What is a grande dame? A woman of courage. Of flexibility, who goes around obstacles. Of tenacity, who makes a path where none exists. She has a sense of duty, and of self. She is gracious, but decisive. And she is built tough enough for the long haul, for being a grande dame is about hanging in there and seeing things through. About a lot more than sugar and spice and everything nice. A grande dame is not always pleasant.
She is, after all, busy, creating so much that we take for granted from the law guaranteeing every child a public education to the Growth Management Act.
Sometimes, behind these extraordinary women, stands a man a father, a husband, a mentor or a son who urged them to reach for the next rung, then helped them succeed. Some had a husband who agreed, long before it was as common as it is today, to live apart for the sake of her career, to leave a job to join her in running a business, or forgo having children.
But when they had to, these women were not afraid to go it alone, undeterred by social conventions, bureaucracy, prejudice, indifference or a workload that would buckle a burro.
They vary in age, life experience and expertise. Some raised kids, some didn't. Some are easygoing, some crackle with blue sparks.
None suffers fools gladly. And all have this in common: their character, and accomplishments that have stood the test of time.
Dorothy Hollingsworth, 83
When Hollingsworth looked for work as a teacher in Seattle, "they said they had already hired one Negro and weren't too enthusiastic about hiring any more." The year was 1949.
When she wanted a job as a social worker, her husband said a woman's place was in the home. The year was 1950.
None of it stopped her. Instead, Hollingsworth thought of her mother, who raised three children on her own after her husband died.
"I decided my mother had invested too much in me to put aside any opportunity. When I decided to step up, she didn't pull me back. Whatever I did, she supported me. She would say, 'If that's what you want and you think you can do it, I will help you.' "
Hollingsworth, who's lived in Seattle since 1946, went on to become the first black woman president of the Seattle School Board. She was vice chairman of the Washington State Board of Education, and is still a member of the board of trustees of Seattle Community Colleges.
A mother of two, Hollingsworth also touched the lives of children all over the city as the first director of Seattle's Head Start program in 1965.
On the School Board from 1976 to 1981, Hollingsworth was a leading advocate for busing. She helped Seattle be the first and largest school district in the country to set a desegregation plan in motion without a court order, or the violence seen in other cities.
"It was always about helping people. I would see injustice being done to people, and that was something that tore at my heart. Even as a kid, I remember this kid next door who was a bully, and I would go over and say, 'Stop that.' I felt the need even then to intervene on behalf of people. I think it was just within me."
Hollingsworth was the first in her family to go to college, and she went back to school at 37 to get the master's degree in social work she always wanted. Her mother attended both graduations.
Success came at a price. When her mother was stricken on a Monday with an aneurysm, Hollingsworth could not immediately cross the country, leaving 40 employees and two children, to be by her side. She paid to send relatives in her place.
"She died Friday afternoon. I got there a few hours afterward.
"She was always there for me, and when she needed me, I was not there," says Hollingsworth, crying 37 years later at the memory. "But it was the social worker in me, too. I knew there truly was nothing I could do, so I just faced it and that was it: I focused on taking care of things here."
Hollingsworth says she never doubted her mother knew how much her support meant or how much her accomplishments meant to her mother.
Just before she died, her mother told her, " 'You did everything I hoped you would do,' " Hollingsworth says. "I told her, I never could have done it without you."
Anne Gould Hauberg, 86
Formerly married to timber heir John Hauberg, she helped boost the local arts community and culture with art commissioned for their homes. They gifted local museums with many works and commissioned the Mark Tobey mural at Seattle Center, paying for it with a gift to the city of 400 shares of Weyerhaeuser stock.
She co-founded the Pilchuck Glass School in 1971 with her husband and Dale Chihuly. Now internationally famous, the school is synonymous with craft elevated to fine art and with the Northwest.
Hauberg says her father, Carl Gould, founder of the University of Washington's School of Architecture and campus architect, helped kindle her passion for the arts. "Why the arts?" she says, surprised at the question. "Because as my father said, if you don't support them, you won't have them.
"Have you ever been out in those suburbs with no redeeming features? I go to a shopping center and I can't get out of there fast enough. There is nothing there with any life.
"The arts are handmade, not the assembly line. To be memorable, that's what's important."
A lifelong Seattleite, her activism is without boundaries.
When the city proposed a freeway through the heart of town, she led the fight to put a lid on what she called "The Ditch," organizing a parade of more than 100 protesters carrying branches of greenery she brought in a pickup truck. That was in 1961. Freeway Park was finally finished in 1976.
When her daughter Sue was born with developmental disabilities, Hauberg, wealthy enough to hire tutors for her daughter, also decided to create services and help for families facing similar challenges but lacking resources. "What about everyone around you in the same boat? I just believed it should be done," Hauberg says. "There was no help, zero. You were to put them in an institution and forget them. You were supposed to get rid of your mistakes."
With her husband she founded the Pilot School in 1960 so kids with disabilities could live at home and still get an education. The school blossomed in 1965 into what is now the Experimental Education Unit at the Center for Human Development and Disability at the University of Washington.
"Things happen, and you step up to the plate and see what you can do."
Maria Luz Lara Lopez, 76
For when Maria Luz Lara Lopez ran away from her tiny village of Cuautla to the U.S. in 1957, she broke a path, traveling to Seattle where she would later open Lucy's, the city's first authentic Mexican restaurant. It was an auspicious beginning:
Azteca, Tapatios, Acapulco, La Palma, Mexico Lindo, Guadalajara, Mazatlan, Las Margaritas. Name just about any Mexican-restaurant chain in this region, and its roots are in Cuautla. And Lopez known as Lucy helped them all get started.
For cousins, brothers or friends from her home town, she had ideas, contacts, recipes, advice, jobs, money. In all, Lopez estimates about 340 Mexican restaurants in the Pacific Northwest have connections to people from Cuautla, "and it all started with me."
After working as a cook, Lopez had an opportunity to open her own restaurant in 1970. When her husband said no, she said, "Let me try."
That first year Lopez did it all: the cooking, cleaning, waiting tables. "I am very determined; I know what I want, and when I make a decision, I make a goal, I say I'm going to do it, and I am going to do it. I'm very strong. I built up the business. I had to teach people about Mexican food; I would give it away for free."
Her husband left his job to join her in running the restaurant, by then successful. When they moved to a bigger location on Pike Street, "The customers helped us move the pots, the dishes, everything with their cars. By that time I was a little famous with my food."
The couple made five- and six-figure loans at below-market rates to newcomers from back home to help them get started in their own restaurants. "Every one of them paid us back. We were the bank. Back then the banks would not loan to us."
They eventually opened five more restaurants, never taking any partners.
Having kids was out of the question. "We were too busy in the business, and we don't want someone else to raise them, that's not our culture." It was a hard decision to explain back home: " 'You love the money more than the family,' Mom and Dad would say."
Actually, the couple built a different kind of family, people they helped on both sides of the border, who call them Godmother and Godfather.
And money sent back over the years to Cuautla by restaurant entrepreneurs has built a better school, church, town square, new homes, even the best bull-fighting arena around. Two Washington governors have traveled to Cuautla to see what Lucy hath wrought.
"I am not selfish," says Lopez. "Even as a child, the father in the church used to tell me, you give something with this hand, it comes back three times more in the other. And it works."
Jeannette C. Hayner, 85
In 1942, she was one of only two women to graduate from the University of Oregon with a law degree. In 1974, she was one of the first women appointed to a board of directors by a major company in the Pacific Northwest, and in 1979, she became the first woman elected by her peers to an important leadership post in the Legislature.
Yet Hayner eschewed the feminist movement and says she has never tried or wanted to be one of the boys. In 20 years of Olympia winter deluges, she says she never once wore pants to the office. And she forbade her male colleagues to swear in her presence.
Hayner says she was comfortable in the formerly man's world of Olympia. "I treated everyone as individuals, not as male or female." She credits her father, in part. "He encouraged me to do the things I was interested in." Law school? Run for office? "I was confident I could do it; it never occurred to me that I couldn't."
Elected Republican caucus leader as a freshman senator in 1979, she held the post until her retirement in 1993, sometimes working with a GOP majority in the Senate of only one vote.
To make the most of it, she instituted her so-called Rule of 13: If a majority of GOP members favored a bill, all 25 members of the caucus would have to support it. "I decided we were never going to be an important voice in the Legislature unless we stuck together."
A resident of Walla Walla County since 1947, Hayner also credits her husband of 61 years with making her career on the other side of the state possible. "I attribute that to his patience. There were times when I couldn't get home for weeks at a time. He did everything he could to make it easier."
Hayner calls herself a conservative, but she is not easily typecast: Her support made passage of the landmark Growth Management Act possible.
Asked if she was ever discriminated against, Hayner answers a quick "no."
When none of the large firms in Portland would hire her out of law school, she got a job at the Bonneville Power Administration. "It didn't bother me. That's the way life was then, you accept some things you can't change at the moment. You do something else. One door closes, you open another.
"Any more questions?"
Luth Tenorio, 68
Former dean of the School of Nursing at Seattle University, Tenorio has spent much of her career as the only woman or person of color working at her level. She retired from SU in 2000 after serving seven years as one of only two Filipino-American nursing deans in the country.
One of nine children, all but one with a master's or Ph.D., Tenorio earned her doctorate at 50. She was always drawn to challenges: trained as a nurse, Tenorio chose to specialize in the care of cancer patients with psychological problems.
"What impressed me was the technical aspects of nursing were very easy to learn, but it was much more of a challenge to learn the psychological care of patients. It's a harder science. That appeals to me, and I liked the need to use yourself as a medium to make them better."
In rural Minnesota, where Tenorio taught nursing for 24 years, she was the only woman on the governing body of the state's health-care policy board, its only minority and the only voice for nurses.
"This was a rural area, and at the time it was not popular to speak up," she says. "But I was fascinated by having a voice in a larger organization on health policy. And I was going to make sure a voice for nurses was heard."
After getting her Ph.D., Tenorio felt she needed a new challenge. She and her husband agreed Tenorio would move alone to Oxford, Ohio, to take a new job as chairman of the department of nursing at Miami University. "It was very difficult for my friends to accept that I would leave my husband to go work in Ohio. For six years we flew to see each other every two weeks. I really valued the challenge, and we made it happen. Our marriage was not sacrificed.
"Many doors opened for me there. It was stimulating and satisfying for me, and he was happy for me. I needed that support."
Their decision not to have children was also mutual. "We came here as graduate students and said we would wait until we got back." But by the time they were ready, there was too much political turmoil in the Philippines. "So we re-evaluated."
Of her marriage of 42 years she says, "That is my proudest accomplishment: The maintenance of a mutually respectful marriage, especially in a very demanding career like mine."
Katie Dolan, 79
Since her son, Patrick, was born with autism 53 years ago, Dolan and parents she helps galvanize have taken the fight for people with disabilities anywhere and everywhere: to Olympia; to Washington, D.C.; to editorial boards, to anyone who would listen and lots who didn't want to.
"We are there to kick start and to kick ass," says Dolan.
A former model, actress and TV news personality, Dolan uses drama, humor or just sheer cussed persistence to dent indifference.
When families found going to agency offices for help too daunting, she brought the bureaucracy to them, organizing what she called "disability parties" all over the state. Families would gather to share cake and food at community centers with agency staff who signed people up by the dozen for help they were entitled to but never knew existed.
In 1972, she helped found The Troubleshooters, a statewide protection and advocacy program for people with developmental disabilities and their families. And in 1975, she started the state chapter of the Autism Society of America.
Dolan was also on the front lines of Education for All, four parents at Seattle's Northwest Center who with two law students pushed the Legislature in 1971 to enact House Bill 90, the landmark legislation guaranteeing a public education to children with disabilities.
The law was enacted too late for her own son to benefit from it. But the measure later became a model for national legislation.
Sugar coating is not in her repertoire. Dolan is not afraid to say, for instance, that it's important for parents of a child with disabilities to go through a grief process for the child they didn't have and the child they were expecting.
"People say you've been chosen, that's so fabulous, so wonderful, such a blessing, he's an angel. If I had a choice to do over again, would I rather have had a kid that didn't have autism? Of course. I don't believe God only gives you what you can take because I have seen people totally destroyed by having too much to bear.
"You put a barrier in front of me, I just jump higher."
A typical day finds her calling every member of the Legislature to scold them for bottling up a disabilities bill without a hearing and filling out forms indecipherable for people who cannot write or use a telephone.
She calls her advocacy work for people with disabilities "the ultimate civil-rights cause, because the basic instinct is genocide." And she knows where her inspiration comes from: "Our heroes are our sons and daughters who taught us what it really means to be human and to care for each other."
Lynda V. Mapes is a Pacific Northwest magazine staff writer. Benjamin Benschneider is a magazine staff photographer.
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