International Women’s Day: 100 Years!

Tuesday, March 8, marks the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day.

I’d never heard of it, either.

Turns out, it’s a day to celebrate the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present, and future, and to demand a better world for millions of marginalized women and girls around the globe.

Sounds very good to me.

According to the United Nations, the idea of an International Women’s Day was proposed at the turn of the 20th century during the Industrial Revolution and was first officially celebrated in Europe on March 19, 1911.

At that time, more than a million women and men gathered at rallies to demand a woman’s right to vote and to hold public office. In addition, they demanded her right to work, to vocational training and to an end to discrimination on the job.

Since then, International Women’s Day has developed into a global day of reflection, celebration and action on issues of women’s rights. It is officially recognized by the United Nations and declared a national holiday by 27 countries around the world!

In fact, this year, there will be more IWD commemorative events held worldwide than in any year in history. As for me, I’ll be starting off the centennial (and Women’s History Month) by remembering two of the women in my family whose DNA I’m particularly proud to share…. Join me?

:::

First, I’d like you to meet my paternal great-grandmother, Frances Warren, from Brooklyn, New York.

<———–

She raised three boys on her own after her husband left her during an era when divorce was discussed only in whispers.

A savvy businesswoman, “Gram” repackaged drugstore cosmetics with her own label and sold them to society ladies whose hair she dressed at resort hotels.

She later regaled her grandchildren (my dad and his sister) proudly with hilarious tales of her entrepreneurial exploits.

Gram was also responsible for steering her youngest son (my grandfather) in the direction of his future employer: “Why don’t you try working for that nice Mr. Rockefeller?,” she said. “I hear he gives away dimes.”

Following her suggestion, Grandpa started in the mailroom at Standard Oil and ultimately retired as an executive Vice-president.

I never had the privilege of meeting Gram, but I hope that a drop of her intelligence and individualism runs through my veins.

Thanks, “Gram” Warren.

Here’s my maternal grand-aunt, Margie Cunningham, on the right.

She was one of seven children, the daughter of Irish immigrants who came through Ellis Island to escape the Potato Famine. At sixteen, Aunt Margie ran away from her native Ohio to New York City to perform in the Ziegfeld Follies.

She was hired by Flo Ziegfeld in 1929 and earned $50 per week in the Broadway production of “Whoopee!” with Eddie Cantor.

As you can see in the photo, she was quite a bit shorter than the average Follies Girl, but what she lacked in height she made up for in attitude.

Marge ended up marrying (and later divorcing) the show’s lighting director, with whom she had one child. She later remarried and raised four more children.

I never had the privilege of meeting Aunt Marge, but I hope that a drop of her courage and self-confidence runs through my veins.

Thanks, Aunt Marge.

:::

Now think for a moment about the women in your own family, past, present and future. How have the risks and sacrifices of your foremothers contributed to your worldview? To your quality of life?

How will your own choices influence the lives of women in the future?

………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

International Women’s Day was brought to my attention by Heather Plett, whose wonderful project, Sophia Leadership, envisions women and men trusting the feminine wisdom within themselves to bring about positive change on a personal and global level.

In honor of the IWD centennial, Heather is compiling a list of 100 ideas on how women can change the world –and how we change the world for women. Add yours.

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6 Responses to International Women’s Day: 100 Years!

  1. your veins are absolutely INFUSED with those qualities and more. :)

  2. Yvonne says:

    What a beautiful and inspiring story!

  3. Thanks for sharing these great stories and photos! I love this focus on risks and sacrifices of our foremothers–so important to remember where we’ve been.

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