Regarded as the “Mother of Social Work,” Jane Addams received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931 for her social welfare activism. At the time of her death in 1935, she was the best known woman in our country. Thirty-five years to the day after her death, I was born. Exactly 57 years later, on the weekend of my 22nd birthday, I received my social work degree. As a new graduate, I truly benefited from the example of heroic women such as Jane Addams.

Where would we be without the women who pioneered the way before us? To contemplate their notable contributions, our nation formally observes Women’s History Month each March. As stated by the United Nations General Assembly, the importance of this celebration is, “To recognize the fact that securing peace and social progress and the full enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms require the active participation, equality and development of women; and to acknowledge the contribution of women to the strengthening of international peace and security.”

Extraordinary women, through their presence or memory, are in our midst today. Possibly as a mother, mentor, colleague, or friend, they directly enrich our lives. Many of these remarkable individuals who powerfully impact the world around us are graduates of our own Brainerd Public Schools. We now acknowledge nine of these women for their outstanding service, leadership, and dedication in areas such as the arts, business, health, and education.

The Legendary Women of Brainerd Public Schools Organizing Committee presents the class of 2021, the third cohort of Legendary Women inductees: Amy Ward Aho (1993), Katherine Nolan Bensen (1992), Jill Carlson Casper (1993), Linda Olsen Engel (1966), Kristi Martinson Ferguson (1967), Ruth Henderson Gmeinder (1971), Bernice “Bunny” Leckband Humphrey Ostlund (1947), Pamela Siegel Thomsen (1978), and Donna Winkelman Bjorklund Whelan (1970).

The 2021 Legendary Women will be honored publicly through a pre-recorded video that showcases each woman’s impactful biography and photographs. Additionally, each has an accompanying special collection preserved within Brainerd Public Schools Archives. Beginning in April 2021, the video presentation can be found on the BPS Archives website at www.isd181.org/district/bpsa, and on Facebook at Brainerd Public Schools Archives and several other related Facebook pages.

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In celebration of National Women’s History Month, we congratulate our Legendary Women of Brainerd Public Schools. They each leave a distinct legacy that will provide guidance to future generations. May we all find inspiration in the exemplary women who shape our society, culture, and history.