Carolyn Jones

Carolyn Jones

Human Rights Activist and Champion for Peace

Carolyn Jones was born in 1941 in Tarrytown, NY. She was the first in her family to attend college, graduating with distinction from Stanford University in 1963 and attending Yale Law School on a full scholarship. Carolyn was the first woman president of the Yale Law School Student Association–one of many glass ceilings she would shatter in her career.

After graduating in 1966, Carolyn confronted rampant workplace discrimination. She says that, for her, “being a woman was harder than being Black” because hiring committees were more interested in her male counterparts, despite her accomplishments. Frustrated by the lack of opportunity in the US, she returned to Italy, where she had been an exchange student and worked as an interpreter. By that time, the Civil Rights Movement was in full swing, and the urgency of the moment brought Carolyn back home to the US. “My country was burning, and I wanted to be a part of the solution,” she said. She found work in legal services as a poverty attorney in the San Francisco Bay area.

In 1975 Carolyn was hired as an Alaska assistant attorney general to represent the Alaska State Commission for Human Rights, a position she held for the next nine years. She later went on to represent the Alaska Energy Authority and the Department of Transportation.

In 1987 she joined Rotary, an international service organization providing humanitarian services to promote peace. She was the first woman to hold the position of club vice president. In 1997 she became the first woman district governor within Rotary District 5010 – at that time the largest Rotary District in the world, encompassing Alaska, the Yukon Territory, and eastern Russia. During her term, Carolyn visited all 25 eastern Russian Rotary chapters and created the Children of Russia project, which focused on bringing humanitarian relief to children in distress. In one year, her district funded 30 projects with financial aid of over $600,000. In 2005, Carolyn became the first woman in the Rotary world to serve as a director of The Rotary Foundation of Rotary International.

Carolyn continues to serve her community speaking to the Rotary world about diversity, equity, and inclusion. Her advice for other #ExtraToughWomenAK? “You only have one life so reach for the moon. You might miss, but you’ll get a handful of stars.”/p>

We’d love to know about the powerful women in your life. Share your images and stories with us on Instagram and Facebook by tagging us (@anchoragemuseum and #ExtraToughWomenAK) and we’ll add them to our ongoing digital curation project. Stay tuned for more #ExtraToughWomenAK posts and come see the exhibition on view through Labor Day.

Photo credits: Anchorage Museum, Fran Durner Collection, B2016.4.38.6, and courtesy of Carolyn Jones.

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