Over this past year, the WSC has lost four outstanding women whose commitment to the YWCA was unflinching – Grace Ricardson, the extraordinary ceiling breaking businesswoman; Alexine Jackson, a national leader of the YWCA and other organizations; Millicent Agnor, leader of several projects related to the One Imperative; and very recently, this Council’s own Connie Tate who descended from several generations of YW women, and excelled at finding her own path in deepening her concern for women in difficult circumstances and in leading the Council for a decade. In future postings, there will be information on how the Council will honor Connie.
Connie’s destiny as a YWCA leader was forged at birth. She literally grew up in a household that was all about the YWCA – a home where she was regularly exposed to interracial and international dinners and meetings. Her grandmother was president of the NYC YWCA in the 1920s and her mother was president of the NYC Board and YWCA USA Board in the 1950s. After Connie retired from teaching and raising her family, she re-connected to the YWCA by joining the World Service Council in 1982 at the request of Mary Rockefeller and served as chair or co-chair from 2011-2019. She also served in leadership positions at the NYC YWCA and was honored in 2012 as Citizen of the Year. Connie’s devotion and dedication to the World YWCA came from years of travel to World YWCA meetings as well as personal travel to YWCAs around the globe. Connie enthusiastically cared about our changing world and was a powerful advocate for the rights of women: writing letters, marching in parades, leading forums, and workshops, and as a World YWCA delegate at the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women hearings every year since its inception. Connie was a magnet for the YWCA. Her passion was expressed to all who she met, and she brought many friends and colleagues into the YWCA, encouraging them to be involved and informed on women’s issues around the world. She personally hosted international YWCA visitors and shared their perspectives in newsletters and on the WSC website. She was a lifelong learner, adapting into her 80s to new technologies. Truly a volunteer extraordinaire, her legacy will live on in all those who she mentored.
Alexine was all about style and substance. In all her ways Alexine brought a flare for creativity which she used to strengthen bonds, fire the imagination, and do the unthinkable. A daughter of Atlanta’s African American influential and connected strata, she and her husband would eventually make their home in the greater Washington, D.C. area. Alexine devoted her life to family and civic organizations. Like so many, for years she served in various roles at her local association before becoming a national leader. She worked closely with YWCA Nationale Office for Racial Justice. She was a former national President of YWCA; she attended the 1955 World Council of the YWCA in South Kores and led the USA’s delegation to the 1999 World Council in Cairo Egypt. Her concern for women caused her to serve as President of the Black Women’s Agenda, as a board member of the National Museum of Women in the Arts, and as a breast cancer survivor was the involved with several research support charities ad chaired the Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Alexine demanded of herself and others to face the truth and then manage the issue to the agreed plan having fun along the way.
Alexine also expressed her interest in the performing arts with leadership roles in the Strathmore Hall Arts Center, what is now the Washington Performing Arts, and the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts. And in between a myriad of other activities, she masterminded very successful fundraiser galas for Howard University’ Medical School.
Grace was a trailblazing and remarkable businesswoman and innovator who held positions at J.C. Penney, Con Edison and Chesebrough Ponds from which she retired as Vice President of Global Consumer Affairs after almost two decades with the firm. After earning an M.B.A., she began her upward rise in the business world at a time (early 1960’s) in the corporate world when it was challenging for women to do so. She never ceased her commitment to expanding the roles of women in this domain. Reflective of her joy for life and energy during her ten years of marriage to Ralph Henderson, she earned her private pilot’s license joining her husband in flights around the country and flew the Bahamian Chain. Upon retirement, Grace became highly involved with organizations focused on empowering women and girls many with an international direction. She chaired the Board of the NYC YWCA, served on the Board of Directors of the U.S. Committee for UN Women, and established the Grace Richardson Fellows Program at Simmons University in conjunction with the U.S. State Department’s Global Women’s Leadership Initiative. And of course, she was an active and giving member of the YWCA World Service Council. Some of her other diverse interests ranged from being an adviser to Abagail Disney and the Manhattan Theater Club, being an active alum of Simmons and Cornell, and supported the Folk Art Market in Santa Fe.
Mllicent was one of our newer WSC members over the last 6 years, but previously was a strong Board member of the Cleveland YWCA in the 1970’s and 1980’s. She chaired the Public Affairs Committee and led a number of projects related to the One Imperative and the National YWCA Public Affairs Priorities, including one project that trained volunteers to pretend they were looking for an apartment, go to vacant ones advertised in the newspaper. Three pairs went separately within in a 2-3 hour period, and then separately came back and wrote up their experiences. Often, there were notable differences between the experiences of white pairs vs. black pairs. These reports were fed to a lawyers group working on fair housing cases.
Tax-deductible Donations to the World Service Council in memory of these extraordinary women would be most welcome.