Sunday, March 8 was International Women’s Day (IWD), a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. According to the International Women’s Day website, there is no one group or organization in charge of this day and its celebration, “International Women’s Day is all about unity, celebration, reflection, advocacy and action – whatever that looks like globally at a local level.”
Following activity at the “1910 second International Conference of Working Women held in Copenhagen. A woman named Clara Zetkin … tabled the idea of an International Women’s Day. She proposed that every year in every country there should be a celebration on the same day – a Women’s Day – to press for their demands. The conference of over 100 women from 17 countries, representing unions, socialist parties, working women’s clubs – and including the first three women elected to the Finnish parliament – greeted Zetkin’s suggestion with unanimous approval and thus International Women’s Day was the result.” On March 19, 1911 the first International Women’s Day event was held in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland. More than one million people participated. The rest is history.
Over its 100+ year history, the intent and focus of International Women’s Day has evolved and in some parts of the world, is celebrated differently. In many countries, it is a national holiday. Russia celebrates the day by sharing and purchasing flowers. In Italy the day, called la Festa della Donna, is celebrated with mimosa blossoms, a long-time tradition thought to have come after World War Two. What remains today that all celebrations include is the focus on women’s achievements, commitments to their work, communities, and their families– and the need for equality.
IWD’s 2020 theme is #EachforEqual. “An equal world is an enabled world .”
To celebrate the spirit of the day, we asked ACT team members to reflect on inspirational women in their lives. Below are a few of those reflections.
Alex Casillas, PhD, Principal Research Psychologist
My abuelita (grandmother) was orphaned at a young age and had to drop out of school after fourth grade in order to help her family financially. She worked hard all of her life (well into her 70s) and understood the importance of getting a good education. Because of the values that she instilled in her children and grandchildren, her four grandkids are all college graduates as well as advanced degree holders (one a masters degree, another a PhD)—not bad for a first generation of immigrants!
In addition to her attitudes toward education, she modeled the characteristics that—research now shows—are important to be successful in school, work, and life: persistence, resilience, optimism, and empathy. Although she has been gone for 15 years, she continues to inspire me every day.
Amber O’Connor, Program Manager II
My mom, Terri Schutterle.
My mom has the biggest heart and accepts people for who they are. I know this is where I learned to meet people where they are and to always be willing to lend a hand. She is ready to jump in and help, no matter the ask. Even in retirement she continues to put others first, volunteering for the community food bank making sure people have what they need and caring for my 98-year-old grandmother.
Thanks for teaching me this at a young age, Mom, so that I could pass it on to my kids!
Tina Gridiron, VP, Philanthropic Partnerships
Many women have inspired me over the years. These women have been relatives, friends, professional colleagues, mentors, mentees, interns, famous and ignored by the paparazzi. Some of these women are alive today and give me unconditional support through their words, their smiles and their warm hugs. Others have passed on and I am inspired by their legacy and the memory of their courage.
But, more importantly, with each and every woman who has inspired me, the words of Maya Angelou best describe them, as “Phenomenal Women”. Indeed, the most influential women I know are grounded in what they believe, committed to action and always thankful for the gifts and blessings in their life. These women are best described in Maya Angelou’s famous poem Phenomenal Women and through the words of this poem I am challenged and encouraged to strive, reflect, and grow each and every day.
Maya Angelou is a woman who I truly admire. But, I am most inspired by the beauty of her words and how those words are captured in the lives and voices of the many influential women in my life.
Kim Bauer, Sr. Director, Implementation Services
Lady Diana, Princess of Whales
Her eloquence, her beauty, and most of all her humanitarian efforts.
Jim Larimore, Chief Officer
My mom, Nancy Aiko Arakawa Larimore
While she was never one to draw attention to herself, my mother lived an extraordinary life, and through her example she taught her kids big lessons about perseverance, humility, sacrifice and service. She was a teenager living in Tokyo, Japan during World War II and saw both the horrors and hardship of war, and the beauty of family and culture all around her.
After the war, she met and married my father, a mixed race US soldier in the Army’s First Cavalry division who was among the first to enter Japan as part of the US occupation forces, and who returned to Japan a few years later in the early years of what became a military career that spanned three decades.
As a military wife, my mom left the only country she’d known and spent the next several decades traveling the globe, having four kids who were born on three different continents, before my parents returned to the US. She was a role model for strength, cultural versatility, determination, and integrity, and seeing how hard she worked to learn English, navigate issues around culture, race and injustice, and fiercely protect and nurture her kids continues to be a powerful source of inspiration in my life.
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