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Elected leaders celebrate Women’s Equality Day

Elected officials honored a longtime activist and feminist leader at a Women’s Equality Day ceremony at the Women’s Park in West Miami-Dade.

By Rodolfo Roman Special to the Herald

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen remembered when she was first elected to office, back in 1989. She credits one woman for helping her pave the way to get elected to Congress: feminist and pioneer Roxcy O’Neal Bolton.

“I am here because of Roxcy O’Neal Bolton,” she said. “I didn’t get here just by accident she fought for my right to get elected.”

On Aug. 26, Ros-Lehtinen joined the public in celebration of Women’s Equality Day and Bolton’s life at the Roxcy O’Neal Bolton Gallery at the Women’s Park, 10251 West Flagler.

Women’s Equality Day pays homage to the 19th Amendment was certified, finally granting women the right to vote: Aug. 26, 1920.

Bolton founded the country’s first Rape Treatment Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital, which is named after her. She also successfully challenged N.O.A.A., the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, to name hurricanes after men — not just women .

Bolton’s son, Buddy Bolton was overwhelmed by the support received by his mother.

“It’s great to see her longtime friends here,” he said. “For me, its pride being Roxcy O’Neal Bolton’s son and having pride in her work. There is amazement in her work and journey and her impact not only in South Florida but internationally.”

Bolton suffered a stroke last year, which impaired her speech. Her son spoke on her behalf, as she now carries a pen and a notepad to communicate.

“She’s concerned not seeing a woman as a Florida governor or a woman president,” he said. “It’s been one of her thoughts for many years.”

At the event, Ros-Lehtinen presented a U.S. flag, which was flown over the capital in Washington, D.C., to Bolton. HistoryMiami presented an exhibit dedicated to her. Among the items on display are personal photographs, documents and an American Red Cross uniform she wore in World War II.

“There’s pictures here I haven’t seen,” said Buddy Bolton.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez took a tour of the exhibit.

“On her day, she took on controversial issues, but she was on the right side,” he said. “A lot of women’s rights were possible by a lot of women like Roxcy who were pioneers and led the fight for equality.”

Since it opened, the park has had several additions, like a one-mile walking path. Vegetation,, picnic grills and more than 30 flowering trees were added. Local Artist Lydia Rubio designed a fence with three panels depicting love, courage and wisdom.

Former Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink also was a guest at the event, which took place in the building’s auditorium.

With the help of the Miami-Dade County government, the Women’s Park was founded by Bolton in 1992. In 2000, the Roxcy O’Neal Bolton art gallery building opened. The structure hosts special artist’s exhibits dedicated to women. Bolton’s exhibit has been on display since June and will be up until late September. Groups like the Florida International University women’s study program also hosts lectures at the park.

Park manager Lisa Fernandez said the park not only honors women, but serves as a place to relax.

“A lot of women’s groups meet here,” she said. “It’s a leisure park. You get a good feeling here.”

The park is a place where women’s past will forever be archived added Ros-Lehtinen.

“This is one place where women’s history is being preserved,” said Ros-Lehtinen. “It’s nice to honor people as they are alive to enjoy it.”

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