“But, I can tell you how much the world needs changing. It’s getting to be a pretty coarse, ugly kind of place. It needs the kind of refinement that only women can bring to human life.”
Father Theodore Hesburgh said these words in an interview in 2007, and I can’t help but think his sentiment rings true now more than ever.
Father Ted was the president of my alma mater, the University of Notre Dame, for 35 years. He was a human rights activist (who stood shoulder to shoulder with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.) and a proud supporter of women. It was his vision of coeducation and the determination to see it actualized that ultimately drove Notre Dame to welcome its first class of undergraduate women in 1972.
Still, even when the doors were opened, culture change was not instant and certainly not automatic. Father Ted explained: “But, nothing ever happens just automatically in this world. You have to work at it.”
It can be said that women have been working at it, well, for a very long time. And we still are. We’re not automatically given seats at the table; we have to ask for them. We’re not automatically thought of as the breadwinners, though in our family units, we very well may be. Often we are called “just” stay-at-home moms when really, we’re working very hard to raise kind, conscientious, brave and beautiful children.
March is Women’s History Month, and March 8th is International Women’s Day, which celebrates the “social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women.” None of these achievements have been automatic, and they have all certainly been worked toward, tirelessly and incessantly, for decades. Yes, we have achieved, and yes, there is still much to be done.
The theme for this year’s Women’s Day is "Be Bold For Change," which also coincides with the Women’s March organizers’ call for strike, namely A Day Without a Woman. The one-day demonstration asks us to abstain from paid and unpaid labor, avoid shopping and/or wear red to demonstrate participation. These actions join us together in solidarity to raise a collective voice for equity, justice and the human rights of women and all gender-oppressed people. The aim is for society to feel as if a key component is missing—and thus frames an opportunity for a critically important conversation to be had.
Skipping work or skipping spending might seem difficult (or perhaps not even feasible) for many of us, so be bold in other ways. If you can’t sit out on Wednesday, wear your reddest shirt. Call your senators to speak up about the cause closest to your heart. Strike up a courageous conversation, especially with someone across the aisle. Talk to the women in your life about where we stand. Talk to men, too. Be open, be kind, be ready. Be brave and do hard things. Keep working at it, like Father Ted asked.
It will be quiet around here on Clementine tomorrow as we take the day off in support. But we’ll leave you with a few words of inspiration to honor the heroic women who have stood before us, the proud women who are changing today’s world and all those incredible women still to come.
“You are the heroes and history makers, the glass ceiling breakers of the future. As I've said before, I'll say again, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world." - Hillary Clinton, politician and glass ceiling breaker
“You have to make more noise than anybody else, you have to make yourself more obtrusive than anybody else, you have to fill all the papers more than anybody else, in fact you have to be there all the time and see that they do not snow you under.” - Emmeline Pankhurst, British suffragette
“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any.” - Alice Walker, novelist, poet and activist
“Struggle is a never-ending process. Freedom is never really won, you earn it and win it in every generation.” - Coretta Scott King, civil rights leader and activist
“Women belong in all places where decisions are being made… It shouldn’t be that women are the exception.” - Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court justice and feminism champion
"You could certainly say that I’ve never underestimated myself, there’s nothing wrong with being ambitious.” - Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany
“What we all have to know is the struggle is long. It's long. It may not end in our lifetimes. But the struggle is what gives our lives meaning and purpose.” - Eve Ensler, creator of The Vagina Monologues
“The future depends entirely on what each of us does every day; a movement is only people moving.” - Gloria Steinem, journalist and activist
“The history of men’s opposition to women’s emancipation is more interesting perhaps than the story of that emancipation itself.” - Virginia Woolf (A Room of One’s Own), author
“Just like the moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I rise.” - Maya Angelou, poet, memoirist and civil rights activist
p.s. Speaking of powerful women, have you considered these empowering insights from our trailblazing Executive Editor?