2016 Public Pioneers announced

The Michigan ACE Women’s Network honored two women as part of its 2016 class of Public Policy Pioneers, each of whom has spent her career championing women’s equality issues as well as matters that impact her community.

Joan Bauer was recognized for her achievements as a contemporary honoree while Cora Mae Brown was saluted posthumously during the Michigan ACE Women’s Network Annual Conference, which was held June 6-7 at the Radisson Hotel in Lansing. They were recognized during “Voices! Salute to Women and the Power of Public Policy.”

Joan Bauer

Joan Bauer

Public Policy Pioneers are women who have impacted public policy or taken precedent-breaking action on behalf of women and higher education, and who have championed access, collaborative leadership and the equitable treatment of women. It is a nonpartisan recognition.

The MI-ACE Women’s Network launched this recognition in 2013 with posthumous honors for Elly Peterson and First Lady Helen Milliken.

Bauer has been an active leader in her community for more than 30 years. She served six years in the Michigan House of Representatives for the 68th District, which serves northern Lansing. A strong advocate for women’s rights, she introduced House Bill 4851 in 2009, which prohibited paying someone else than “comparable worth.” She also introduced and co-sponsored other bills, including banning smoking from restaurants and businesses. Bauer served as director of volunteer services at Ingham Regional Medical Center, and chaired the Ingham County Women’s Commission. She is a former member of the Lansing Rotary Foundation Board, Lansing Rotary Club, Junior League of Lansing, Capital Regional Community Foundation Board of Directors, and Capital Area United Way Board of Directors. She chairs the 2020 Girls Giving Society and the Capital Area United Way Women’s Leadership Council.

Cora Mae Brown

Cora Mae Brown

Brown was the first African American woman to become a Michigan state senator, elected in 1952, and the first African American woman to become president of the Senate. Known for tirelessly fighting against the barriers of racism and sexism, Brown dedicated her career to her community, civil rights and women’s rights. While in the Senate, she fought for fair housing, equal employment and anti-discrimination legislation. She was a social worker in the Women’s Division of the Detroit Police Department, later a police officer, and maintained a private law practice. She was appointed special general counsel for the U.S. Postal Service, where she worked until her death in 1972.



2015 Pioneers

Click here to read about 2015 Public Policy Pioneers: Chief Justice Mary Stallings Coleman, Margaret “Ranny” Towsley Riecker, U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow and Kathleen Wilbur.

2014 Pioneers

Click here to read about 2014 Public Policy Pioneers: Lana Pollack and Alma Wheeler Smith.

2013 Inaugural Pioneers

Two Michigan pioneers were recognized during a statewide conference in June for their efforts to help more women advance in politics.

Helen Milliken and Elly Peterson were honored posthumously June 3, 2013, during the Michigan ACE (American College on Education) Women’s Network conference. The association is Michigan’s largest professional development group for women who work in higher education.

This honor is appropriate in 2013 as recognizing these pioneers follows the 40th anniversary of Title IX legislation and the 50th anniversary of the Federal Equal Pay Act. This begins a new tradition for the Michigan ACE Women’s Network, honoring women who advanced public policy at the state or national levels.

Milliken, who died in 2012 at age 89, fought for women’s rights and was a proponent of the environment during her tenure in Lansing when her husband, William Milliken, served as senator and later governor. She was also a tireless advocate for the arts.

Peterson died in 2008 at age 94. She was known as “mother of the moderates” and served as secretary of Michigan’s Republican Party and later was active in the Republican National Committee. Her advocacy helped open doors for women in politics.

Helen Milliken Elly Paterson
Helen Milliken Elly Peterson