The non­par­tisan Mass­a­chu­setts Women’s Polit­ical Caucus has chosen Northeastern’s Jane Edmonds, a senior fellow in the Col­lege of Pro­fes­sional Studies and a civil rights pio­neer in Mass­a­chu­setts, as one of this year’s recip­i­ents of its Abi­gail Adams Award. The award rec­og­nizes women who have served as role models and improved social, eco­nomic and polit­ical parity.

“Jane was an easy choice,” said Priti Rao, the organization’s exec­u­tive director. “If you look at her career and the work she has done, she is an excep­tional role model. She has spent her life breaking bar­riers, both as a woman and a woman of color.”

Before she even began her career, Edmonds had to fight for her civil rights. When she and her hus­band wanted to move into Sharon, Mass., in the 1960s, they were unable to pur­chase their house from the builder, who would only sell to a white family.

“The sad part of that sit­u­a­tion was that we had to sue to get our home in Sharon in the late ’60s,” Edmonds said. “We wanted a future for our chil­dren that included a quality edu­ca­tion and yet this builder was standing in our way. We turned to the Mass­a­chu­setts Com­mis­sion Against Dis­crim­i­na­tion and we came into this town only with the sup­port of all these people who helped us.”

Within a few years, Edmonds found her­self run­ning for public office, becoming the first woman of color elected to a school com­mittee in Mass­a­chu­setts — and one of the first minori­ties ever elected to hold public office any­where in the Com­mon­wealth.

“I wasn’t run­ning because of that,” Edmonds said. “I was run­ning because I wanted to make a dif­fer­ence to my com­mu­nity. It was only after I was elected, when a reporter from the Boston Globe showed up on my doorstep, that I learned I was breaking bar­riers.”

Edmonds received her under­grad­uate degree from Har­vard and went on to study law at Boston Col­lege. Shortly after her grad­u­a­tion, Gov. Michael Dukakis named her chair of the Mass­a­chu­setts Com­mis­sion Against Dis­crim­i­na­tion.

“When Jane took over the chair­man­ship in the mid-​​1970s, we were in the middle of a lot of trou­bles, including that ter­rible school deseg­re­ga­tion process, and that cer­tainly did not bring out the best in people,” said Dukakis, now a Dis­tin­guished Pro­fessor of Polit­ical Sci­ence at North­eastern. “As chair, she opened the door for oppor­tu­nity for thou­sands in this Com­mon­wealth of ours, and she con­tinues to do that.”

Over the decades, Edmonds’ career also included lead­er­ship posts under Gov. Mitt Romney and Boston Mayor Kevin White. She also founded and led JCEA, Inc., a devel­op­ment and diver­sity lead­er­ship firm based in Boston.

Now, Edmonds teaches exec­u­tive lead­er­ship at North­eastern, which she says gives her the oppor­tu­nity to teach a diverse range of stu­dents.

“I think North­eastern is like no other uni­ver­sity in regards to pro­viding edu­ca­tional oppor­tu­ni­ties, par­tic­u­larly to working adults,” Edmonds said. “That means a lot to me because the people I teach now remind me of myself as I was coming along. North­eastern pro­vides that kind of access and gets me really excited.”