Franklin Park in Tacoma, Washington is getting a new meaning to its name. The Washington State park was named after founding father Benjamin Franklin. However, after a unanimous vote by the Metro Parks Tacoma, the park is now named after the first Black woman to be elected into the Washington State Senate, Senator Rosa Franklin.
The park now has a longer name and for the right reasons. But this does not mean Benjamin Franklin is being dishonored by the act; he died many years before the city was founded, authorities said.
Speaking to The News Tribune, the board’s chair, Erik Hanberg, said the change of name is a “win-win” and “an opportunity to take a name from someone who had not been from Tacoma and had died long before the city was founded and replace it with an icon who is also a woman of color.”
Aaron Pointer, Metro Parks board commissioner, also reiterated that the name change will serve as an inspiration for young people in the Black community to see people who look just like them being honored.
“I really believe that it means a lot to people — and to kids — to see people who look like them represented in the names of parks and schools and other facilities,” Pointer told The News Tribune.
Here are four things you probably didn’t know about the 93-year-old stateswoman whose name will be plastered all over Franklin Park in a few days to come.
A registered nurse
Franklin worked as a registered nurse for more than four decades before getting into politics. She earned her diploma in nursing at the Good Samaritan Waverly Hospital School of Nursing in Columbia, South Carolina. She then pursued a bachelor in Biology and English from the University of Puget Sound.
Franklin pursued her masters in Social Science and Human relations at the Pacific Lutheran University in 1947 and attended many educational workshops while participating in the Gynecorp Training Program at the University of Washington.
She worked at a state hospital in New Jersey, and at Brooklyn Jewish Hospital in New York. While working as a nurse during the day, Franklin pursued higher learning taking night classes and raising her children.
Greatest achievement is her immediate family
Franklin, born Rosa Guidrion on April 6, 1927, in Moncks Corner, South Carolina, was the youngest of 12 children who was raised by her aunt and uncle from age 7. She is a mother of three and a grandmother who has been married to her husband James for more than five decades.
Despite what she has accomplished in her life, Franklin believes her greatest achievement is her marriage to her husband and her immediate family, according to WNSA.org.
After many years of volunteer work, Franklin decided to venture into politics in 1990. She ran for the Washington State Legislature and was Representative No.1 from the 29th District. She won re-election in 1992.
After the demise of the State Senator of the 29th District shy of two months after her reelection into the legislature in 1992, Franklin was appointed to replace him, making her the first-ever Black female State senator in Washington. She was reelected in 1993 and ran unopposed for the seat during three successive elections retiring in 2010.
In one interview on being the first Black woman in the state senate, Franklin said, “I’m no Harriet Tubman,” she quipped. “Let’s get on with it and bring people together to solve problems.”
Her main focus during her political career was health care and social justice. One major accomplishment with her name written all over is the commencement of the Governor’s Interagency Council on Health Disparities.
Their main aim is to recommend ways of eliminating health disparities brought about by race, ethnicity and gender. Her two other career highlights were the establishments of the health care council and the Washington Housing Policy Act that helped found affordable housing for her people.
Senator Franklin is a decorated politician receiving many awards and recognitions during her time in the office for her service to the community and Civic activities. She was a member of the League of Women Voters, NAACP, Cancer Screening Program for Targeted Populations Safe Streets, to name a few.
Some of her awards were the Democratic Woman of the Year Award, the Lifetime Achievement from the Washington State Democratic Party, Honorary Citizen from the City of Tacoma, Outstanding Volunteer from Pierce County Government and Breaking the Glass Ceiling Award from the Washington Women’s Political Caucus.
As a nurse, volunteer and longtime politician, she is a beacon of hope and a role model to many. Her life was dedicated to service and community. She worked and stood for social justice, equity and care.