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Women with willpower

January 29, 2015

Betty Roberts was no stranger to testing societal convention with her indomitable spirit and relentless determination. Returning to college at age 32 as a wife and mother, Roberts would go on to become a teacher, lawyer, state legislator, candidate for governor, and eventually Oregon’s first woman Supreme Court Justice.


Emerging onto the political scene during the tumultuous 1960s, Roberts fought hard for human rights and responsible environmental stewardship. A true political trailblazer, she had a hand in several pieces of groundbreaking state legislature, including Oregon’s ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.


On Friday, Feb. 13, at the Hatfield U.S. Courthouse, Betty Roberts will be honored for her invaluable contributions to the state with an afternoon of short presentations and the grand unveiling of her portrait, which will later reside in the Oregon Supreme Court Building. The celebration, “Portraits of Possibilities: Women at Work,” will feature a myriad of topics, including education, business, and fair labor.


The event boasts several short presentations by nationally prominent women, followed by a BettyRobertsEventkeynote address from Pam Karlan, a peer of Justice Roberts’s who now works for the Federal Civil Rights Division. Other speakers include Cait Clarke, Alice Tang, and Seema Patel, among others. Guests are invited to stay after the presentations and unveiling for a reception with wine, beer, and tasty snacks—“just like Betty would have liked,” according to the event invitation.


The portrait itself was funded through generous donations to the Betty Roberts Portrait Project, and facilitated by an independent portrait committee. Its artist, Lynda Lanker, is a local lithographer and painter celebrated for her stark and powerful portraiture of women. For the past two decades, Ms. Lanker has traveled across the western United States, bringing the spirit of tenacious women alive through her “Tough by Nature” art collection.


LyndaLanker“Betty Roberts’s family and the Portrait Committee are excited by the power of Ms. Lanker’s portraits, and by her ability to convey her subjects’ depth of personality and strength of character,” said coordinators on the portrait project website. “We cannot think of a better subject for her talents than Justice Betty Roberts.”


Space is limited, so those interested in attending must register and RSVP online. The event will be held from 1 to 6 p.m. in the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse, located in Portland, Ore. Adult tickets are $10 apiece, while students may attend for free. Copies of Betty Roberts’s memoir, With Grit and By Grace, will be available for purchase from the Oregon Historical Society at the event.


Anyone who can spare the time is invited to attend this momentous celebration, aptly inclusive and inspiring in honor of the woman who continually used her talents to better the whole of the community around her.


Perhaps the portrait project website enumerates it best: “Justice Roberts’s portrait will join those of her predecessors in the Oregon Supreme Court Building—a powerful gesture of long overdue recognition.”



Photos courtesy of Oregon Historical Society and bettyroberts.net.

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