Bernice Behrens Founder’s Award
Awarded to an AWIU member for outstanding service and leadership towards international understanding.
On this occasion of AWIU’s 40th Anniversary, we proudly recognized one of our own this evening. Martha Atherton of Palatine, Illinois is a Past President and the current Chairperson of the Grant Committee. Martha’s long and rich history with AWIU includes eighteen years of leadership in the Chicago chapter with Chairperson Patricia Hutar. Martha was the first woman President of the Des Plaines Chamber of Commerce and Industry and served on the economic development commission. Martha was a founder of the Des Plaines Chapter of Sister Cities International and was the first President of the Illinois State Chapter of Sister Cities International.
Martha has led three AWIU delegations ~ to Italy, China and Iceland. She has participated in delegations to Mexico and Saudi Arabia. Martha and her husband, Bob, have hosted delegates and grantees from India, Russia, China, Lithuania, Mongolia and Israel. The Atherton’s continue to maintain and nurture relationships with people around the globe. Bob is pictured with a plaque upon which a sacred (Tambua) Tabua, whale’s tooth, is mounted. The people of the Village of Naiuva, Fiji presented the Atherton’s with the gift in 1988. It was a thank you for facilitating the building of a school and providing educational and medical supplies for the village. Martha credits her friend, Pat McAlister, a Peace Corps nurse, for introducing her to the village.
Martha has observed and considered the issues of women’s rights and human rights for all decades. She continues to work toward a goal where all women will have the freedom of association and the opportunity to blend the role of wife, mother, co-worker and volunteer. She has truly been a leader for women’s rights for all generations.
Thank you so much for this opportunity to express my gratefulness for the shared experience many of us have had on this our journey with AWIU. We current members of American Women for International Understanding are deeply appreciative of those who have preceded us. We have heard the stories Bernice Behrens, our founder, and of the early visits to the U.S.S.R. and China. Scores of AWIU women labored for many years in building relationships that have been the hallmarks of our AWIU efforts.
I have been one of the lucky ones who have known Bernice Behrens, Bernice Hemphill, Pat Hutar, Marianne Alireza, Mary Ripley, Ethelda Singer and a host of others. They have opened the doors for many of us to gain an enhanced understanding and appreciation of the struggle for progress amongst women throughout the world. From them we have also inherited the spirit of doing what we can to contribute to this cause. It would be wonderful if they could be here with us this evening to enjoy another peak experience in the honoring of our eight guests, The Women of Courage Awardees.
Another woman with whom I walked about 58 ago was Eleanor Roosevelt. I was fortunate to be among a group of university students that took her on tour of our campus at Indiana University. I can’t recall what we all were talking about but the vision of our walk is still ingrained in me. We students had been considerably involved in learning about the United Nations and human rights during our formative teenage years, and to walk with her was unforgettable. I feel certain that our guests will cherish their visit to Washington, D.C., and I trust that they too, will have many decades in which to see their dreams come to fruition and to be able to enjoy the journey. Following them will be more generations of young women who will remember these women of courage for their inspiration and leadership.
Again, thank you, women of AWIU, for giving me this memorable recognition, and know that I enjoy walking the walk, and talking the talk with you, along with all the encounters I have had with well motivated women and men in many countries. And, Bernice Behrens, thanks for being so kind to me. I treasure remembering you.
Since our founding in 1968, AWIU has honored women who have contributed to international understanding by presenting them with the AWIU Award for Internationalism. AWIU has recognized outstanding women in diplomacy, politics, scientific achievement, academia, communications and other fields. Some of the eighteen previous awardees have been Caroline Leonetti Ahmanson, The Honorable Shirley Temple Black, the Honorable Jewel Iafontant-Mankarious, and the Honorable Clare Boothe Luce. AWIU is very pleased to add the Eight Women of Courage Awardees to this illustrious list. Andrea accepted our Internationalism Award on behalf of them. The award will be displayed in the State Department.