Jacquelin Washington forged equal opportunity and leadership roles for women, especially for African American women, when it felt like there were none. She shattered glass ceilings and shaped executive roles into positions held by women, and expanded the work of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and others to fight for the rights of all minorities. For the decades leading to her 1995 induction into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame, Jackie was a trailblazer.
Next Saturday, May 25, Jackie’s family will lay her to rest in Detroit. Those who worked beside her say Jackie brought credibility to civil rights work as a mentor they could trust.
“In my approximately 20 years on the ACLU [Michigan] Board, and in spite of my abiding respect for Ralph Simpson and Loren Khogali as presidents of the Board, Jackie will always be my President. She was truly remarkable in her bearing and her poise and exerted a dignified will as the best of leaders of a great organization,” said Jim Rodbard, former ACLU Michigan Board member in Kalamazoo.
“Jackie had remarkable stature, intellect, and most of all, understood people and what was important to them when shaping her judgment and positions about what was the best for the ACLU [of Michigan]. Everyone (from Kary Moss on down) looked up to Jackie. And she was incredibly generous to me with her friendship, time, mentoring and her support as I became a leader on the board.”
When Washington was a candidate for a seat on the ACLU of Michigan Board of Directors in Fall 2007, she wrote, “No other organization has done as much to protect the constitutional rights of the citizens of this state as the ACLU-Michigan. This is a crucial time for the organization because of the ever growing need for litigation and advocacy.” The same is true today in part because of Jackie’s great vision, leading the ACLU Michigan to fight for wide-ranging rights.
“When I think of Jackie's most important contributions to the ACLU, I think of the ACLU's transition from a niche First Amendment organization with a few employees to what it is today — a powerful and effective civil rights and civil liberties organization,” said Ralph Simpson, former ACLU of Michigan Board of Directors President.
“Jackie was very significant in terms of the ACLU’s acceptance among minority activists and groups. Beyond being the first African American president of the ACLU of Michigan, Jackie brought credibility to the broader civil rights work of the ACLU — in contrast to the then widespread image of the ACLU as elitist white organization.”
Trained as a social worker and beginning her career in Detroit, Jackie reflected on her career in 2006 and told the LGBT Publication, Pride Source, it was going to school for social work that ignited her activism. Her awareness of injustice focused her work, as she created paths to success for women.
In 1975 in Detroit, Jackie co-founded New Options and was president its first five years: a personnel agency that placed women and minorities in desirable and prominent positions in business and industry. From 1988 to 1992 she was the first woman president and CEO of the Pontiac Urban League, implementing programs and advocating for minorities and the poor. Then in 1992, she was the first African American woman to serve as President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southeast Michigan, and responsible for the administration of six family planning clinics. Jackie was an advocate who fought for abortion rights, and she encouraged prominent black women’s organizations to support a woman’s right to choose.
Since Jackie’s passing last month, many mourn her empathy, her friendship and her timeless leadership. Now it’s Jackie Washington’s legacy that educates and influences policies today to protect the rights and opportunities for you and your family.
Memorial Services for Jackie Washington
May 25, 2019: 10 a.m. Family Hour, 11 a.m. Service
Central United Methodist Church: 23 East Adams, Detroit, MI (corner of Woodward and Grand Circus, across from Tigers Stadium)