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Women Leaders in New Canaan: Celebrating the Legacy of the 19 Amendment

Sponsored by the New Canaan Museum & Historical Society, NCTV Channel 79 and New Canaan civic organizations

The New Canaan Museum & Historical Society and NCTV Channel 79 present “Women Leaders in New Canaan: Celebrating the Legacy of the 19th Amendment.”

Television interviews and articles will showcase nineteen women leaders in New Canaan whose diverse achievements share a common theme: these women have given tirelessly to the Town of New Canaan and to improving the community in which they live.  Their work has shaped the New Canaan of today.

“Women Leaders in New Canaan” was conceived as a means to not only celebrate, but also to explore the legacy of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution, which occurred on August 18, 1920.  It stated: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”  As historians make clear, though, the history of the 19th Amendment, like much of American history, is complex, fraught with racism and the product of negotiation and compromise.  But what is also clear is that the suffragist movement paved the way for the broader women’s rights movement – one that opened educational and professional opportunities, incorporated reproductive rights and allowed women to own property and manage their business and financial affairs.  Passage of the amendment helped women thrive and flourish.

The stories of New Canaan women leaders illustrate both how they are the beneficiaries of a struggle for suffrage and equal rights that began almost two hundred years ago and how those struggles continue today as women face down barriers to full participation and recognition in every sector of our society.

The women profiled in this exhibit were chosen for their accomplishments in myriad professions, their demonstrated leadership, and their commitment to New Canaan.  They include: Executive Director of Staying Put Barb Achenbaum; corporate executive and Founder of the New Canaan Domestic Abuse Partnership Dede Bartlett; Communications and Marketing Director for The Glass House Christa Carr; entrepreneur Indira Christie; Founding Director of Voices of September 11 Mary Fetchet; Quinnipiac Law School professor Marilyn Ford; Founder of the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation Kathy Giusti; corporate board director Lori Marcus; architect Amanda Martocchio; head of the Art Department at New Canaan High School Jeanne McDonagh; Town Administrator Tucker Murphy; former First Selectman Judy Neville; the organizer of the Black Lives Matter protest Fatou Niang; Executive Director of the New Canaan Library Lisa Oldham; President of the New Canaan Community Foundation Lauren Patterson; President of Grace Farms Sharon Prince; photographer Jeanna Shepherd; Founder of LiveGirl Sheri West; and Director of Health & Human Services Bethany Zaro.

Meredith Bach, President of the New Canaan Chamber of Commerce, will conduct the interviews, which will air beginning September 15.  They will be available here on this page along with articles, which will also appear in the Museum’s newsletter. The entire series will be archived at the Museum.

We hope you will join in the journey with these New Canaan women who stand on the shoulders of giants and inspire us, lead us and, perhaps most of all in this moment in our national history, give us hope.

Bethany Zaro

Bethany has worked as the Public Health Nurse, Senior Case Manager and currently as the Assistant Director of Human Services. Bethany is a registered nurse, holds a Master of Public Health degree from the University of New England and has additional training in mental health first aid and national incident command systems.

Amanda Martocchio

Amanda Martocchio, founder and design principal of AMA, has been designing since she was a young child growing up in the Colorado foothills, using rocks and sticks to create miniature dwellings. Amanda spent her early career in New York City working on large-scale cultural and commercial buildings, yet soon realized that she preferred designing projects at closer range that could impact lives more personally. She went on to establish Amanda Martocchio Architecture in New Canaan, Connecticut, savoring the fact that the community was home to innovative mid-century residential design. 

Ms. Martocchio studied architecture at Cornell (B. Arch) and Harvard (M. Arch), as well as informally during her extensive travels in Italy, while living and working there. She is a licensed architect in New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island, long-term AIA member and LEED-certified professional of USGBC. Amanda is active as a volunteer in her local community, having served for seven years as a Trustee at St. Luke’s School where she co-chaired the Building Committee’s school expansion projects. She currently serves as an adviser to the New Canaan Library new building project, the Canaan Parish Redevelopment Housing Project, and is a member of the New Canaan Tourism and Economic Development Commission. Other pro bono work her studio has completed includes the design and construction of health clinics for the not-for-profit Clinica Verde in rural Nicaragua, for which the firm received an AIA CT Design Award in 2019. When she is not in her studio working, Amanda can be found spending time with her family, practicing yoga, or enjoying contemporary art.

Jeanne McDonagh

New Canaan High School Art Teacher

Christa Carr

The Glass House

Fatou Niang

Well traveled, Fatou’s network is extensive both locally and abroad. French-American with an African heritage, her family origins are from Cote D’Ivoire and Mali in West Africa.

She has a strong experience and a long history in the area of Public and Media Relations. In 1992 she joined Disneyland Paris and was part of the Media Relations Department.

She speaks French (her native language), English and Spanish fluently. Married with two children, she has a BA in Advertising and Communication. In 1996 Fatou moved to the US from France. She Moved to New Canaan from NYC in 2003. Fatou’s She is very involved in her New Canaan community and surrounding towns (Darien, Norwalk, Greenwich, Westport, etc..) with work for organizations such as Filling In The Blanks, AmeriCares and the George Washington Carver Center in Norwalk. A Realtor since 2012 Fatou is licensed both in Connecticut State and New York State.

Dede Bartlett

Dede Bartlett was born In New York City. She graduated with honors from Vassar College and earned a Masters Degree from New York University. As she describes, “I’ve had many careers and fell into most of them. There was no plan – only the need to earn a living and become financially independent.” She worked for a PR agency before being recruited to Mobil Oil where she rose to become President of the Mobil Foundation and Corporate Secretary and Assistant to the Chair and CEO. After that, she moved to Virginia and became the highest-ranking woman at Philip Morris.

After taking early retirement, Dede devoted her considerable energies to running three non-profits: the Advisory Board of the National Domestic Violence Hotline, the First Presbyterian Church of New Canaan and the Women’s Forum of New York.

She founded the New Canaan Domestic Violence Partnership (now the New Canaan Abuse Prevention Partnership). She coached students at more than thirty universities on career strategies as a Visiting Fellow with the Council of Independent Colleges and she wrote her trilogy “Discovering My Lost Family: The Unexpected Journey of An American Woman.”

Dede and her husband Jim move to New Canaan in 1976. It was a difficult transition. “I did not know how to drive and I had never lived in a house.” But, as with everything Dede faces, she rose to the challenge and managed to raise two loving, strong children while pursuing a fulfilling career.

Asked what gives her hope, she replies, “As a student of history, I see the current crises broadly. Nothing last forever. Vaccines will be developed. Cities will be rebuilt. I am grateful every day. Small things give me hope – walking and talking with friends, my garden, my granddaughters’ smiles, working to improve the lives of girls and women. Great leaders are emerging. I believe Americans are basically good.”

Dede received The Woman Who Makes a Difference Award from the International Women’s Forum, and has been honored by Lifetime Television, The National Center for Victims of Crime, the National Council of Jewish Women, and the Center Against Domestic Violence. She is a leader in every sense of the word, and we are honored that she has shared her story with us.

Sheri West

Sheri West has a passion for girls leadership with over 25 years of corporate and leadership development experience. She is the Founder, CEO & Chairperson of LiveGirl, a nonprofit organization that builds confident leaders. 

Prior to LiveGirl, Sheri spent 16 years as a finance executive at General Electric Co., a multinational company, where she was instrumental in its Women’s Network and taught leadership development courses at the GE Management Development Institute.

In 2014, she founded LiveGirl to “pay it forward” and prepare the next generation of female leaders. Sheri regularly speaks at national conferences on the importance of building confidence and resilience in girls and co-hosts the Confident Podcast with her 16-year-old daughter. Her honors include being named Best Friend to Girls by Moffly Media, a Community Champion by the CT Alliance of Boys and Girls Clubs, and a “Woman Of Inspiration” by the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund. Her education includes a BA in Finance and Masters of Human Resources and Leadership Development from Michigan State University. She is married with three children and serves on the New Canaan Public Schools Board of Education.