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For Progressive Women of Color Leaders


Since the adoption of affirmative action policies, a great deal has changed in our country, but one fact that remains is the lack of electoral participation of women of color. In response to this growing divide, the leaders of the Women’s Pipeline for Change, the Partnership for Democracy and Education, LLC, and the Center for Women in Politics and Policy (CWPPP), McCormack Graduate School of Policy Studies at UMass Boston came together to develop a Participatory Action Research Fellowship. The initiative recruited five Research Fellows who are politically active women of color with deep connections to their communities in Massachusetts. Because of their expertise, these women were especially qualified to solicit and gather information about other women of color leaders, to find local experts and sources of skill and support to women candidates, and to make visible the pathways for leaders to emerge and offer public service.The Research Fellowship was completed in June 2012 and the research results and details about the fellowship experience are contained in the Pathways to Political Leadership for Women of Color website. Read more about the extraordinary women of accomplishment selected for our first initiative.

2011-2012 FELLOWS

Committed to the Cause



Holyoke, MA

Gladys Lebrón-Martínez is a role model not only to her children and grandchildren but also to the Latino community of Holyoke. Gladys’ impact in Holyoke has been driven by her commitment to youth employment, education, parent engagement, anti-racism, and LGBT rights. She recognizes the strengths and weaknesses of the city of Holyoke and has been a fierce advocate and representative of transforming dreams into reality for over thirty years. She is respected for her dedication to bringing the voice of the community to the decision-making table.

Gladys provided exemplary service to her community of Holyoke as an elected School Committee member over eight years (2003-2011). She recently ran a successful campaign moving up the political pipeline to represent Ward 1 in the Holyoke City Council. She is a revered female leader of color for fostering the civic engagement and responsibility needed to expand opportunities for her community.

Gladys has always focused on developing and supporting leadership among youth and women. She wants them to understand the importance of becoming involved in the political process and to run for office.

Alex Morse, the young Mayor of Holyoke, praises Gladys’ leadership style rooted in humility: “Unlike others who have ideas and a vision, Gladys has a special ability to mix both vision and action, and is always thinking about what she can tangibly do to make the community a better place. She doesn’t do anything for reward or recognition, she does the work that she does to truly make a difference and change lives.”

Gladys explored the following research question as part of the Pipeline’s Research Fellowship: How do women of color political candidates in Western Massachusetts find and use existing resources to run successful campaigns? Explore Gladys’ findings and fellowship experience at the Pathways to Political Leadership for Women of Color website.

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