Professor and department head of political science, legislator and human rights activist
Franke Wilmer has taken on multiple leadership and change-agent roles to advance women and human rights in Montana. As a state legislator, she twice introduced a comparable pay/equal pay act for Montana. Also in Montana’s House of Representatives, she was successful in ushering a bill through to law that allows breast-feeding mothers a one-year deferral of jury duty. In another venue, she served as chair of the Montana Human Rights Commission, a quasi-judicial board that reviews investigations of alleged discrimination and reasonable cause recommendations from the Human Rights Bureau. In 1993, Wilmer co-founded the Gallatin Valley Human Rights Task Force, now focused on creating safe spaces for all people. Wilmer has not shied away from undertaking research in difficult areas of the world. The interviews she did in the former Yugoslavia, and her current work in Israel and Palestine, have required that she deal with the tension, uncertainty and possible physical risk of being in an area involved in violent conflict. It has also required that she look at human experience, the best and the worst of it, squarely in the eye.
Franke Wilmer has channeled her compassion for people into legislation, organizations and public outreach that has and is creating a legacy of change for women, human rights and diversity in the state of Montana.