Elizabeth Peratrovich Biography, Elizabeth Peratrovich Wiki, Age, Net Worth
Elizabeth Jean Peratrovich was an American civil rights activist and member of the Tlingit nation who worked on behalf of equality for Alaska Natives. In the 1940s, her advocacy was credited as being instrumental in the passing of Alaska’s Anti-Discrimination Act of 1945, the first anti-discrimination law in the United States. In 1988, the Alaska Legislature established February 16 as Elizabeth Peratrovich Day “for her courageous, unceasing efforts to eliminate discrimination and bring about equal rights in Alaska” (Alaska Statutes 44.12.065). In March 2019, her obituary was added to The New York Times as part of their “Overlooked No More” series.
Today’s Google Doodle honors Elizabeth Peratrovich, the Alaskan Civil Rights activist who worked tirelessly on behalf of equality for Alaska Natives and was instrumental in getting Alaska’s Anti-Discrimination Act passed in 1945.
The search engine giant has chosen to pay tribute to Peratrovich with a Google Doodle—a special temporary alteration to its homepage logo that commemorates holidays, events, achievements and historical figures. They picked December 30 as it was on this date in 1941, after seeing an inn door sign that said “No Natives Allowed,” Peratrovich and her husband decided to write to Alaska’s governor. They gained his support and thus set the ball rolling towards the Anti-Discrimination Act in the territory four years later.
Today’s logo shows an illustration of Peratrovich by artist Michaela Goade, speaking at a lectern while giving testimony to the Alaska Territorial Legislature in 1945. Behind her is a raven, representing that as part of Alaska’s indigenous Tlingit clan, Peratrovich belonged to the Raven moiety (one of two descendant groups). The ocean and tree imagery in the illustration are a reference to the traditional homelands of Southeast Alaska.
Who is Elizabeth Peratrovich?
Peratrovich was born Kaaxgal.aat on July 4, 1911, in Petersburg, Alaska—at a time when segregation was present throughout the territory.
She married Roy Peratrovich, also a member of the Tlingit clan, and the two moved to Klawock, Alaska, where they both played a role in local politics. In 1941, they moved with their three children to Juneau. That same year, the two worked with others to draft the territory’s first anti-discrimination bill. Though this failed to pass, Peratrovich’s continued efforts led to a second bill to reach Alaska’s Senate on February 5, 1945. Her impassioned testimony on the Senate floor was met with widespread applause and is credited with playing a crucial role in the bill passing.
Fran Ulmer, former lieutenant governor of Alaska, described Peratrovich’s testimony in 1992.
“She talked about herself, her friends, her children, and the cruel treatment that consigned Alaska Natives to a second class existence. She described to the Senate what it means to be unable to buy a house in a decent neighborhood because Natives aren’t allowed to live there. She described how children feel when they are refused entrance into movie theaters, or see signs in shop windows that read ‘No dogs or Natives allowed.'” she wrote.
In 1988, the Alaska State Legislature established February 16 as Elizabeth Peratrovich Day.
Betsy Peratrovich, granddaughter of the civil rights activist, told Google her thoughts about her legacy. “She and my grandpa Roy were quite a team,” she said. ” He liked to give her all of the credit, as she continually inspired him to strive to improve the lives of Alaska Native peoples.
“But my dad recounts that they both used to sit around the dining table at night where together they typed letters, wrote and practiced speeches, and strategized on how best to secure equal rights for all,” she added.
Early life and education
Elizabeth Peratrovich was born on July 4, 1911, in Petersburg, Alaska, as a member of the Tlingit clans, in the Raven moiety of the Tlingit nation. She was orphaned at a young age and adopted by Andrew and Mary Wanamaker, who gave her the name Elizabeth. Andrew was a fisherman and Presbyterian lay minister. The Wanamakers raised Elizabeth in Petersburg, Klawock, and Ketchikan, Alaska. Elizabeth graduated from Ketchikan High School, and then attended Sheldon Jackson College in Sitka, and the Western College of Education in Bellingham, Washington (now part of Western Washington University).[a] In 1931, Elizabeth married Roy Peratrovich (1908-1989), who was also Tlingit, as well as of Serbian ancestry.
In 1941, while living in Juneau, Alaska, Elizabeth and Roy Peratrovich encountered discrimination in their attempts to secure housing and gain access to public facilities. They petitioned the territorial governor, Ernest Gruening, to prohibit public places from posting the “No dogs or Natives allowed” signs that were common in Alaska during this time.
The Anti-Discrimination Act was proposed by the Alaska Native Brotherhood and the Alaska Native Sisterhood, but the first attempt to pass this legislation failed in 1943. However, in 1945, Roy and Elizabeth Peratrovich became the Presidents of the Alaska Native Brotherhood and the Alaska Native Sisterhood, respectively, and lobbied the territory’s legislators and Governor Gruening to pass the act.
Before the territorial Senate voted on the bill in 1945, Elizabeth Peratrovich, representing the Alaskan Native Sisterhood, was the last to testify, and her impassioned speech was considered decisive. Responding to territorial senator Allen Shattuck of Juneau, who had earlier asked “Who are these people, barely out of savagery, who want to associate with us whites, with 5,000 years of recorded civilization behind us?,” she stated:
I would not have expected that I, who am barely out of savagery, would have to remind gentlemen with five thousand years of recorded civilization behind them, of our Bill of Rights.
Fran Ulmer, who represented Juneau in the Alaska House of Representatives (and who later became lieutenant governor of Alaska), in 1992 said the following about Peratrovich’s testimony:
She talked about herself, her friends, her children, and the cruel treatment that consigned Alaska Natives to a second-class existence. She described to the Senate what it means to be unable to buy a house in a decent neighborhood because Natives aren’t allowed to live there. She described how children feel when they are refused entrance into movie theaters, or see signs in shop windows that read “No dogs or Natives allowed.”
The Senate voted 11-5 for House Resolution 14, providing “…full and equal accommodations, facilities, and privileges to all citizens in places of public accommodations within the jurisdiction of the Territory of Alaska; to provide penalties for violation.” The bill was signed into law by Governor Gruening in 1945, nearly 20 years before the US Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Acts of the territorial legislature required final approval from the U.S. Congress, which affirmed it (Bob Bartlett, Alaskan delegate, was known for his efficiency in passing legislation).
The Peratrovich family papers, including correspondence, personal papers, and news clippings related to the civil rights work done by Elizabeth and Roy Peratrovich, are currently held at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.
On December 15, 1931, Elizabeth married Roy Peratrovich (1908–1989), also a Tlingit, of mixed native and Serbian descent who worked in a cannery. They lived in Klawock, where Roy was elected to four terms as mayor.
Looking for greater opportunities for work and their children, they moved to Juneau, where they found more extensive social and racial discrimination against Alaska Natives. They had three children: daughter Loretta, and sons Roy, Jr. and Frank.
The Peratrovich family later moved to Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada, where Roy pursued an economics degree at St. Francis Xavier University. From there they moved to Denver, Colorado, where Roy studied at the University of Denver. In the 1950s, the Peratroviches moved to Oklahoma, and then back to Alaska.
Elizabeth Peratrovich died after battling breast cancer on December 1, 1958, at the age of 47. She is buried at Evergreen Cemetery, Juneau, Alaska, alongside her husband Roy.
Her son, Roy Peratrovich, Jr., became a noted civil engineer in Alaska. He designed the Brotherhood Bridge in Juneau, which carries the Glacier Highway over the Mendenhall River.
Legacy and honors
2020 Native American $1 Coin
On February 6, 1988, the Alaska Legislature established February 16 (the day in 1945 on which the Anti-Discrimination Act was signed) as “Elizabeth Peratrovich Day,” in order to honor her contributions: “for her courageous, unceasing efforts to eliminate discrimination and bring about equal rights in Alaska” (Alaska Statutes 44.12.065).
The Elizabeth Peratrovich Award was established in her honor by the Alaska Native Sisterhood.
In 1992, Gallery B of the Alaska House of Representatives chamber in the Alaska State Capitol was renamed in her honor. Of the four galleries located in the respective two chambers, the Peratrovich Gallery is the only one named for someone other than a former legislator (the other House gallery was named for Warren A. Taylor; the Senate galleries were named for former Senators Cliff Groh and Robert H. Ziegler).
In 2003, a park in downtown Anchorage was named for Elizabeth and Roy Peratrovich. It encompasses the lawn surrounding Anchorage’s former city hall, with a small amphitheater in which concerts and other performances are held.
In 2009, a documentary about Peratrovich’s groundbreaking civil rights advocacy premiered on October 22 at the Alaska Federation of Natives convention in Anchorage. Entitled For the Rights of All: Ending Jim Crow in Alaska, the film was scheduled to air as a PBS documentary film in November 2009. The film was produced by Blueberry Productions, Inc. and was primarily written by Jeffry Lloyd Silverman of Anchorage.
In 2017, the theater in Ketchikan’s Southeast Alaska Discovery Center was named in honor of Elizabeth Peratrovich, and a companion exhibit exploring her role in the struggle for Alaska Native civil rights was unveiled.
In 2018, Elizabeth Peratrovich was chosen by the National Women’s History Project as one of its honorees for Women’s History Month in the United States.
On October 5, 2019, United States Mint Chief Administrative Officer Patrick Hernandez announced that Peratrovich would appear on the reverse of the 2020 Native American $1 Coin, making her the first Alaska Native to be featured on U.S. currency.
In December 2019, a 4-story apartment building called Elizabeth Place, named after Peratrovich, opened in downtown Anchorage.
In July 2020, a new mural was unveiled in honor of Peratrovich in Petersburg.
On December 30, 2020, a Google Doodle in the United states and Canada honored Elizabeth Peratrovich. The Doodle was drawn by Tlingit artist Micheala Goade.