This year's National Women's History Month theme (Providing Healing, Promoting Hope) recognizes the many ways in which women have provided healing and hope to humanity for countless generations.
As I considered which woman in history I would write about, it was very difficult to decide because there are a lot of women throughout history that I admire. Would I write about:
- Queen Esther (483 BC – 473 BC)
- Cleopatra (69 BC – 30 BC)
- Queen Elizabeth 1 (1533 – 1603)
- Harriet Tubman (1820 – 1913)
- Irena Sendler (1910 – 2008)
As I mulled over these extraordinary choices, I began to wonder why have these women appealed to me? What was it about them that kept drawing me back to their stories, because I have read books about each one and have watched their movies over and over for as long as I can remember. And I thought, how can I choose? In a way I guess you could say that I went a different route, and I am so proud to share about these amazing women.
Queen Esther risked her life to meet with King Xerxes about the plot against her people. Unsummoned and as a woman, she could have been beheaded right there. But she went despite the danger or her fear, leaning on the faithful words of her cousin Mordecai who told her, “Perhaps, you were born for such a time as this, Esther,” to advocate for the safety of your people.
Cleopatra, of Macedonian and Greek decent, was fluent in seven languages and she was the last true pharaoh of Egypt. She led Egypt into being a strong, independent nation and passionately fought for Egypt to remain independent from Roman annexation during the rise of the Roman Empire.
Queen Elizabeth l who in a man’s world, as a woman, could not rule alone. Elizabeth needed to be married and have an heir. The pressure for Elizabeth to marry was great and the doubt in her leadership skills was even greater. She was determined to prove them wrong. She ruled without a man by her side for her entire reign. She helped England prosper and stay an independent nation.
Harriet Tubman escaped slavery at the age 27 by way of the Underground Railroad and then became a conductor for the Underground Railroad. Despite having a traumatic brain injury that left her with narcolepsy and possible epileptic seizures, she made 19 trips to the South over 10 years and "never lost a single passenger."
Irena Sendler was a Polish nurse who braved terrible dangers to bring Jewish children to safety during WWII. Even after she was captured and had a close call with death, she continued her mission.
During Women’s History Month, I looked back into our history and I think it’s remarkable that in all our time there was always a strong woman figure determined to provide healing and hope for her people. Every single one of these women faced incredible adversity, immeasurable obstacles, and dangerous situations in their time on earth but were BRAVE in their attempts. Some were victorious such as: Esther who saved her people, Elizabeth who led England into the Golden Age, Harriet who led 300 slaves to freedom, and Irena who saved over 2500 Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto. Although Cleopatra fought hard to maintain her country’s independence, Rome eventually conquered Egypt and despite her failure she never gave up hope for a better world.
I admired their determination to stand for what they believed in, their unwillingness to back down even when others may have told them to do so and their faith to go into the unknown. These women somehow reached out to me. Because in my world, I was fighting a battle I did not know how to fight or how to win.
Each day, I was entering the battle of inclusion. Each day, I went into battle armed with nothing but my faith and my courage never knowing what obstacles would be thrown at me or how I would face them. But these women inspired me, because despite all the impossible odds against them, they did what they knew or believed to be right and kept charging forth to try to achieve their goals. I learned from them that staying your course is being brave. And though I may not have had a victory every day, I too was brave in my attempts.
I did not know it at the time, but these amazing women were giving me a glimpse into my future. A future where I would be surrounded by strong leaders who are striving every day in the face of adversity to make this world a better place.
One such place is Special Olympics, where Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s fight for my inclusion in society changed my life. I am very proud to join in the Inclusion Revolution and to work alongside amazing staff and athletes giving hope and healing for all persons around the world with intellectual and developmental disabilities. We are the women who are here for such a time as this and we are brave in the attempt.
Thank you to everyone who has gone before me and paved the way no matter the odds.