Raising three teenage daughters is a daunting task—but also a privilege, opportunity, and way to make a difference.
In the late 1970s, a young high school history teacher, Molly MacGregor, initiated Women’s History Month. Because textbooks contained little information about women, the Californian had struggled to find content and lesson plans to teach her students about women in history.
In 1980, President Jimmy Carter declared National Women’s History Week. In March 1987—just 34 years ago—the week expanded to recognize notable women for an entire month. Women’s History Month cannot be overstated, as it encourages and invites us to celebrate the various roles women have played throughout history, the strides made in equal opportunities for education, and the ability for women to follow any career path they choose.
The future is SO BRIGHT! Vice President Kamala Harris’s election proves that the tides are (finally) changing. Little girls dreaming today will have almost any opportunity to “be anything they want to be.”
My grandmother, Veleria Aleda Vandermark Schmitke, is my guiding light on this topic. Orphaned shortly after her birth in 1911, her life was anything but easy. From a young age, “Grandma Joker” as we called her (Batman reference), taught me that hard work and persistence would lead to success. She also taught me the value of saving money and the importance of self-reliance.
In 1935—a time when divorce equaled social suicide—my grandmother divorced her abusive, alcoholic husband and moved 90 miles north to a town outside Buffalo, NY. This undaunted single mother of two put herself through bookkeeping college, secured housing, and found a job.
Grandma married my Grandfather in 1951, had two more children in her 40s, and maintained her position as the family breadwinner. She refused to let gender bias or societal expectations affect her work or work ethic in the male-dominated accounting industry.
Since my entry into the workforce in 1993, I’ve had to learn, develop, and grow some pretty important skills: self-confidence, an ability to speak up, a willingness to ask for equal pay, and a steadfast refusal to feel intimidated as the only woman in a room full of male counterparts. I draw inspiration and strength from the knowledge that generations of women who’ve gone before me rose to the top, and this knowledge has enabled me to define and fulfill my own career path. For me, Women’s History month offers a chance to pause, appreciate the opportunities my career has afforded me, and show my daughters that they, too, can pursue their dreams and goals to be “anything they want to be.”