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Native American Lawyer Sarah Deer Inducted Into National Women’s Hall of Fame

The National Women’s Hall of Fame has named Native American lawyer Sarah Deer among its class of 2019 inductees.

Deer, a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation of Oklahoma, a lawyer and University of Kansas professor, is being honored in particular for her work on the Violence Against Women Act and the Tribal Law and Order Act. Her advocacy and work around issues of sexual assault and domestic violence in Indigenous communities has been recognized by the American Bar Association and the Department of Justice. She was named as a MacArthur Fellow in 2014.

Deer joins 10 other women in the Class of 2019, including Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, and actress, author and political activist Jane Fonda.

The other National Women’s Hall of Fame 2019 honorees (eight living and two deceased) are: lawyer Gloria Allred, who has represented women in numerous high-profile and celebrity cases; Civil rights activist Angela Davis; retired Air Force fighter pilot Nicole Malachowski; the late suffragist and cartoonist Rose O’Neill; New York Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, who died last year; composer Laurie Spiegel, and AIDS researcher Flossie Wong-Staal.

“We are pleased to add these American women to the ranks of inductees whose leadership and achievements have changed the course of American history,” hall of fame President Betty Bayer said.

The formal induction ceremony will take place in September outside Seneca Falls, New York, a city considered the birthplace of women’s rights. The National Women’s Hall of Fame, founded in Seneca Falls in 1969, also celebrates the 100th year anniversary of Women’s Right to Vote in New York this year.

Deer will join the 276 current inductees in the National Women’s Hall of Fame, including suffragists, sports and political figures, authors and entertainers. Those honored are nominated by the public and judged by a team of experts across the various fields. This is the Hall’s 50th anniversary and marks the number of years it has been documenting and recording how women have changed the landscape of U.S. History.

“It is wonderful to see Sarah’s work reach the national acclaim it deserves,” said Rosemary O’Leary, director of the School of Public Affairs and Administration. “Sarah is a passionate and tireless advocate for Native women who seek justice in a system that denies them at every turn. She is an inspiration to her students, her colleagues and the community. I can’t think of a more fitting tribute than a spot in the National Women’s Hall of Fame to honor her contributions.”

“It is fitting that this announcement should come just one day after Sarah testified before Congress for the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, speaking about Native American women, sexual violence and tribal autonomy,” said Nicholas L. Syrett, chair of the Department of Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies. “I cannot think of anyone more deserving of this honor. We’re exceedingly lucky to have her here at KU.”

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