So the work continues. And for all the young women in this room, all the young men, we can never be complacent. Because we have seen in recent times how quickly things can be taken away if we aren’t vigilant, if we don’t know our history, if we don’t continue the work. – Michelle Obama
Knowing the history. And, continuing the work.
I, for one, am committed to carrying this essential wisdom forward – from Black History Month through Women’s History Month to my social justice Seder on Passover and well into the foreseeable future. But, let’s think for a moment about the time we are in – March and Women’s History Month.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes it feels to me like so much about Women’s History Month rests upon the recognition of “firsts.” The celebration of women who were the first to do something significant. The first woman to climb Mt. Everest. The first woman to cast a ballot in a U.S. election. The first woman to travel into space. The first woman to run for president. And, even, the first woman to live on earth. The focus of the month so often seems to be on the trailblazers whom history wishes us to remember for leadership and accomplishments of the highest order.
As much as I love Women’s History Month and as eager as I am to learn even more about women’s contributions to society, I want to cast off the cloak of conventionality – that well-worn clothing of “firsts” that colors so much of our celebration.
Before Junko Tabei climbed Mt. Everest, there were girls who dreamed of scaling impossible heights. Before Louisa Ann Swain cast her vote, there were young women who were demanding that their voices be heard. Before Valentina Tereshkova flew into space, there were bold adventurous women who set their sights on the stars. Before Victoria Woodhull ran for president, there were feminist thinkers who aspired to create political change.
Knowing the history is important. And, knowing that the history is larger than all the “firsts” combined is essential. This deeper history is where, in many cases, the rubber really hits the road. We also need to remember that continuing the work – as bold and daring as the work is – even on a good day, will never be as grand or as shiny or as memorable as even one “first.” But, continuing the work – doing what needs to be done to the best of our ability – to shatter a glass ceiling or to reinstate feminine voice – and, doing it over and over again, is what sticks.
It’s what matters. It’s what ultimately makes all of the “firsts” possible. And, all of this takes courage and commitment.
At Caroline Center, we’re focused on women and work, so we get it – glass ceilings, equal pay for equal work, sexism, racism, and so many other factors that threaten to keep our graduates from flourishing in their careers. At Caroline Center, we also know that women’s potential is enormous and diverse.
That’s why this March, as we celebrate Women’s History Month, all women – especially Caroline Center trainees and graduates – must stand proudly together.
Some of us may be shattering glass ceilings; others of us may be breaking through a lifetime of stone walls. Some of us may be making history; others of us may be setting the stage of history. Some of us may achieve important “firsts;” others of us may gain long-overdue recognition for making the “firsts” possible. Some of us will be trailblazers; others of us will be unstoppable forces of nature. Some of us will be blazing comets in the night sky; others of us will be the persistent and powerful light of a billion stars watching, guarding, and guiding on the horizon.