This Monday, March 8th, is International Women’s Day*. Many organizations around the globe will spend the day honoring the many incredible women of our world – past and present. We are no exception. The International Women’s Day Toast Honoring Influential Jewish Women will take place virtually from 5pm to 6pm that day. A number of presenters, including myself, will take part, giving us a taste of the significant lives of these exceptional women.
I am excited to tell you that I will represent Bella Abzug. If you are not familiar with Bella, I encourage you to google her name. Among other things, she was a social activist, a leader in the women’s movement, one of the founders of the National Women’s Political Caucus, and deeply committed to Judaism. Her contributions have left an incredible mark on our world.
I was drawn to participate in the program for a multitude of reasons. However, one really resonates with me – and that is to reach parity for women. My first experience with limitations came when I was a young teenager. I really wanted to follow in my father’s footsteps and work in the family business. I had worked at the company after school and during the summer, beginning at the age of fourteen. I was excited at the thought of one day leading the company.
There was just one problem – the generation prior to my father made a rule that no women could be on the Board of Directors, and in order to be President you had to be on the Board. Seeing as my goal of leading the company was not going to happen, I decided I would become an accountant and work for the company in that capacity. I ended up graduating from college with dual degrees in accounting and marketing.
After college, I moved to New York City. I can remember going to the National Organization of Women’s offices in Soho to attend their meetings. Because of what I had experienced back home, my desire to participate in the Women’s Movement increased tenfold. I wanted to use my voice to help ensure no other woman would be suppressed in the same manner.
My career continued without any further restrictions, at least that I am not aware of; in fact, I became exposed to an increased number of women in leadership roles.
Fast forward to this past summer. While in the thick of the pandemic, I stumbled across a miniseries on Hulu called Mrs. America. The show is about the fight for the Equal Rights Amendment, with some women for the cause and some against it. One of the women portrayed in the program was none other than Bella Abzug, played by Margo Martindale. She was also portrayed in the film The Glorias (a bio pic about Gloria Steinman), this time by Bette Milder.
While admittedly I won’t be able to hold a candle to Bette or Margo’s performances, I will certainly do my best. And, we already have one thing in common – a love for hats. There are many other influential Jewish women who will be honored at this event, so please join us!!
*International Women’s Day (IWD) has occurred for well over a century; the first IWD gathering in 1911 was supported by over 1M people.
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