Walk’ receives final approval

After four years of development and fund raising, the women’s studies project created to honor a diversity of women, “Walk of the Heroines,” hopes to finally break ground in the spring of 2003.

The project, which the city recently approved and ASPSU voted to support, involves renovating the walkway near Hoffman Hall and the Recreational Field Center.

The idea was originally brought to Portland State early in 1999 by psychology professor Jan Haaken. She was researching women’s studies programs at universities comparable to PSU, including Wichita State University. She learned about a small area on their campus called “Plaza of the Heroines,” a place where women could be recognized.

Haaken, along with Career Center director Dee Thompson and Women’s Studies Department chairwoman Johanna Brenner, took the “plaza” idea and developed it into the early concept for PSU’s “Walk of the Heroines.”

Haaken, Thompson and Brenner contacted the PSU facilities architect, at the time Barbara Linn. Once the university agreed to donate the land, valued at $1.2 million, Linn began rendering some of the early designs for the “Walk.”

Later in ’99, the “Walk of the Heroines” committee received $200,000 from the Student Building Fee Committee. This money allowed them to solicit the architectural expertise of Meyer/Reed.

Beginning in February of 2000, the committee began its public outreach.

“Walk of the Heroines” has received support from a variety of sources, including the Oregon Historical Society, the Hispanic Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and the Oregon Commission for Women, as well as Mayor Vera Katz, Multnomah County Chairwoman Beverly Stein and former Gov. Barbara Roberts.

According to Brenner, it is important for the project to represent a diverse range of women. “Women share things because we are women,” she said, “but we also experience our gender differently based on our diversity.”

Artistic designs for the walk there have emphasized multicultural representation.

Holly Locke, a fourth year sociology and women’s studies major and “Walk of the Heroines” project coordinator, also added that the project is intended to honor both notable and unknown women. The project’s statement of philosophy defines heroines as both “women of public achievement and women whose accomplishments are only known to those close to them.”

The budget for “Walk of the Heroines” has been estimated at $4.3 million, which includes the donated land value. Part of that amount will also go toward an endowment fund, which will provide a variety of scholarships for women’s studies students. Total construction costs are approximately $2 million.

The money for the project will come from public and private fundraising as well as the money provided by the Student Building Fee Committee. Project members hope to receive continued finances from a variety of student committees.

“We’re hopeful that students will continue to fund the project,” Brenner said.

There will be numerous places throughout the “Walk” for women to be honored, including walls, benches, stage areas and trees. The price to honor a woman starts at about $200. The revenue brought in by the honors will go toward building the “Walk” and the endowment.

The design plans, which include a stage area, a picnic/study area, a water feature and an outdoor computer kiosk, was approved by the city at its Dec. 5 meeting.

The project committee hopes to break ground in June of 2003, more than four years after the initial idea was developed. The first part of the plan involves putting in the computer kiosk. This will allow students to read about the women honored on the walk.

One of the goals of the Women’s Studies Department, said Brenner, is to find “new ways of looking at the world.” Her hopes are that the “Walk of the Heroines” will allow the community to see women’s contributions in a new light. The most important part of the project, according to both Locke and Brenner, is that it invites more integration between the city and the university.

To find out more about “Walk of the Heroines,” e-mail [email protected] or call 503-725-8188.