- Associated Press - Sunday, March 30, 2014

DANBURY, Conn. (AP) - Working for women’s rights. Creating a path to male-dominated jobs. Overcoming societal restrictions on women.

These efforts are essential, according to six women who recently spoke at Western Connecticut State University to commemorate Women’s History Month.

The women shared stories that varied by generation and experience, but with a common sense of urgency: Women still struggle for equality.

“We stand on the shoulders of women who came before us,” organizer and education professor Darla Shaw said in the introduction.

“I was lucky to be the daughter of someone who changed the world,” said Pam Chapman, whose mother, Alice Chapman, founded the Women’s Center of Greater Danbury in 1975 with Mary Elizabeth Corso and Bonnie Law.

“This little group of three women had a vision that was so far ahead of their time. It’s an unbelievable service to the community.”

The Women’s Center started as a place for women to go because they couldn’t stand at a bar in those days, Chapman said during the one-hour program.

“But what started as a place to hang out emerged as a place where women came who needed help. It became a social service agency,” she said.

Chapman’s mother told her that once she went to the police department to ask about the number of rapes in Danbury. The officer she asked said, “Where is that file of the ‘frustrated females?’”

The center serves more than 20,000 people a year, and its free, confidential services are available 24 hours a day.

Betti Corso was born in the segregated South, married a military man and was raised to be racist, said her daughter, Rachel Poland. “She was told that colored women can’t be ladies.”

But once Corso understood racism, she became vigilant in opposing it. When the family, which included nine children, moved to Danbury, Corso blossomed as an activist.

“There was so much opportunity for her. She got her bachelor’s degree and worked at the hospital. There was a light in her eye. It was incredible to see,” Poland said.

“Since 1972, she was actively working for women’s rights and upholding her standard of integrity.”

When Josette Williams, of Ridgefield, learned suffragist and women’s-rights activist Alice Paul was living in a nursing home in Ridgefield in the 1970s, she visited her.

Story Continues →