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Community Advocacy Organization

MI-ACE Women’s Network announces 2022 Public Policy Pioneers

State Board of Education President Casandra Ulbrich, lawyer Jean Ledwith King and suffragist Lottie Wilson are 2022 honorees

Courtesy Photo-State Board of Education President Casandra

The Michigan American Council on Education (MI-ACE) Women’s Network today announced the selection of three remarkable trailblazers as its 2022 Public Policy Pioneer honorees.

· Casandra E. Ulbrich, Ph.D., the State Board of Education President and Vice Chancellor for Institutional Advancement at the University of Michigan-Dearborn

· Jean Ledwith King, a pioneering lawyer who fought sex discrimination in education, sports, employment and politics

· Lottie Wilson, an African American suffragist and artist

The nonpartisan Public Policy Pioneer recognition began in 2013 to champion Michigan women who advocated the causes of equality, dignity and access as well as encouraged women’s voices in political decision-making.

All three women will be formally recognized at the MI-ACE Women’s Network’s June conference.

Previous years’ honorees have included Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, First Lady Helen Milliken, and State Sens. Alma Wheeler Smith and Lana Pollack. For more information about previous winners, visit the MI-ACE Women’s Network’s website.

Casandra E. Ulbrich, Ph.D.

Dr. Casandra Ulbrich is the president of the State Board of Education, having been elected in 2006 and 2014. She also works as Vice Chancellor for Institutional Advancement at the University of Michigan-Dearborn and serves two gubernatorial appointments on the Midwest Higher Education Compact and Education Commission of the States.

As the first in her family to attend college, Ulbrich studied communications and political science at the University of Michigan. She then began her career working for Congressman David Bonior. She later moved into higher education because she wanted to help others access higher education. She was employed at Wayne State University for more than 10 years and at Macomb Community College for eight years. Dr. Ulbrich has been in her current role at the University of Michigan-Dearborn since 2019.

During the Obama Administration, she served as the Michigan Board of Education's representative on the National Association of State Boards of Education government affairs committee, a committee charged with making recommendations to Congress on federal education policies.

She is a volunteer K-9 handler with Search and Rescue of Michigan and Wolverine State Search and Recovery. She and her husband reside in Dearborn with their German Shepherds, Gryphon and Alyx.

Courtesy Photo-Jean Ledwith King

Jean Ledwith King

Jean Ledwith King was a pioneer in fighting sex discrimination in education, sports, employment and politics.

She graduated from the University of Michigan Law School in 1968 as one of 10 women in a class of 344 students. At the time, King was 44 years old and raising three children under 12 with her husband, John King. Two years later, King co-authored a complaint against her alma mater for sex discrimination in admissions, financial aid, employment, and athletics. After initially resisting, the university raised the pay of female faculty. It was a beginning for improving salaries, promotions, maternity leaves, athletics, and scholarships at U-M.

As her career went on, King took on sexist stereotypes in public school textbooks and adequate restroom facilities for women in schools and concert halls. She successfully led a statewide campaign to allow women to use their maiden names on their driver’s licenses. One of King’s most notable challenges was against Michigan State University in 1979, when she won a restraining order against the university for giving female basketball players inferior travel and meal accommodations.

From 1992-1995, King co-chaired the 21-member federal Glass Ceiling Commission, that documented the shortage of women and minorities in top management positions.

King’s fight for gender equity reached into politics. In 1970, King co-founded the Women’s Caucus of the Michigan Democratic Party, the first women’s caucus in a major party. By 1976, the caucus achieved equal division of men and women on the Michigan national delegation. King died in 2021 at the age of 97.

Courtesy Photo-Lottie Wilson

Lottie Wilson

Charlotte “Lottie” Wilson was born in 1854 in Niles, Michigan, into a family that believed in community service and valued formal education. Lottie Wilson was a trailblazer as an African American professional artist, suffragist and activist.

In Michigan and nationally, Wilson actively advocated for women’s suffrage and women’s rights. Lottie was a member of the National Association of Colored Women (NACW), an organization formed in 1896 because Black women were excluded from the wider suffragist movement. She was the first art superintendent for the NACW, organizing exhibits for its national conventions.

In 1896, Wilson spoke at the first annual convention of the League of Colored Women in Washington, D.C. She spoke again at the Michigan Equal Suffrage Association Convention in 1898. In 1897, she helped establish the Phyllis Wheatley Home, Detroit, a chapter of the national African American women’s club that provided lodging, educational and recreational programs, and a forum for discussing political issues.

In 1899, at the National American Women’s Suffrage Association Convention, Wilson proposed a resolution that addressed the policy of separate railroad coaches for African American women in the South, who were not allowed to travel in “ladies’ cars” that were nicer and safer. It was tabled by the white women who led the conference because they determined it did not relate to women’s suffrage. This was a notable demonstration of the double axis of oppression that Black women face, racism and sexism.

Wilson was the first African American to attend the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She was a teacher and artist, known for creating busts and paintings of important historical figures, including Frederick Douglas, Phillis Wheatley and Crispus Attucks. One of her most famous paintings portrays a meeting between Sojourner Truth and Abraham Lincoln, a nod to what she faced as a Black suffragist. Whether there ever was such a meeting is not certain. However, the painting, President Lincoln with a Former Slave, was the first piece of art by a Black artist accepted into the White House art collection.

After marrying a second time in 1906, Lottie moved back to Niles with her husband, Daniel Moss, permanently. Wilson continued to show her work and held classes at her home until her death in 1914.

About the Michigan American Council on Education Women’s Network

The Michigan American Council on Education Women’s Network (MI-ACE) is the professional network for Michigan women in higher education. We work in concert with the American Council on Education nationally to identify, develop, encourage, advance, link and support (IDEALS) women in higher education. The MI-ACE was formed in 1978, one year after the national program was inaugurated.

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