Women is...: Mother of a Movement

Mother of a Movement

name: Rosa L. Parks

who she is: Flash point for the modern-day civil-rights movement after her refusal to give up her bus seat to a white man in December of l955. Her stand, so to speak, was the catalyst for the Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott that helped launch the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

leaving her mark: In 1987, she co-founded the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development, which motivates youth to reach their potential through such programs as bank training, substance-abuse prevention and goal setting. The institute's Pathways to Freedom program enables youth to research history around the country -- by bus -- tracing the underground railroad.

after the bus: After serving as an administrative assistant more than 20 years, she retired from the office of Detroit Congressman John Conyers in 1988. Mrs. Parks worked with Congressman Conyers toward making Martin Luther King Jr. Day a national holiday.

her values: Her commitment to first-class citizenship is based on her belief that all people are created equal; her power stems from a philosophy of quiet strength.

family: Widowed without offspring

born: l913

education: High-school diploma and more than two dozen honorary doctorates, including one from Soka University in Tokyo, Japan

pivotal moment: "When I decided I was going to have a life that would benefit others. I realized I couldn't do things alone, so I joined with people of like minds, including Ms. Elaine Steele [the institute's co-founder]. I wanted to be with someone who also wanted to help others, particularly youth and seniors."
influences: "Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., my dear friend; my mother, Leona McCauley, who was also a schoolteacher and taught me; and my grandparents, Rose and Sylvester Edwards, who raised me along with my mother. Youth have always influenced me."

on taking up the cause: "It's up to the individual how they feel about it -- it's not anything that can be forced on them."

music to her ears: Gospel, hymns and spirituals

future plans: "To continue whatever work I can do to make my life better for myself as well as others. I was at the groundbreaking of The Rosa Parks Museum and Library in Montgomery, Ala., earlier this year -- the location is at the site where I was arrested. I was also at the groundbreaking for the Rosa Parks Learning Center in L.A., partnered with the L.A. Science Center in Exposition Park. I will be leading youth and seniors in making a Pathway to Freedom quilt. And I am writing a cookbook!"

most meaningful awards: The Medal of Freedom from President Clinton in '96 and the Rosa Parks Peace Prize in Stockholm, Sweden, in '94.