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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Ohio Women's Hall of Fame Somehow Became 'Dormant'

COLUMBUS (TDB) -- The Ohio Women's Hall of Fame got its start in 1978, when Democratic Gov. John Gilligan was in his last year of office, and it kept going all they way up until Bob Taft's final term, when it became 'dormant' for reasons that aren't exactly clear. Taft's wife, Hope, is a member along with 355 others who have been recognized as "leaders and trailblazers." Sen. George Voinovich's wife, Janet, is also a Hall of Famer, and there's a picture of her on a state government Website in front of a biographical exhibit.

U.S. Rep. Deborah Pryce, R-Columbus, got into the Hall on Oct. 17, 2001, where she is cited as an ''advocate against cancer" -- not a bad line for a politician's resume.

However, the last call for nominations was in 2003, and the last newsletter was published in winter 2001. The Hall was administered by the Women's Section of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, and Bob Taft was at one time effusive about the Hall's importance. In a press released issued by his office on Sept. 22, 2000 -- while he still was in his first term and no doubt planning a run for his second -- Taft said he was hosting the annual installation ceremony at the Ohio Statehouse Capitol Atrium. ''I am proud to welcome these extraordinary women into the Ohio Women's Hall of Fame. The contributions they have made in their professional lives and their community service will be recognized in the history of our state. Future generations of Ohioans will look to these remarkable women as role models for inspiration and guidance,'' Taft said, releasing a list of the 15 inductees.

Among them was Sr. Dorothy L. Kazel, a Cleveland nun who was abucted, abused and murdered in 1980 while helping victims and refugees in El Salvador during that nation's terrible civil war. Another was Betty Zane, a Belmont County woman whose childhood act of bravery saved lives and played a role in ending the last battle of the American Revolution.

A Columbus organization, the Ohioana Library Association, now is trying to revive the Hall. It published a book, Profiles of Ohio Women, and learned things were moribund.

''That event led to our discovering that the Ohio Women's Hall of Fame program had been dormant since 2003 when the program was included in the merger that created the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. Because of Ohioana's history of recognizing the accomplishments of Ohioans in the arts and humanities, our partnerships with women's organizations, the archival protections and public accessibility of our collection, and familiarity with the OWHF, we were approached to take the records of the Hall of Fame and revive the program,'' the Ohioana Library Association recently told its members. ''The records were received in June, and we are negotiating a contact to serve as a conduit for the program."