Two exemplary Alabama women were added to the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame on Thursday during a luncheon ceremony in Marion, Ala. held in their honor.
Jessie Welch Austin and Jeanne Friegel Berman joined the ranks of 87 other women who have been inducted since the Hall of Fame’s inception in 1970.
Wetumpka-native, Austin was the first woman elected Sheriff in any County in Alabama, serving Elmore County. Her Husband ‘Will’, was sheriff and could not succeed himself, so she ran and served a four-year term. Following her husband’s death in 1947, Austin was appointed warden of Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka by Alabama Governor James Folsom. She served as Tutwiler’s warden for six years, where she oversaw the care and counseling of female prisoners until her retirement.
Berman was a political activist and civic leader in Montgomery, Ala. She founded the Alabama League of Women Voters and organized most of the local League chapters in the state. During the administration of Alabama Governor Gordon Persons, Berman persuaded him to introduce a bill in the Legislature forming the Mental Health Association of Alabama. She was instrumental in lobbying for its passage.
Governor Kay Ivey was the guest speaker at the induction ceremony.
“Grateful to honor two women who came before us as they were inducted into the AL Women’s Hall of Fame. Because of Ms. Berman & Ms. Austin, I can serve today as only the 2nd female governor in AL & it’s my hope that women continue to lead & be the change in our state & world,” Ivey tweeted after the event.
The Hall of Fame began in 1970 to honor the lives of outstanding women from the state of Alabama. Inductees must be deceased for two years and be from or affiliated with Alabama. Women to be inducted are selected by unanimous vote of the board of directors of the AWHF. The board is from a cross section of the state and represents broad areas of interest.