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Three inducted into Red Wing Women's Hall of Fame

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No one said "a woman's work is never done" at the 2012 Red Wing Women's Hall of Fame induction luncheon Wednesday, but speaker after speaker carried the message. That work is to make the world, starting right here, a better place and to champion women's rights.

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The inductees were Audrey Bennett, Roseanne Grosso and Linda Thielbar.

Bennett

Bennett was the first woman president of the Prairie Island Tribal Council. In her 10 years in that role, she also advocated for issues important to all Native Americans. She received national recognition in 2003 for her commitment to peace, to ease suffering and injustice and to advance intercultural exchange.

"She has met presidents, vice presidents, members of Congress, governors and members of the Minnesota state Legislature, to name just a few, always ensuring the concerns of her community were heard," Victoria Winfrey said in a statement read at the Women's Network banquet.

Bennett also has served on the Minnesota and the national Indian gaming associations, been president of the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council and chaired the National Intertribal Public Relations Network.

Twin Cities Public Television featured her in the 2011 documentary "Women Making Change" about the challenges of politics and leadership.

Following a hiatus, she returned to the Prairie Island Tribal Council in December as secretary/treasurer.

"Growing up, my people who taught me to be the one to 'go out there' and 'never be afraid of who you are' were my great-grandmothers and grandmothers. They said, 'As a woman you're going to have a lot of things going against you - for being a woman and then also for being a Native American. That's two strikes, so you have to work twice as hard.' And so they always pushed me," Bennett said.

Her mother then taught her to work hard and to pray every day. Bennett's additional message to the next generation of women leaders: Be yourself. Be true.

"I like representing all of us, especially women. I'm always out there encouraging other young women to get involved," she said. "Belong to something. Be involved. Make a change. Make a difference."

Grosso

Red Wing City Council Administrator Kay Kuhlmann introduced Grosso, who served on the council and was the first woman -- and to date the only one -- to serve on the Goodhue County Board. She continues to serve on numerous public commissions and currently is Goodhue County Historical Society board chair.

"You see her everywhere. She's one of the leaders making a legacy," Kuhlmann said.

Grosso grew up on the Iron Range, but she grew into her adult role as a leader in Red Wing. She brings determination, dedication and a little something extra to every job, Kuhlmann said.

"I'm going to describe it as Ranger moxie," Kuhlmann said.

Grosso researches relentlessly -- something that drove City Hall staff "crazy" for a while. They soon grew to appreciate that persistence, according to Kuhlmann, and understand Grosso's quests for more information.

She also provided a new voice. At the same time the greater good of an issue was obviously more important to Grosso than having a personal say, Kuhlmann noted.

The toughest years in politics were the four as Goodhue County commissioner, Kuhlmann said, and Grosso concurred.

"It wasn't a men's club. It was a good old men's club," Grosso said.

"I've enjoyed what I've done," she added. "But I don't feel I've done anything anybody else wouldn't do."

Thielbar

While the other inductees have held public office, Thielbar has worked the opposite end of the political scene as activist and citizen.

Like Bennett, Thielbar was featured in "Women Making Change." She has championed women candidates at every level. She's active in League of Women Voters as well as the American Association of University Women.

Thielbar "birthed" Planned Parenthood in Red Wing and worked hard to assure reproductive freedom for women, Marilyn Meinke said in her introduction. She also advocates for others through involvement in PFLAG, Girls on the Run and more.

Thielbar directed Head Start. She has served on local church, historical and library boards. She worked to pass Red Wing's riverfront conservation easement. She helped spearhead Downtown Main Street's First Friday shopping program and worked on the bigger economic development picture with the Mayor's Blue Ribbon Panel.

"There's just too much to say about Linda and the work she's done to assure that Red Wing's natural environment, citizens and organizations continue to thrive into the future," Meinke said.

"Linda is never just a member," Meinke added. "She gets things done."

Thielbar reminded the audience there's more to do.

"After 40 years of working on some of these issues, it's a little disconcerting that we're having to review some of these issues as women," she said.

"So today is a call to arms to all of you -- to all of your friends, your daughters, your granddaughters, your husbands, your sons. We have work to do yet. Join me."

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Anne Jacobson
Anne Jacobson has been editor of the Republican Eagle since December 2003. 
(651) 301-7870
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