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Women’s Hall of Fame gala to salute Midge Costanza

The San Diego County Women’s Hall of Fame announced Wednesday that this weekend’s Women’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony would be dedicated to the memory of Margaret “Midge” Constanza. An extraordinary woman who contributed greatly to the struggle for women’s rights, reproductive justice, and LGBT equality, Constanza passed away March 23, 2010 after a battle with cancer.

A longtime political activist, Costanza called San Diego home for the past two decades. Most recently she served as Public Affairs Officer in the office of San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, a post she had held since 2005. She was an adjunct professor at San Diego State University (SDSU) in the Political Science, Communication and Women’s Studies Departments. In 2003, she established the Midge Costanza Institute for the Study of Politics and Public Policy at SDSU, affiliated with the Department of Women’s Studies.

Costanza was born November 28, 1932 in LeRoy, New York, to Sicilian immigrant parents. She grew up in Rochester, NY and after high school, began working clerical jobs. She soon became active in several community organizations, leading to volunteer work for a number of political campaigns, including W. Averell Harriman’s successful 1954 campaign for governor of New York. She later served as the county executive director for Robert F. Kennedy’s successful Senate campaign in 1964. Costanza made history in 1976 when she became the first woman named Assistant to the President for Public Liaison, an appointment made by President Jimmy Carter.

Featured in a Newsweek cover story titled “Woman in the White House,” she served President Carter until her resignation in 1978. She later coached many political candidates in strategy and public speaking, and served as coordinator for Barbara Boxer’s first successful campaign for the United States Senate in 1992. In 2000, she was appointed Special Assistant to the Governor by former California Governor Gray Davis, and served as a liaison for women’s groups and issues.

“The mission of the San Diego County Women’s Hall of Fame is to honor the significant contributions of women who have improved the quality of life for all people,” said Emelyn dela Peña, induction ceremony chairperson. “It is very fitting that we dedicate this ceremony to Midge, a champion for the values of the Hall of Fame and a member of its Honorary Circle. We will all miss her presence, but her legacy of social justice advocacy lives on through the women we honor and induct.”

The Women’s Hall of Fame is a collaboration between the Women’s History Museum and Educational Center, the Women’s Studies Department at SDSU, The UC San Diego Women’s Center, and the San Diego County Commission on the Status of Women The enduring goal of the Women’s Hall of Fame is to recognize and celebrate women’s authentic contributions to diversity, community, and social justice.

“Those chosen represent and reflect the diversity of our community. They have all selflessly and courageously contributed greatly to San Diego and the world at large” says Women’s History Museum Executive Director Ashley Gardner. “Their lifetime work and achievements have improved the lives of many and have left a lasting impact.” Awards are granted in the areas of empowerment, activism, trailblazing, cultural competency and historical preservation. The five selected for induction this year are: Dr. Vivian Reznik, Dr. Gloria Harris, Anna Sandoval, Laura Rodriguez, and Justice Judith McConnell. The ceremony will be held at the UC San Diego Price Center East Ballroom on Saturday, March 27, 2010 at 5:00 p.m.