19 Apr How the Collective Power of Women Can Change the World – Part 2
QUICKIE QUIZ: Who invented the cotton gin? I know you want to say Eli Whitney. But you’re wrong. Catherine Littlefield Greene did. Back in 1793, it was considered “inappropriate” for a woman to hold a patent. So Eli got the credit. Now over 200 years later, we haven’t gotten around to correcting this fact in our history books.
QUICKIE QUIZ #2: On April 26, 1777, who rode through the towns of New York and Connecticut warning everyone that the British were coming, and gathered enough volunteers to push back the British army the very next day? Not Paul Revere. It was Sybil Luddington who accomplished this feat at the ripe age of 16. Her ride was twice as long as Paul’s but unfortunately most of us never heard of it — or her.
“How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!” says poet, Maya Angelou. How important it is for us to be invited to the table – especially now. “The fortunes of nations are inextricably tied to the fortunes of women,” says Hillary Rodham Clinton in the foreword to The International Human Rights of Women. “It is this simple: where women flourish, her families flourish. And where families flourish, communities and nations flourish. Issues affecting women and their families are not ‘soft’ issues to be relegated to the sidelines of serious debate, rather, they are among the hardest and most important issues we face.”
Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn write in their groundbreaking book, Half the Sky, “The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) summed up the mounting research this way: ‘Women’s empowerment helps raise economic productivity and reduce infant mortality. It contributes to improved health and nutrition. It increases the chances of education for the next generation.’” Isn’t it funny that the very qualities that have kept women out of the boardroom are the very qualities needed right now.
Kofi Annan, Former UN Secretary-General said during his service, “It is impossible to realize our goals while discriminating against half the human race. As study after study has taught us, there is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women.” I love how former prime minister of Canada (another first female head of state), Kim Campbell puts it, “Look, power exists. Somebody is going to have it. If you would exercise it ethically, why not you? I love power. I’m power-hungry because when I have power I can make things happen, can serve my community, can influence decisions, I can accomplish things.” I believe Oprah would agree.
A personal she-roe of mine, Liberty Phoenix Lord, took her tragedy, the death of her baby boy, Indigo, and somehow found the inner strength and resources to rise up out of the ashes of despair in service of her community. Today, she is the owner of Indigo Green Building Store in Gainesville, Florida where she educates people in her community about the hidden toxins in their homes, offices and schools. “I never ever want any parent to go through what I went through,” she said to me in an interview.
Zem Joaquin can relate. “I was frustrated by the fact that both of my children were constantly being hospitalized. I was up so many nights with a nebulizer in hand with crying children. The pediatricians just kept saying that it was part of childhood, that many children have asthma.” But after they recommended putting her children on long-term steroids, she said, “Enough is enough!” That moment of truth led to a full renovation of her home. When it was complete, both her children were free from asthma — and Ecofabulous was born. A blog aimed at sharing her journey, insights and knowledge with the world. Today, that blog is a thriving publishing and content company dedicated to sustainability and style with Zem at the helm.
And then there’s Margarita McClure, a mother of three who refused to put disposable diapers on her babies because she knew that the chemical in the liners contain sodium polyacrylate, the same substance removed from tampons in 1985. So what did Margarita do? She started Swaddlebees, now a 2 ½ million dollar company that manufactures organic cloth diapers that have moms dumping the disposables for a healthier choice for their babies.
There are thousands of women that are waking up thousands more to be the change we need right now in the world. And they are not waiting to be asked to sit at the boardroom table. They are taking out their hammers and building their own tables.
If you are not at the table, you are on the menu. — Environmentalist, Winona LaDuke
The Great “either / or”
“We have come to the stage where the real work of humanity begins,” proclaims scholar, philosopher and cultural icon, Jean Houston. “We’re in the great ‘either/or’ of history. Either we really blow it the next 20, 30, 40 years, and stay on the same path of same ol’ same ol’, or we consciously decide to rise to the challenges, the greatest challenge in human history. Other people thought they were ‘it’. They’re wrong. This is the most critical time in history.” Not only is this it, according to Jean, but “critical to the turning will be women,” she said in an interview with me (this is where my heart skipped a beat). “Women’s emphasis is on process rather than on product. On making things cohere, development, grow, inner space equal to outer space – outer space and inner space being on a continuum. Relationship – the relationships between things, the patterns that connect, being critical. So a woman, for example, doesn’t just do her job, she braids her work with feeling, with compassion for the people she is working with.”
We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.