First Black woman to serve in Vermont Legislature to be honored posthumously
MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — The first Black woman to serve in the Vermont Legislature is being honored posthumously with an achievement award.
The family of former Rep. Louvenia Dorsey Bright, who served in the Vermont House from 1988-1994 and died in July at age 81, will be presented with the 2023 Gov. Madeleine M. Kunin Achievement Award on Saturday in Essex Junction.
The award is given annually to a Democratic woman in Vermont with significant political achievements. Recipients must maintain a consistent focus on mentoring and supporting women in their political, professional, and educational pursuits; focus on policy work that expands opportunities for others; and show evidence of her work having an impact on the lives of other Vermonters.
Bright, who represented South Burlington, fought for race and gender equity, inclusion, and opportunity. She served as ranking member of the Health and Welfare Committee, where she stewarded passage of Vermont’s first Parental and Family Leave Act. She also served on Government Operations Committee.
In 2021, local NAACP chapters in Vermont established The Bright Leadership training program in her name.
Bright lived out her remaining years in Illinois, but her family has remained engaged in Vermont and New England.
Her husband, William Bright II, was associate dean of the College of Educaton at the University of Vermont before retiring in 1995. Her son, Bill Bright III, worked for former U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy. Her daughter, Rebecca Louvenia Bright Pugh, has had a long career teaching and is currently an education consultant for Savvas Learning.
“It is with heavy but joyous hearts that we accept this award on behalf of my mother,” her son said in a statement. “We’re honored and humbled that her work is still being celebrated and that her legacy will live on. Her work on race and gender, equity, inclusion, and opportunity is still relevant today and we hope her story will inspire the next generation of leadership in Vermont.”
Bright is the seventh recipient of the award. Past recipients include Sallie Soule, former state legislator and Commissioner of Employment and Training; former Vermont Treasurer Beth Pearce ; Jane Stetson, former Democratic National Committee chair; Mary Sullivan, former state legislator and Democratic national committeewoman; former Speaker of the House Gaye Symington; and former House Judiciary Committee Chair Representative Maxine Grad.
The award will be presented during the 10th anniversary celebration of Emerge Vermont, an organization that recruits, trains and provides a network to Democratic women who want to run for office.