Time magazine named whistle blowers Sherron Watkins, Coleen Rowley, and Cynthia Cooper as its 2002 “Persons of the Year” this weekend. Each had exposed fraud and incompetence at their respective places of employment: Enron, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), and WorldCom. Time has only named four women as “Person of the Year” since the tradition began in 1927, and none have been American, unless you count the fact that the magazine named “US Women” as “Persons of the Year” in 1975. Watkins, Rowley, and Cooper were named “Women of the Year” for 2002 by Ms. magazine, along with other women who have made important contributions over the past year, including filmmaker Lourdes Portillo, actor Jamie Lee Curtis, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).
Watkins, as a vice president of Enron, wrote a letter to chairman Kenneth Lay in the summer of 2001 expressing her concerns that the company would “implode in a wave of accounting scandals,” according to Ms. magazineÑa worry that did come to pass. Rather than initiating an investigation, Lay covered up Watkins’ internal memo and she became an outcast in the company, Ms. reports. As a WorldCom internal auditor, Cooper informed the company’s board of $3.8 billion in accounting regularities, a month before the major telecommunications firm declared the largest bankruptcy in US history, according to the Associated Press. Rowley, a 21-year FBI special agent and lawyer, wrote 13-page memo to FBI Director Robert Mueller that touched off Congressional hearings on how the government could have possibly prevented the events of Sept. 11, according to Ms..
Time writes that the magazine’s editors chose these women as “Persons of the Year” “for believingÑreally believingÑthat the truth is one thing that must not be moved off the books, and for stepping in to make sure that it wasn’t.” Ms. magazine explains that these whistle blowers deserved the title of “Women of the Year” for “making the choice between playing the game and changing the rules, for choosing the larger good over personal gain, and for making women proud.”