Charlotte Event Honors Trail Blazers
by Mary Hopper
On Sunday afternoon, October 27, Mayor Pro Tem Julie Eiselt took time off from campaigning to honor seven women in her words ”Who Shape Charlotte.” As she told their stories, she noted that they did not just “knock down barriers, they obliterated them,” while addressing some of Charlotte’s most challenging issues.
The 75+ attendees who came to honor these women interrupted Eiselt’s comments repeatedly to cheer and applaud their accomplishments that stretched over many years of work for our community.
At the conclusion of the event, honorees were presented with a copy of The Book of Gutsy Women by Hillary Rodham Clinton and daughter Chelsea Clinton.
Because CWM believes it is important to recognize and honor women’s accomplishments, we asked permission to post these bios. Some of these dynamic women are Charlotte’s “Hidden Treasures.” And even for those who are more well known, the breadth of what they have accomplish has remained somewhat hidden. Thank you, Julie, both for recognizing these women and for letting us share their stories.
The Honorees for the 2019 Women Who Shape Charlotte are:
June Blotnick ♦ Astrid Chirinos ♦ . Thereasea Elder ♦ Shirley Fulton
Mary Newsom ♦ Marcie Shealy ♦ Emily Zimmern
Here are their stories:
June Blotnick was always so committed to improving the air you breathe that she was able to take a small volunteer-driven initiative that was determined to improve the quality of Mecklenburg County’s air and turn it into a highly successful statewide organization with a major impact.
As the Executive Director of Clean Air Carolina since 2005, June has created innovative programs and partnerships designed to raise awareness about air pollution and to advocate for the stronger air protections needed to improve public health… (Click here for complete text of remarks.)
Astrid Chirinos is the consummate connector. Her work enriches our community’s economic, cultural and social fabric. She has a passion for creating platforms of opportunity and access and the skill to make them work.
Astrid currently serves as the Executive Director of the Simmons YMCA in East Charlotte. She came to North Carolina from her native Venezuela to attend college, honed her communication skills in the corporate sector and later by running her own consulting firm…. (Click here for full text of remarks.)
Thereasea Elder has Charlotte’s racial history writ large on her gentle soul. Luckily much of her story is preserved in an easily accessible 31-page interview on file at UNCC. She’s even merited her own Wikipedia page.
Growing up in Charlotte, she enrolled at Johnson C. Smith University, going on to nursing school in Durham. She enlisted in the U.S. Cadet Nursing program, an initiative to alleviate the World War II shortage of trained nurses. Following the war, she returned to Charlotte, and worked at Good Samaritan Hospital until she became Mecklenburg County’s first African American public health nurse…. (Click here for full text of remarks)
When Judge Shirley Fulton breaks a barrier, she always holds the door open for others. At 16, she left her family’s farm in Kingstree SC to enter college at NC Central. When she graduated from Duke University Law School, she was recruited to be Mecklenburg County’s first African American female prosecutor. One of her earliest cases was the shoot out at Fairview Homes between Money Rock and Big Lou. Dressed in jeans and sneakers, she tackled the hard task of interviewing witnesses in a housing project way too burdened by crime.
Shirley left the DA’s office to sit on the bench for over 20 years. In 1988, when she became the first black female on the Superior Court bench in North Carolina, she remarked she would have preferred not to have broken the barrier. “It made me feel shame for society that we had come that far and we were just getting Black females in the role.” While on the bench… (Click here for full text of remarks)
Mary Newsom builds information bridges, linking powerful ideas to the people who need to hear them. She came to Charlotte as an Observer reporter, then editorial writer where she used that platform to educate readers on the vital importance of the community’s transportation and land use decisions. She deepened her own understanding of issues by imbedding herself into the local community of planners and architects, listening and learning. A year at Harvard on a prestigious Nieman Fellowship deepened her expertise.
In 2011, she became the Urban Institute’s Director of Urban Policy Initiatives. Upon her recent retirement from UNCC, her boss Jeff Michael called her “one of the Charlotte region’s most important journalistic voices for… (Click here for full text of remarks)
Marcie Shealy is a true hidden figure and that’s the way she likes it. This self-effacing over achiever prefers to do all her work behind the scenes then give credit to others.
Her job title at Planned Parenthood as its Director of Philanthropy does not fully capture her range. First she worked to raise Planned Parenthood’s profile as a key provider of health services for women. Then she built up the annual fund. And when the group recognized it needed a more central location, she worked behind the scenes on the capital campaign.
Her approach to fundraising is a mix of tenacity and graciousness. Crandall Bowles, who has known Marcie since their years at Springs Industries, says “she hand-writes thank you notes and any other correspondence for almost anything, the day it happens, and if she can’t mail it, she delivers it. Final note…(Click for full text of remarks)
Most of you will know the last honoree Emily Zimmern because of the nationally recognized work she did building the Levine Museum of the New South into a valued community conscience and resource. Jim Ferguson has written: “ She has made the Museum a place where racial minorities, particularly African Americans, feel welcomed as an integral part of the “New South” philosophy.”
But the profile of Emily greatly expands when you learn of the other things she’s done. As chair of the Mecklenburg Medical Auxiliary Foundation, she directed the creation of MMAE’S Inn, a home away from home for families of out-of-town patients at local hospitals. She helped raise over $100,000 for Planned Parenthood to erase a shortfall created by a controversial cut by the County Commission after Angels in America. As president of the Charlotte Jewish Federation… (Click here for full text of remarks
(Closing remarks from Julie:) I hope their work inspires you as it does me. However, these are just some of the women who share our city. That group includes many in this room. Let’s all resolve to celebrate the powerful contributions of Charlotte women to the growth and shape of the Queen City.
If these women inspire you to get more involved in activism in Charlotte please look at our events calendar here, or search the many organizations featured on our website events tab.
- Charlotte Women’s Movement is looking for a volunteer to coordinate our participation in events during Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Weekend January 2020 – send email here
- Women United March, January 25, 2020, will need a lot of volunteers to staff the event — please sign up here.
- If you have communications skills you would like to put to use on behalf of Charlotte Women’s Movement we are looking for writers, photographers, videographers, social media volunteers, email marketing volunteers and website specialists. Please email here if you would like to get involved.
The great work being done in Charlotte on behalf of women is powered by the hands and hearts of women volunteers. Join us to make a difference!