Alison Hughes

Areas of Achievement: 
Community Building

Honored By

Honored by: Tobias, Sheila
Date submitted: October 24, 2006
Gift: Engraved Paver, Small

Alison was born in Glasgow, Scotland and raised in Motherwell. Her father William Hughes was an industrial painter and an artisan who owned a small wallpaper and paint store that he struggled to maintain (unsuccessfully). Her mother Jackie was a business woman and a water color artist. Her sister Wilma was trained as a nurse but became a potter in her later years. Alison moved to the United States at age 19 to live with Jackie Libby, her American-Scottish mother, her sister Wilma and her step-father Lionel Libby, in Kensington, Maryland. After attending college in Washington, D.C. she went to work for the American Association of Workers for the Blind, an experience that sensitized her to the challenges and accomplishments of people living with physical handicaps. In the evenings she studied art and sculpture and visited Washington's numerous art galleries, and harbored an unfulfilled desire to become an artist. She later went on to work at the United States Commission on Civil Rights, but the seeds were already sewn for a life-long commitment to activism for equality and justice after she participated in the 1963 Civil Rights March in Washington, D.C. led by the Rev. Martin Luther King.

By 1968, now completely immersed in the world of civil rights on a daily basis, Alison remembers being a marcher in the Poor People's March on Washington. She made a picket sign that quoted Mahatma Ghandi, 'The Poor Produce the Food and Go Hungry,' and comments that sadly that is often the case today almost four decades later.

When Alison moved to Tucson in 1970 Cesar Chavez was trying with much difficulty to organize a farm workers' union in order to gain better working conditions. There was much opposition from the ranching industry, however, and soon boycotts were organized. During the day, Alison was a grant writer at Pima Community College, but each evening participated in picket lines outside of Tucson's Safeway and Lucky Stores to encourage people not to purchase the non-union lettuce and grapes sold at those locations. She wrote asking Joan Baez to come to Tucson and give a concert to help raise funds for the farmworkers. To her surprise Joan agreed, and over $10,000 was raised to help the cause.

While the civil rights movement was at its height, the women's movement had also emerged as a viable force for equality. In Tucson Alison became active in the National Organization for Women, and served as the third president of the newly formed chapter.

In the early to mid-70's Tucson women saw the formation of the first center for battered women (Tucson Center for Women and Children) the Rape Crisis Center, the Women's Construction Company, and the Young Women's Construction Company. With her grant-writing experience, Alison was able to write successful grants that brought the first formal funding support to those new organizations.

Along with N.O.W., the Women's Political Caucus was expanding as a successful force for electing feminist women and men to political office. Alison worked on some of the early campaigns that helped to elect women to the Tucson City Council and the state legislature. She also served on the board of a new organization formed to help young women in the juvenile justice system.

Also in the early 70's the Tucson Women's Commission was being formed. Alison served on the committee to write the Ordinance to create the commission, and in 1976 left her job at Pima Community College when the brand new Commission offered her the job as its first executive director. Alison served in this position for six years during which time she worked with diverse groups of women and helped to organize important women's organizations such as the Black Women's Task Force, the Affiliation of Native American Women, and Women in the Trades. She organized conferences and workshops that dealt with issues and challenges faced by women business owners, differently-abled women, and lesbian women; and public hearings on elderly women, the availability of obstetric services to women living on Tucson's West-Side, and many others. She founded the first women's newspaper through the Women's Commission, and hired Winnifred Cushing Wallace who named the paper 'The Clarion' as its editor. She brought numerous grants to the Commission with which enabled the staff and commissioners to improve conditions for women in the County jail, to process over 500 sex discrimination complaints on behalf of the Arizona Civil Rights Division, and to advocate on behalf of justice for Indians living in the Tucson area.

Also at this time Alison was appointed by Governor Bruce Babbitt to membership on the Arizona Women's Commission. With this appointment she was the only woman to serve with two commissions at the same time ̱ one as an executive, and the other as a Commissioner. She wrote the grant proposal that brought the Governor's Commission its first funding.

While attending a national conference of women's commissions, she learned about the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame, and introduced the idea to the Arizona Commission. To her delight, the idea was accepted. Working with other Arizona Women's Commission members, the Governor's Office, and the Arizona Department of Library and Archives, a committee was formed that succeeded in shaping what became one of the Commission's most treasured achievements ̱ the formation of the Arizona Women's Hall of Fame, first launched officially in 1981 and continuing for a decade. Alison served on the committee. (The Hall of Fame was re-established in 2000 by the director of the Arizona Department of Library and Archives.)

By the late 70's the only women judges on the Superior Court bench were those who had been elected to the bench by popular vote, but since the inception of the judicial appointment system, no governor had yet appointed women to the Pima County bench. Governor Babbitt wanted to change that so he appointed Alison to the Pima County Superior Court Selection Commission which had not been successful in advancing women for judiciary appointments. The Commission soon began submitting women's names to Governor Babbitt, and Pima County saw its first women judges being appointed. (The first was Nanette Warner who was named 2006 Woman of the Year by the Tucson Chamber of Commerce.)

Alison was also involved in the work to get Arizona's legislature to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, an effort that did not succeed but served to create joyous lifetime bonds among its supporters. She participated in the marches in Tucson and Phoenix to support ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. She was a founding member of the Executive Women's Council of Southern Arizona. She served on the first board of the Southern Arizona Women's Foundation. She was an Arizona delegate to the National Women's Conference in Houston in1977, and in 1980 attended the International Conference on Women in Copenhagen on behalf of the Tucson Women's Commission. She also served on the board of the Tucson YWCA and chaired the committee that hired its long-time and current Executive Director, Janet Marcotte.

By 1982, in a state of exhaustion, Alison left the Commission and worked briefly as a consultant to the Region IX Women's Bureau before going to work in the office of the Honorable James McNulty, the newly elected Congressman in Arizona's fifth district. She took a leave of absence from the Congressional office to attend the Kennedy School of Government from where she obtained a Master's Degree in 1985 at age 45. Unfortunately, by the time she returned to Tucson, the Congressman had lost his re-election campaign.

In the final stage of her work life, Alison found herself working at the Rural Health Office at the University of Arizona, for which she was recruited by Andy Nichols (Director of that office) to be his Associate Director as well as a faculty member. She was involved in the creation of Arizona's first telemedicine system, and was appointed by Ron Weinstein (Director) as the Associate Director for Outreach for the Arizona Telemedicine Program, a position she continues to hold today.

Alison worked with Andy Nichols for almost two decades until his untimely death at his desk in the State Senate in 1982, at which time she assumed the position of Director. Her course on health policy and leadership was popular with the graduate students; she has written numerous publications on rural health. She has given presentations and speeches on rural health and telemedicine issues in Egypt, China, Brazil, Scotland, Norway, and Panama and continues to travel extensively throughout the United States and Arizona to promote the advancement of health care for rural residents. The Rural Health Office may now be found housed in the University's newest college, the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health. Alison is proud that her college dean, Marie Swanson, is a strong woman who is committed to the advancement of women.

During the 90's, Alison became involved in Democratic Party politics, serving as Vice Chair of the State Party. After her day job, she immersed herself in party politics and became involved in the first presidential campaign supporting Bill Clinton. She was a member of the Executive Committee of the Democratic National Committee and with others, represented the committee in an official visit to Taiwan. After the Clinton election, she was appointed to serve on the Good Neighbor Environment Board, which studied environmental issues across the U.S.-Mexico Border. She accepted a second federal appointment and fulfilled a three-year term on the National Advisory Committee on Rural Health. In 2005, she completed a three-term as the rural health representative on the Universal Services Administrative Company (USAC) which administers the multi-billion dollar telecommunications discount program. She served on the Board of the Southern Arizona Mental Health Corporation for almost two decades, and has served on the board of the Catalina Vista Neighborhood Association (where her home is located) since it was founded in 1985.

Alison retired as Rural Health Director in 1995 but has continued her affiliation with the College as a faculty member, and manages a large grant to assist strengthen Arizona's small rural hospitals. Beginning in 2007 she will serve as President of the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health. In 2005 Governor Napolitano appointed her to the Arizona Commission on the Arts, an experience she cherishes as it brings her love of the arts to the foreground once more in her life.

Alison's support and commitment to women's equality will continue until she dies. With Dr. Nelba Chavez, she co-chaired the Arizona Women's conferences held in Tucson in 2004 and 2005, and she helped the Tucson Women's Commission to organize its 30th anniversary celebration in 2005 for which she created and presented a pictorial retrospective.

Alison has been recognized numerous times for her public service to women's and health-related organizations with which she has been involved over three decades:

* 2005 Recipient, 'Woman In Profile' award, Tucson Chapter of Women in Healthcare
* 2004 Recipient, Indian Health Service Tucson Area Office service award
* 2003 Recipient of University of Arizona Service Award through the Mel and Enid Zuckerman Arizona College of Public Health.
* 2002 Recognition from HRSA Secretary Tommy Thompson for service
to the National Advisory Committee on Rural Health
* 2001 Black Women's Task Force, Tucson, 'Unsung Heroine' award
* 2001 Pima county/Tucson Women's Commission recognition award
* 2000 and 2001 American Public Health Association, Medical Care Section. Appreciation for Outstanding Service.
* 1999 Pima County Government. Recognition for contributions to Outside Agency Citizen Review Committee
* 1999 Arizona Turning Point Project. Certificate of Appreciation for contributions to Technology Subcommittee/Communications Work Group
* 1996 World Who's Who of Women
* 1994 Southern Arizona Mental Health Center, appreciation for services
* 1979 and 1992 Soroptomists International of Tucson. Honoree for Community Service.
* 1991 Black Women's Awareness Task Force. Honoree for service to the Task Force
* 1986 YWCA Women on the Move Award Recipient
* 1982 YWCA Appreciation Award for service
* 1985-86 Domestic Policy Association, National Issues Forum. Recognition Award.
* 1985 Arizona Attorney General and Arizona Civil Rights Advisory Board. Recognition for contributions to civil rights.
* 1984 Southern Arizona Mental Health Center, recognition award for service
* 1983 US Department of Labor, Women's Bureau, appreciation
* 1979 Affiliation of Native American Women, recognition award for service

* 1975 City of Tucson outstanding citizen award