Renowned legal correspondent, journalist, and NPR regular, Nina Totenberg, who is seen as a panelist each week on the syndicated public affairs television program, Inside Washington, will receive the 2006 Barbara Boggs Sigmund Award from Womenspace, the Mercer County non-profit agency that provides services 24-hour hotlines, crisis intervention, emergency shelter, counseling, court advocacy, and housing to victims and survivors of domestic and sexual violence.
Womenspace will honor Ms. Totenberg's "commitment to informing the citizens of the United States about Supreme Court issues, including sexual harassment, and her professional commitment to excellence." She will receive the 12th annual award at a reception on Wednesday, May 17, from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at the corporate headquarters of Janssen Pharmaceutica, Inc., 1125 Trenton-Harbourton Road, Titusville.
Ms. Totenberg follows the back and forth of Supreme Court debate with the equanimity of a Wimbledon commentator. Her reports, heard regularly on National Public Radio's (NPR) All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, have won her widespread recognition.
The award-winning legal correspondent makes profound issues understandable. What is more, she's conveyed the styles and idiosyncracies of Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O'Conner, Antonin Scalia, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and others to NPR listeners, making them seem approachable, the sort of individuals with whom you might like to sit down and debate the issues of the day.
No small feat, and one for which Ms. Totenberg has won numerous awards.
Mercer County Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault 609-394-9000
New Jersey Domestic Violence 1-800-572-SAFE
Sexual Assault 1-800-601-7200
National Domestic Violence 1-800-799-SAFE
Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-HOPE
In 1991, her groundbreaking report about University of Oklahoma Law Professor Anita Hill's allegations of sexual harassment by Judge Clarence Thomas led the Senate Judiciary Committee to re-open Thomas's Supreme Court confirmation hearings to consider Hill's charges. NPR received the prestigious George Foster Peabody Award for its gavel-to-gavel coverage, anchored by Ms. Totenberg.
In 1992, Esquire magazine named her one of the "Women We Love." In 1998, she was the first radio journalist to receive the Sol Taishoff Award for Excellence in Broadcasting from the National Press Foundation. Also in 1998, she was named Broadcaster of the Year.
Ms. Totenberg will be presented with the award by Paul Sigmund, whose wife Barbara Boggs Sigmund founded Womanspace in 1977. Ms. Sigmund was Mayor of Princeton Borough from 1983 until her death in office at age 51 in 1990 after an eight-year battle with cancer.
Barbara Boggs Sigmund
Described as "a Southern belle whose charm and grace and style and courage would make her one of the most beloved politicians of modern New Jersey history," Ms. Sigmund was the daughter of Democratic Rep. Hale Boggs of Louisiana and Corrine "Lindy" Boggs, who held the post of Congresswoman from New Orleans for some 20 years. Ms. Sigmund had politics in her blood. She wrote letters for President John F. Kennedy and danced with President Lyndon Johnson at her wedding to Mr. Sigmund in 1964.
In 1972, Ms. Sigmund won a seat on the Princeton Borough council and led a successful campaign to "Save the Dinky," Princeton's single-car train linking the Borough to Princeton Junction. Three years later she became a Mercer County freeholder.
In 1982, following a diagnosis of cancer, she had her left eye removed. With characteristic panache, she attended events as Mayor of Princeton Borough sporting an eye patch matched to her outfit.
When she entered the Democratic gubernatorial primary in 1989, her campaign slogan was: "I've got my eye on New Jersey."
"Courage is a word of action," she once said. "You cannot wallow in a loss if you want to make a gain. You just go forward and do."
Founded in 1977 by Ms. Sigmund together with Ellen Belknap, Valorie Caffee, the late Mary Ann Cannon, and Deborah Metzger, Womanspace was formed in response to a need that was brought to light in New Jersey by the 1976 Mercer County Commission on the Status of Women.
"The Commission was essentially to find out what women's concerns were," said Womanspace representative Susan Switlik. "The most pressing concern by far was what was then referred to as 'battered wives.' There were few safe places where women who were victims of their husband's abuse could find refuge. Nowadays, help encompasses all victims of domestic violence. As a Mercer County Freeholder, Barbara found her phone ringing off the hook in reference to the issue."
Working in concert with other organizations, Ms. Sigmund sprang into action. Deborah Metzger who was then a college intern from Rutgers working in her office, developed a federal grant proposal for services for women in crisis.
The first Womanspace shelter for female victims of domestic violence and their children, known as the Mercer County Women's Center, is still in use today. Its location has remained undisclosed for the 29 years of Womanspace history. Since 1995, the offices of Womanspace have been located on Stuyvesant Avenue in Trenton.
The agency continues to introduce new programs and services. Its volunteer Domestic Violence Victim Response Teams (DVVRT) work with police departments responding to incidents of domestic violence and providing immediate support for victims at police stations. Currently there are DVVRT teams in all 13 municipalities in Mercer County (Hopewell Borough and Township and Pennington Borough, East Windsor, Ewing, Hamilton, Hightstown, Lawrence, Washington, West Windsor Townships, Princeton Borough and Township and the City of Trenton). In 2004, team members were called out 500 times, serving 647 individuals.
Womanspace volunteers also help victims and survivors of sexual assault, responding 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to crisis calls on their hotline, as well as to calls from local hospitals or from police. In 2004, 69 victims were accompanied to hospitals and six to legal proceedings.
Since it began, Womanspace has helped over 33,500 women and 4,800 children who have experienced the tragedy of domestic violence. The agency has trained and educated some 48,500 professionals and community members on the issue of domestic violence and has responded to 183,745 hotline telephone calls.
"The work of Womanspace can be highly depressing," said Ms. Switlik, "so we try to approach this annual award event with the same buoyant spirit that Barbara brought to bear on everything she undertook. Her passion for service to her community and her compassion for victims of domestic abuse was unsurpassed, but she also had a great sense of fun. That's what we celebrate on this night."
Each May, Womanspace presents the Barbara Boggs Sigmund Award to an individual who champions causes and issues affecting the lives of women and children. The first Award was given to the ABC political reporter and Ms. Sigmund's younger sister Corrine "Cokie" Boggs Roberts, in 1995.
Since then, recipients have been, among others: playwright and Director of Princeton's McCarter Theater, Emily Mann, in 2004; crime novelist and head of the Sex Crimes Unit of the Manhattan DA's office (1976-2002), Linda Fairstein, in 2003; survivors of domestic violence Ann, Pat and Sandy, in 2001; Star Jones, co-host of ABC's The View, in 2000; and Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author Anna Quindlen, in 1999.
Last year, the award was presented to Kent Manahan, news anchor for New Jersey Network and the producer of an award-winning documentary "Battered Wives Shattered Lives."
Tickets for the reception are $100 per person ($25 for students). For more information call: 609-394-0136, visit www.womanspace.org, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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