Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Barbara Ackerman

The Awesome Woman of the Day for Wednesday, April 18, 2012 is Barbara Ackerman, the first female mayor of Cambridge, MA.

Although Mayor Ackerman is still active in Massachusetts politics and fights for universal single-payer health care not far from where I live, I had never heard of her until I stumbled across a photo of her - from her city council days - on facebook yesterday.

I started researching her and found surprisingly little substantive information, especially considering that she ran - as a true progressive - against Michael Dukakis for governor back in 1978, advocating for, inter alia, alternative energy and health care reform

This article from 1972 (which carefully avoids calling her a feminist - even while noting her support of Shirley Chisolm) describes her work to put libraries in schools (there weren't any), to establish drug treatment programs (again, there were none), to seek immediate and total withdrawal from the Vietnam War, and to keep the Commonwealth from running the interstate highway system right through Cambridge (Cambridge remains to this day a beautiful city with wonderful public transportation).

Her biography from the Cambridge, MA Historical Society website: Barbara (Hulley) Ackermann (b. March 1, 1925 in Stockholm Sweden)

First woman mayor of Cambridge The daughter of an American diplomat, Benjamin Mayham Hulley and his wife, Joan Carrington Hulley, Barbara was raised in France and Ireland and graduated from Smith College in 1948. She married Paul Kurt Ackermann in 1945 who became a Boston University professor of German. Beginning her political career in 1962, she was active in the Cambridge School Committee for six years and was a Cambridge city councilor for ten years. For two of those ten years she presided over both bodies as the first woman mayor (1972-1973). In 1972, she was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention from Massachusetts. In 1989, Ackermann wrote an account of her experiences as a Cambridge politician in a book entitled, “You the Mayor?”: The Education of a City Politician which offers insights into political life and the functioning of a city. In recent years, she has been active as chair of the Massachusetts non-profit organization, Universal Health Care Education Fund (UHCEF), part of MASS-CARE. /endquote

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