‘A force of nature’

Actress Halle Berry was among those who honored
Fillmore's Ruth Dewson.

Fillmore milliner Ruth Garland Dewson took a stroll down the red carpet in the heart of Hollywood on April 27, 2008, when she was honored for her ceaseless — and ultimately successful — efforts to free a woman imprisoned for more than two decades.

On an evening of Tinseltown glitter in the grand ballroom of the Beverly Hills Hotel, Dewson was honored by the Jenesse Center, an organization that helps women and children hurt by domestic violence.

Earlier this year, Dewson rallied public and political opinion to persuade Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to grant parole to Flozelle Woodmore, a 39-year-old woman she’d never met who had spent more than half of her life in jail for killing an abusive boyfriend when she was 18. Woodmore had repeatedly been denied parole until Dewson took up her cause.

In presenting the award, state Senator Mark Ridley-Thomas — an ally in the fight to free Flozelle Woodmore — called Dewson “a change maker, a one-woman show and a force of nature.”

“People said to me, ‘You didn’t know Flozelle, how could you help her?’ ” Dewson told a sold-out audience that included actress Halle Berry, talk show host Jay Leno and singer Jennifer Hudson, as well as a contingent from the Fillmore. “I said to them: I know her and you know her. You see her in the eyes of your children and your grandchildren.”

Dewson, the proprietor of Mrs. Dewson’s Hats on Fillmore, also heads the Western Addition Foundation for Girls.

Photograph of Flozelle Woodmore (left) and Ruth Dewson by Donna Casey

UPDATE: Flozelle Woodmore, recently paroled after more than 20 years in prison for killing an abusive boyfriend when she was 18, was in the Fillmore on March 29, 2009. She came to say thank you to people who helped free her — chief among them Ruth Dewson, owner of Mrs. Dewson’s Hats. It was Dewson’s ceaseless efforts to rally public and political opinion that shined the spotlight on Woodmore and eventually led to her freedom. Yet this was the first time they had met.