Archive for Thursday, October 14, 2010

Celebrating professional women’s accomplishments

October 14, 2010

As women, we stand on the shoulders of women who have gone before and paved the way, just as the next generation will stand on our shoulders to reach heights we may have aspired to or may have only envisioned on a distant horizon.

It is just as likely that a new generation of women will have within their grasp something that does not yet even exist — even as a paper and pencil draft.

Events of the last couple weeks sent my mind to thinking about what others may simply take for granted: the success and accomplishments of today’s professional woman.

On a recent Saturday, I was attending a board meeting of the Kansas Women Attorneys Association. We were meeting at the Plumb Place in Emporia. The Plumb Place is an old, three-story, wood and brick building, now on the National Register of Historic Places. Our board meeting was on the third floor — the highest in the building.

I was struck by that fact as I looked around the room filled with women, all attorneys, ages ranging from mid-twenties to early sixties.

They represented solo and small practices, large firms, engineering firms, industry, health care and education. They were civil litigators and criminal prosecutors. They were daughters, mothers, sisters, grandmothers.

It was a historical moment in a historical place. It was history in the making.

A week earlier, I sat in to observe a trial in progress in another city. As I listened and watched, I noted the prosecuting attorney was a woman, as were the defense attorney, bailiff and judge.

I couldn’t help but think of my mother and grandmother, seeing with my eyes, but through the eyes of their history as well; wishing they could have lived to see this moment of justice held in the hands of women.

I am proud to say I come from a line of women whose lives embodied peace and justice, and whose lives’ work was on behalf of those who could not advocate for themselves.

My grandmother was a suffragette who fought for womens’ rights to vote, and slaves’ rights to be free. Her life’s work lives on in her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

My mother’s life was lived for her children. She was a single mom who eked out a living washing other people’s clothes. Never for a moment did she forget there were others less fortunate and for whom life had dealt a harder blow.

“Lift someone up today,” she would say as I left for school each morning.

Lift someone up. I thought about her comment in the courtroom that day and, later, in the meeting of the board. I thought to myself, if it is ever possible for the world to be lifted up and turned into a better, more just, place, then surely these are the people to do so.

Educate a man, you educate an individual; educate a woman, you educate a family and change the world.

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