Growing up in an Alaskan village, Elizabeth Peratrovich became an orphan at an early age, and when she was married, she and her husband decided to move to Juneau with their three children to find more opportunities for improved lives. Once there, they were shocked to see the levels of discrimination in the city. In the 1940s, Juneau had segregated neighborhoods and schools, and Peratrovich and her family saw signs in stores and public facilities reading, “No dogs or natives allowed.” It was difficult for Alaska natives to get decent jobs. Peratrovich refused to tolerate second-class treatment, and she petitioned the territorial governor to end the practice, but the territorial legislature refused to pass the law in 1943. In 1945, the legislation came up again, and Peratrovich was the last to testify. After telling stories about the hardships experienced by her children and her community due to discrimination, the legislation passed. This law was the first of its kind in the United States and was passed 19 years before Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In Alaska, Feb. 16 is proclaimed as Elizabeth Peratrovich Day. She was a leader of the Alaska Native Sisterhood and a civil rights leader ahead of her time.
Sponsored by AAUW La Crosse.