute to the community, we all suffer.  We have a long and sad history of shutting people out or limiting their potential, and we appreciate that the more we fix that, the better we all are.

Jean, on behalf of the city that we are grateful that you call home, I thank you.  Thank you for calling out problems and inequities, thank you for raising up the marginalized due to traumatic brain injury, thank you for working toward equity for the LGBTQ community, thank you for counseling those struggling to find their place in the world, and thank you for doing it here in Bloomington.  We are proud to call you one of our own.

Please join me in honoring a woman who works for change and makes it a reality every day, your 2016 Woman of the Year, Jean Capler.