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Lansing’s Laureled Ladies: Five Women in Mid-Michigan History

March is National Women’s History Month. To celebrate the role women have played in the nation’s history, we’re taking a magnifying glass to mid-Michigan for a closer look at five women from the Greater Lansing area who made their mark and are honored in the Michigan Women Forward Hall of Fame.

Abagail Rogers
If education is the passport to the future, then Abigail Rogers was a visa stamp personified. As an advocate for women’s rights and women’s education, Rogers spent her life fighting for the right of admittance of women into Michigan universities. In 1855, she co-founded the Michigan Female College in Lansing. The same year she died, 1869, Michigan State University began enrolling female students.

Patricia Beeman
Born in 1925, Patricia Beeman was a human rights activist who led local and state efforts to fight apartheid in South Africa, as well as efforts in support of independence movements in Zimbabwe and Namibia. She and her husband were central figures in the Michigan State University-based Southern Africa Liberation Committee, and her papers are archived at the MSU Libraries.

Martha Strickland Clark
When Martha Strickland Clark spoke, people listened. A native of DeWitt, Clark was not just an orator of elegance on women’s suffrage, temperance and finance — she was the first woman to argue a case before the Michigan Supreme Court. Clark was honored by the American Bar Association in 1933. And that Supreme Court case in 1888? Yeah, she won a woman the right to divorce her abusive husband.

Marion Weyant Ruth
She’s not the Sultan of Swat; she’s the other Babe Ruth. Marion Weyant “Babe” Ruth is the Sultana of the Skies. Born in Lansing in 1918, she took her first flying lesson at age 16, which set her on a flight path of fame as an aviator and aviation instructor. She earned a place in the Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame and the Michigan Motor Sports Hall of Fame.

Clarissa Young
Angie Dickenson may have been making headlines in the mid-1970s on the small-screen police procedural “Police Woman,” but Clarissa Young had already spent decades living that role. In 1946, Young became the first sworn officer of the Lansing Police Department. She rose to the rank of captain in 1962 and founded the Women Police of Michigan in 1968.