Saturday, March 29, 2014

217: The Self-Empowered Woman: Did You Know?

Dear Followers,

As Women's History Month comes to a close, I thought I would share a few "reminders" about the progress we've made, and the changes that have come our way. So, did you know that...
  • Elizabeth Blackwell was the first woman to get a medical degree in America in 1849.
  • Fifteen years later, Rebecca Lee Crunpler became the first African-American woman to receive a medical degree.
  • In 1872, Victoria Claflin Woodhull became the first female presidential candidate as a member of the Radical Reformerist Party.
  • In 1874, the Supreme Court upheld the ruling that women should be denied the right to vote.
  • Madame CJ Walker became the first African-American female millionaire by developing hair products and employing 3,000 workers in 1905.
  • Mary Davenport-Engberg became the first woman to conduct a symphony orchestra in Bellingham, Washington in 1914.
  • In 1916, Jeannette Rankin became the first woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.
  • In 1932, the Federal Economy Act forbade more than one member of the same family from working for the government. This law was enforced until 1937, and caused many woman to lose their jobs.
  • The first woman to serve as a Director of a major American company (Coca-Cola) was Lettie Pate Whitehead in 1934.
  • In 1947, the Supreme Court ruled that women could serve on juries.
  • The Supreme Court ruled that married couples could use birth control in 1965.
  • Sally Ride became the first woman in space in 1983.
  • In 1997, the Supreme Court ruled that in order for schools to receive Title IX funding, equal numbers of men and women must participate in sports.
  • Mothers are now the top earners in 40 percent of U.S. households. In 1960, that number was only 11 percent.
  • In 2013, 19.7 percent of Fortune 500 Companies had 25 percent or more women executive officers--in 2012, the number was 20.1 percent.
  • Experts estimate that American women make or influence 80 percent of all consumer spending decisions.
Looking forward to your comments...

Saturday, March 22, 2014

216: The Self-Empowered Woman: Misty Copeland

Dear Followers,

Everyone knows that I like stories about women who enjoy being groundbreakers. Misty Copeland, who was born on September 10th, 1982, is one of the few African-American female soloists dancing for a leading classical ballet company. She is actually the third African-American soloist with the American Ballet Theatre, and the first in two decades with that company. Copeland is often referred to as the "Jackie Robinson" of classical ballet.
Copeland has written an autobiography (Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina, Touchstone, $24.99) in which she describes her challenging childhood. She and her five siblings were raised by their mother, who had four marriages and a number of boyfriends (1: No Paternal Safety Net). She writes that from the age of two "...our family began a pattern that would define my siblings' and my childhood: packing, scrambling, leaving--often barely surviving" (12: Hard Times).  
One of the things that makes her so special is that she rose to stardom in spite of not starting her ballet studies until she was thirteen years old (2: An Early Sense of Direction). And within three months of beginning her classes, she was allowed to dance en pointe. Her drill team coach, Liz Cantine, at Dana Middle School in San Pedro, California, recognized her innate talent; Copeland was the team captain. And after she saw a ballet class at her local Boys & Girls Club, Copeland enrolled for the free ballet classes. That's where she met Cynthia Bradley, who helped shape her talent (4: Supportive Someone).
Bradley provided transportation for dance school classes, and Copeland soon moved in (during the week) with the Bradleys, who lived a two-hour bus ride from her mother's home (where she spent weekends), which was a motel room. After only eight months of study, Copeland danced as Clara in The Nutcracker, and the media took note of the huge jump in ticket sales for those performances, as well as her appearance in Don Quixote (13: More Than Meets the Eye).
When she was only 15, Copeland won first place in the Los Angeles Music Center Spotlight Awards, and began her studies at the Lauridsen Ballet Center. Soon after, she was offered workshop grants from six major dance companies, and selected to study with The San Francisco Ballet School. Throughout her junior year in high school, she also maintained a 3.8/4.0 GPA (10: The Critic Within).
After her time in San Francisco, where she learned about a minor's right to file emancipation, Copeland chose to stay with the Bradleys (14: Selective Disassociation). But a fierce battle began, and a judge finally ruled in her mother's favor. By the year 2000, she had joined Ballet Theater's Summer program, and joined the senior troupe the next year. Within four years she realized that because of her race it would be difficult for her to win the classical parts that her peers received. "Suddenly I felt aware of being black..." (5: Life Is Not A Popularity Contest).
But in 2007, the five foot two inch dancer was promoted to soloist, and received principal roles in La Bayadere, Le Corsaire and The Firebird (8: Turning No Into Yes).  In addition to her dancing, Copeland has begun to enter other fields as well. She became a spokesperson for Project Plie, an initiative to broaden leadership within the ballet community, has written two books, starred in a documentary, filmed a music video--and performed on stage--with Prince, and marketed calendars and dancewear under the name of M by Misty (11: Risk Addiction).
Susan Jaffe, is the Dean of dance at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, and a former Ballet Theater ballerina. According to her, Copeland "...wants to do the big classical roles, and she can, because she is very strong and clear, with an incredible amplitude. But I think she is a new kind of dancer. There is so much untapped potential there. With the right choreographer, she could do anything."
Looking forward to your comments...

Sunday, March 16, 2014

215: The Self-Empowered Woman: Tatyana McFadden

Dear Followers,

I’m not sure how many of you have been following the Paralympic Games in Sochi, Russia, but I’d like to introduce you to one of my personal heroines—Tatyana McFadden. It’s easy for all of us—able-bodied and otherwise—to feel sorry for ourselves now and again. But McFadden’s story is so inspiring that you can’t help but look at your own life and realize a) how truly lucky you are, and b) how much more you could accomplish if you were as motivated as she is.

 McFadden was born in St. Petersburg, Russia on April 21st 1989. Unfortunately, she was born with a congenital disorder—spina bifida—which left her paralyzed from the waist down. Her birth mother took her to an orphanage (1: No Paternal Safety Net) that was so poor it had no wheelchairs, and didn’t even have crayons for children to play with. The operation to repair her spine should have been done immediately, but hers wasn’t done for three weeks. Some people consider it miraculous that she managed to live at all. For the first six years of her life the orphanage was her home, and she was forced to use her arms as legs and her hands as feet in order to have any mobility at all (12: Hard Times).

In 1995, Debrah McFadden who was visiting Russia as a Commissioner of Disabilities for the U.S. Health Department (and had been immobile and wheelchair dependent from age 23 to 27 due to a viral infection) happened to be at the orphanage. She fell in love with Tatyana, and even though doctors said that the little girl had very little time left to live, McFadden (as a single mother) adopted Tatyana and brought her to America.

She couldn’t speak English, but kept saying “Ya sama,” which literally translates as “I, myself.” Those who know the 24 year old today believe that what she was trying to convey was “I can and will do anything and everything.” Her American Mom, who lived in Baltimore, enrolled her in a variety of sports programs—first swimming, then gymnastics, wheelchair basketball, sled hockey and track and field—to help strengthen her muscles. McFadden began wheelchair racing at the age of eight (2: An Early Sense of Direction).

The moment Tatyana sat in a racing wheelchair was transformative. In her words, “I just fell in love…I always wanted to do more, I always wanted to get faster” (10: The Critic Within). When she was in high school, she was not allowed to race at the same time as able-bodied athletes, so she and her mother filed a controversial lawsuit (5: life is Not A Popularity Contest), which ultimately required schools to give students with disabilities the opportunity to compete in interscholastic athletics. 
In 2004, she was the youngest member of the U.S. Track and Field team when—at 15—she competed in the Summer Paralympics in Athens, Greece, and came home with both silver and bronze medals. And at the 2008 Summer Paralympics in Beijing she won three silver medals and a bronze; her coach at the University of Illinois is Adam Bleakney, a veteran wheelchair racer (4: Supportive Someone). In addition to her Olympic medals, she became the first athlete to win six gold medals at the 2013 IPC Athletics World Championship in Lyon (13: More Than Meets the Eye). 
Tatyana is the only person to ever win four major marathons—Boston, Chicago, London and New York—in the same year. Plus, she has won every race from 100 to 5,000 meters, which means that she is both a sprint and a marathon champion (8: Turning No into Yes). After winning ten Paralympic medals in multiple Summer Paralympic games, she surprised everyone by developing an interest in Nordic skiing (11: Risk Addiction). This wheelchair sport includes both cross-country skiing and biathlon events. Even though she’d only been able to train on snow for 50 days, she earned a spot on the 2014 U.S. Paralympic team, and came in 5th at Sochi.
Last year, she gave the commencement address at the University of Illinois (in addition to all the athletic training, she also earned her college degree), and now her goal is to help critically ill children as a child-life specialist in a hospital. She will intern before the fall marathon season begins, and then training will start in preparation for the 2016 Summer Paralympics in Rio (7: Magnificent Obsession).

 Looking forward to your comments…


Friday, March 7, 2014

214: The Self-Empowered Woman: Zonta Yellow Rose

Dear Followers,

Almost two years ago, I had the honor of being a keynote speaker at a Zonta event in Fort Collins, Colorado. I'm ashamed to admit it today, but back then I was unfamiliar with the amazing work that this organization does both here in the U.S. and around the world. Saturday, March 8th, is the official International Women's Day, and it is also the day known as Zonta Rose Day. The goal is to raise awareness of the opportunities and challenges that face women worldwide. Fortunately, Zonta advocates for and generously supports projects and organizations that a) improve the status of women, b) promote human rights, and c) uphold justice.
Zonta was established in Buffalo, New York in 1919, and its earliest members were among the first generation of college-educated, voting, employed women in America. The group's founder, Marian de Forest, wanted to create an organization that could (and would) help women reach their potential. Within one year there were nine Zonta clubs with 600 members. Today, there are 1,200 clubs in 65 countries and 30,000 members worldwide.
On Saturday, countless women who have worked hard to help others (in both big and small ways) will receive a yellow rose as a token of appreciation for their efforts. Zonta's goal is to advance the economic, educational, health, legal, political and professional status of women. Zonta international has supported projects in 57 countries, and provided scholarships as well as awards to women around the globe.
In cooperation with the United Nations and its agencies, Zonta has worked hard to raise awareness of (and improve education about) violence against women and children. This effort includes implementing (and enforcing) local laws that protect women and victims of violence--including providing legal, medical, rehabilitation and reintegration services for survivors of violence. 
To learn more about Zonta, email Isn't it good to know that we all can make a positive difference in the lives of women and girls both in our own communities as well as around the world?
Looking forward to your comments.