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March is Women's History Month. As we reflect on all that Hoosier women have accomplished and overcome throughout history, I want to highlight some of the incredible female leaders of Indiana's Ninth District whom I've had the honor of getting to know and learn from.

Mary Elftman

I have served as the Monroe County Veteran Service Office since February 2016.  I first joined the military in September 1980 as a Military Police Officer with the Indiana Army National Guard.  By December 1984 I had reclassified as a Human Resources Non-Commissioned Officer and was placed on Active Duty with the National Guard.  I continued to serve in that capacity on Active Duty until my retirement from uniformed service in July 2004.  Shortly after my retirement I was offered and accepted a position as a Federal Civil Service Human Resources Administrator and continued my government service there until I again retired in August 2015.

At the time of my retirement I was unsure of my next step when I found the position of Monroe County Veteran Service Officer was available.  I had been interested in becoming a Veteran Service Officer since my retirement from uniformed service.  I am honored in this position to continue to serve the veterans, service member and their families.  Each interaction with the people I assist only increases my knowledge of the veteran experience and how best I can help them access their benefits.

Many people have influenced me throughout my life my mother most of all.  She was a strong and brave woman that taught me to care for my fellow human beings in the best way I can.  Mother always encouraged me to strive for my dreams while firmly grounding me with a fundamental work ethic that drove my career upward.  The home she gave us was always full of love, support and happiness.

I take great pride in the work that I am doing now.  Serving our nations veterans and their families give me a great sense of accomplishment and pride.  So many of veterans are forgotten or lost without guidance through the federal system and I am grateful that I can provide the much needed assistance and guidance.

Laura Hammack
After a career in education for nearly 22 years, Dr. Laura Hammock is the Superintendent for Brown County Schools.
I have served as Superintendent for Brown County Schools for nearly two years after a career in education for nearly 22 years.  I began my career as a 6th grade teacher and also served as an elementary school Principal and Assistant Superintendent.  During my career as a teacher, there were many school leaders who helped me grow as an educator and a leader. All of this inspired me to pursue positions of leadership so that I could give back to our school community all that had been given to me.  It has been a gift to serve the community of Brown County as their Superintendent. 

It's difficult to pick one person, because I give all of the credit to both of my parents. My parents always encouraged me to dream big and did everything that they could to allow me to access educational opportunities and experiences that have fundamentally informed my ability to serve in the capacity of Superintendent today.  They encouraged me to do anything that made me happy and made sure that I knew that my gender didn't ever have to be a factor in the pursuit of my dreams.   


I take a great responsibility in advancing opportunities for all of our students, no matter their gender.  However, it is sincerely inspiring to advance opportunities for our young women and then witness them going off into the world and accomplishing great things.  Women's History Month is a time to highlight the accomplishments of women throughout the history of the greatest country in the world.  God has blessed me to be a citizen of this country and He has also blessed me by introducing strong women leaders who have paved the way for opportunity.  For that, I am sincerely grateful.  


Deidra Gottbraith 

Deidra Gottbrath is a farmer, nurse and is currently serving her second term as President of the Washington County Farm Bureau. 

I have been involved with the Washington County Farm Bureau board for about the last five years and am currently serving in my 2nd term as County President.  It's funny thinking about how I initially became involved in Farm Bureau, because we joke that I was born in Farm Bureau.  My parents were Young Farmers, served on the State Young Farmer Committee, served on the County Board for years and were involved at the County level for most all of their adult lives.  As farming got a little tougher, my Dad ended up becoming a regional manager for Farm Bureau for an off the farm job and worked for Farm Bureau for almost 22 years before he retired to farm full-time.  Through those years, we gained a second family.  Weddings, funerals, birthdays, retirements, celebrations or sad times, even natural disasters, our Farm Bureau family grew and was there for us and were as close to us as any. 

In 2012, the tornado devastated my aunt and uncle's portion of the family farm and they decided to take that opportunity to move out of state, closer to their children and grandchildren.  With the complete devastation of the farm and change in structure, dad retired and came back to the farm full-time.  As a family, we all took a much more active role in the daily operations of the farm.  As I continued to be involved and help more on the farm, I knew agriculture needed to be a much bigger part of my life, but as a full-time critical care nurse at the time, I didn't have a lot of options for purchasing my own farm at the time and decided to invest some time in agriculture organizations and advocacy.  Through my involvement with a local agriculture leadership program called Annie's Project, led by Purdue Extension, I kind of kicked off a whole domino effect of involvement.  The program is designed to empower women in agriculture with leadership and business skills to be used both on and off the farm.  As I participated in the program, I met a couple fantastic women in agriculture from our community and networked with ladies from other communities and agriculture businesses and we began to build a small network in Washington County.  Part of the program introduced other agriculture leadership opportunities and I was introduced to the Farm Bureau Leaders in Agriculture (LIA) program where I met other young farmers from my community who encouraged me to continue to get more involved on the local Farm Bureau board.  I had always been involved with Farm Bureau in some way, but it gave me an opportunity to come back to that Farm Bureau family in a more structured way.  So as I participated in leadership programs through Farm Bureau and Purdue Extension, I continued to get more involved.  Eventually our networking blossomed an agriculture promotion and education committee for Washington County called See What Ag Gives or SWAG.  We partnered with the local Farm Bureau and Washington County-Purdue Extension to start more programs in the community.  Eventually, my involvement in those different groups and projects helped better me for leadership opportunities in the future with the board.  Just about that time, there was an election and I was voted in as President.  It was intimidating at first as I had very high expectations of the position, and there are many days I still question if I'm doing a good job.  However, we have built a fantastic board of directors with a nice mix of ages/experience who continue to help guide me, mentor me, encourage me, and partner with me to continue to grow Washington County Farm Bureau.  I have developed a network of friends and fellow farmers from the district around us and all across the state who help continue to motivate, encourage, and drive me to keep challenging myself, and keep finding successes in my life both on and off the farm.  As a grassroots organization, Farm Bureau continues to exemplify in many ways the benefits of speaking out and finding your voice in your community with your legislators, community leaders, and organizations.  This organization continues offering opportunities for growth and leadership to make sure that agriculture is well represented and continues to be recognized as a foundation of success in our communities, across our country, and all over the world.  

I wouldn't say one specific person necessarily, but my family, as a whole, has pushed me and encouraged me to always pursue my dreams.   My parents are the absolute best.  My dad is a teacher, farmer, advocate, leader, and one of the most humble, hard-working, easy-going, passionate about agriculture, kind of guy you could ever meet. He has definitely passed on his love for the land and all things agriculture.  He has also instilled in me a sense of service to the agriculture industry and always stressed the importance of farmers being actively engaged advocates in their local, state, and federal government.  The best thing he's ever done for me is he never treated me like being a woman was anything that would limit me.  As a matter of fact, I never really knew people thought of women so differently until much later in life.   He had a very strong, independent, intelligent, and compassionate mother who was a teacher and farmer that was widowed at a younger age, but remained very independent throughout all of her 90+ years on the farm.  Grandma Kitty was one of those hard-working, fearless and determined ladies who could work circles around you, even well into her senior years.  She was unstoppable, but still had the kindest, sweetest way about her.  She taught all of us what to strive for in life, not only as women, but also as citizens and community members.  She could do absolutely anything she set her mind to.  As such, my Dad has never really seemed to see his wife or his daughters the way other people may have viewed women both on or off the farm.  My Mom has also had a huge impact on pushing me towards my dreams.  She is an absolute spitfire.  She is definitely where I get my spunk from. She is a teacher, farmer, author, volunteer, and leader.  She has always encouraged me to follow my dreams and to not let anything deter me.  She is the one who listens to me rant when I get super-passionate about things, but then will do or say funny things to help me decompress and maintain my composure so that I come back with grace, professionalism, and poise.  She's the one who helps push you to chase the dreams, but helps pick you up and dust you off when you trip or bang your knee along the way.  Both of my parents have always pushed me to dream big, look beyond the horizon, and never try to fit in when you were born to stand out.  I have two amazing sisters and some adorable nieces and nephews who have always helped to push me and encourage me throughout the years.  I've always been able to look to my sisters for anything I've needed; advice, support, labor, encouragement, a kick in the behind to get me back on track, or just a reminder to take a deep breath.  The kids have helped push me because they are always cheering me on or challenging me to learn more.  I guess, truthfully, if I had to summarize one person that inspired me the most, it probably would all come back to Grandma Kitty.   She was one of those amazing women that people never forget.  She was a woman of faith, a leader, a giving community servant, with a zeal for life and a loving spirit.  She raised my dad to be the amazing man he is; she was like a mother to my mom the and pushed her to be the spitfire she is; and yet, she also shaped all of the other strong family members and siblings that I've been able to look up to over the years.  She raised/inspired Doctors, Engineers, Business/Finance Executives, Scientists, Teachers, Nurses, Farmers, and many other careers, but tied them all together with the teachings of hard-work, humility, and the importance of faith and family.   Without the impact of such influential women like my Grandma Kitty, I would be nowhere near the person that I am today.

Women's History Month, to me, is for us to remember and highlight those fundamental women who have paved the path for us.   An opportunity for us to say thank you to those who have made such a huge impact on our lives.  Without the fearless guidance of many women before us, life would be so different in so many ways.  I'm grateful for those who were courageous enough to speak out and stand up for us to have the opportunities that we do.  Again, I'm blessed to say that I have been surrounded by such an awesome network of strong, intelligent, courageous, and  fearless women in my life, and because of that, nothing has ever seemed truly impossible. Now by saying that, I sure don't mean that there were never challenges, especially trying to be a young woman in a field traditionally full of men.  But with good planning, strong values, maybe a little stubbornness, and a lot of encouragement, I've seen many times over that anything is possible if you're willing to put the work into it.   I'm sure if some of the foundational women were around to see how things are now, they would be blown away by the roles and opportunities that women are taking on to lead us into the future. 

One of the other main thoughts I have when thinking about Women's History Month is that it's a moment for each of us to think and reflect, what am I doing in my community? with my career?  with my faith?  or through my family?  to continue encouraging other women to keep pushing forward and continue pursuing their dreams.  Because of so many women before us doing something for their community, their family, or to further their career, we are able to do the things we do every day without a second thought.  Sometimes we think that we can't make a difference because we don't have time, or we won't be heard, or it can't be done perfectly.  However, if we look back over many of the most historical women, it's not about the thing that they did, but about the impact that they had by doing that thing.  In closing, the way I think about women's history month kind of aligns with a Helen Keller quote: I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.                                                                              





Emily Brown and Lauren Buergler

Emily and Lauren are advocates for Career and Technical Education programs as members HOSA: Future Health Professionals. This program offers students opportunities to develop as leaders and future employees.


My Career and Technical Education program is Project Lead the Way Biomedical Sciences. It's a series of four classes that allow students to explore different careers in science and healthcare through exciting projects and labs based on those careers. This program then led me to HOSA, a student led organization for future health professionals. Both of these opportunities have allowed me to grow and attain goals I never could imagine before joining career and technical education.

I got involved at my school because originally I wanted to be a special effects makeup artist. I spent all of my time sculpting parts of the body; I decided I wanted to take a class that focused on anatomy so I could get better. The rest is history.

I am working toward becoming a nurse; I'm actually going to nursing school this fall. Instead of one person inspiring me to pursue this, it is really all the nurses I meet. I have met so many kind people through internships that have taken time out of their day to help and show me the tasks they do daily, as well as provide excellent care and comfort to patients. It's extremely inspiring, I hope to do the same one day. 

This month is Women's History Month, and that means a lot to me. Most accomplishments made by women are not highlighted often, and I think it's very important to recognize the amazing achievements people have done for this country. It's amazing to see strong women;it inspires you to do the same thing one day; and we need more of that. 


I am a senior at Bloomington High School North and am a second-year Health Science Education Student at Hoosier Hills Career Center. I gained many technical skills through on-site job training and internships. Because of this program, I joined HOSA: Future Health Professionals and grew tremendously as a person and leader.

I was exposed to Career and Technical Education when I was in middle school on a field trip. When I saw the Health Science classes, I fell in love an decided to join as a junior. Ever since then, I have worked to be the top of my class and am heavily involved in HOSA.

My sister inspires me to be the best person I can be. She is very devoted to her career and has always been a role model to me. My sister encourages me to reach my full potential and to follow my dream career as a Sports Medicine Doctor.

Women's History Month signifies all of the countless contributions women have made to society. Women are powerful, strong, and independent. I am proud to be a strong female and to live in a society of empowered women. 

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