Winnifred Cushing Wallace

Areas of Achievement: 

Honored By

Honored by: Hughes, Alison
Date submitted: October 24, 2006
Gift: Engraved Paver, Small

Winnifred Cushing Wallace was born in Colfax, Iowa. She moved to Tucson via a 15-year acting career. She acted with Lee J. Cobb in the Broadway production of Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman." She also acted with Mae West in "Diamond Lil." Interviewed in 1998, Winnifred said of Mae West, "I was the only woman she ever allowed to wear a boa in the same show she was in." Mae West called Winnifred a good luck charm, and her Tucson friends called her inspiring.

Ms. Wallace's acting career was cut short by a 1956 car crash in Mexico that left her a parapalegic and wheel-chair bound. She became a model for disabled Americans. For 40 years she valued her self-sufficiency. She learned to heave her body from her wheelchair across a board into her car in order to drive to work every day.

After moving to Tucson in the 1970 she volunteered at the Pima Council on Aging where she edited that organization's newsletter. Later she went to work at the Tucson Women's Commission where she edited, and gave name to "The Clarion," the feminist newspaper that was originally published by the Commission under the direction of Alison Hughes, the first Commission executive director. While at the Women's Commission, Winnifred also helped to organize the first conference on "Differently-Abled Women." From the Women's Commission, Winnifred moved to the YWCA where she ran the "Women Helping Women" program until she was in her mid-80's, when she became too frail to drive to work each day.

Following are some quotes attributable to Winnifred Cushing Wallace. They say a lot about who she was and how she led her life:

"Just because you're in a wheelchair doesn't limit your horizons. They're not as big or high, but they're wider. You can go slower and see a lot more."

"From where I sit, handicapped is for dogs and horses in races. I'm just differently-abled."

"We want to do things because we choose to, not because women do them. The ERA is as good for men as it is for women. Power over ourselves, that's what it's all about."

When ailing health finally forced her into a nursing home, Winnifred continued to be active. There she created a newsletter for and about the various nursing home residents.

Ms. Wallace's contributions were recognized by the Tucson Citizen newspaper when she was presented with the "Jefferson Award" for community service.