The Women’s Plaza of Honor at the University of Arizona celebrates the lives and accomplishments of women in Arizona and throughout the world. Set in a garden walkway on the UA campus, the names of honorees are inscribed on sweeping arches, detailed benches, handmade tiles, and wide brick paths. Each honoree’s life story is included in a computer kiosk located in the garden, accessible also on line.
The campaign for the Plaza seeks to record the vital roles women have played in history, and to raise funds to support the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies. By 2011 the Plaza has recognized over 700 women, established a sizeable endowment and looks toward continued growth in the future. Few, if any, Women’s Studies programs in the nation have successfully achieved such ambitious goals. The Plaza is a result of the vision, cooperation, and hard work of a dynamic group of individuals and organizations under the direction of the Plaza Executive Committee.
In the ten-year period from the inception of the Plaza idea in 1999 to the unveiling of the kiosk in 2009, approximately 45 volunteers from the community and from various UA departments, including the Department of Women’s Studies and the Women’s Studies Advisory Council (WOSAC), contributed over 8,000 hours to bring the project to fruition. They set the goals, created the design, cultivated university and community support, and raised the funds necessary for construction. Actual building began in 2004 and on September 30, 2005 the Plaza was dedicated in the presence of 400 attendees, including donors and women honored in the Plaza. Governor Janet Napolitano spoke at the ceremony, as did representatives from Women’s Studies, the University, and the Plaza’s Executive Committee. Poetry, Mariachi music and traditional Tohono O’odham drumming filled the air as we stood in the presence of memories and history.
With construction complete, the Women’s Plaza of Honor moved into its second phase: creating a database of honorees’ life stories that could be used as a resource on women’s history by the university, the community and local schools. This required solving the technical issues of maintaining the database on line and of building an on-site computer kiosk that could withstand the Arizona summers. At the same time, the Plaza Executive Committee continued to actively publicize the remaining naming opportunities to extend the reach of the Plaza, and grow the Gender and Women’s Studies endowment. Over 250 people attended the celebration unveiling the kiosk in April 2009. Speeches by university leaders, local historians and journalists, plus music and dance highlighted the tremendous achievement of the Plaza. Community volunteers and Women’s Studies faculty and students thanked all those who have helped in the building and publicizing of the project, and presented the Plaza to the university community. This joyful event marked the beginning of the third phase of the Plaza, moving the campaign into the future.
With construction complete all attention focuses on honoring women and building the endowment for Women’s Studies.