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Honoring Carmen Delgado Votaw

On the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives last week, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) honored Carmen Delgado Votaw, whom he called a “civil and human rights giant and passionate participant in the global women’s rights activist community.”

Delgado Votaw was born in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico, and wrote about the Island with fondness, saying, “I was born in the beautiful island of Puerto Rico in a small town on the southeastern coast, Yabucoa, among sugar cane fields, lovely rivers and streams, gentle mountains and a seductive sea. Hurricanes, which accost the island often, traditionally hit land along that coast and my parents used to say that my volatile, frisky personality derives from the influences of those hurricanes.”

She worked at the Government Development Bank after finishing her studies at the University of Puerto Rico, and then traveled with her husband to Iran, where she began what she called her “second career” in advocacy. It is this work for which she is best remembered.

“She is credited with an increase in the number of countries that have signed the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women,” said Rep. Raskin, “a greater number of women in political and appointed offices; improved access to technology for rural women; and a higher literacy rate among women and girls.”

Votaw served as Deputy Chair to the National Advisory Committee for Women and as Chief of Staff to Jaime Fuster, Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico. She was the first Hispanic woman to serve in that capacity. She was a founding member and President of the National Conference of Puerto Rican Women and a board member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. She represented the United States with the Inter-American Commission of Women of the Organization of American States, and then became president of that organization. She was active with the Girl Scouts and the Veteran Feminists of America.

She was honored by the U.S. Marshals Service, the Instituto de Puerto Rico of New York, the National Institute for Women of Color, Hispanic USA Magazine, Federally Employed Women (FEW), and the National Conference of Puerto Rican Women. She received the Hispanic Heritage Award for Education, a Civil Rights Award from NASA, MANA’s Las Primeras Award, the National Cuban American Women’s Association Award, and the National Council of Hispanic Women’s Outstanding Achievement Award. She was designated a “Woman of Character, Courage and Commitment” by the National Women’s History Project. She was inducted into the Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame.

Raskin highlighted many of these accomplishments in his remarks.

“Ms. Votaw traveled around the globe to promote her agenda of civil and human rights,” Raskin continued, detailing her visits to 70 countries to support women’s rights on a global scale. “Even with her chock-full schedule of global engagement and leadership, Ms. Votaw was deeply devoted to her family and to her role as a grandmother. Please join me in extending condolences to her family and expressing gratitude for her life of dedication to helping all people find their voices. She made tangible contributions to the civil and human rights movements, the effects of which will be felt for generations to come.”

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