By Leslie Bowles, MPA
Senior Director of Philanthropy & Community Engagement at Women’s Fund Central Indiana
“When I liberate myself, I liberate others. If you don’t speak out ain’t nobody going to speak out for you.” –Fannie Lou Hamer
We are ending this Women’s History Month during the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 global pandemic, a continued racial reckoning and—for some of us—maybe a little bit of hope. Typically, we recognize amazing women who have been trailblazers in business, science, technology, and art during this month.
I celebrate every one of those incredible women.
But in my own self-reflection, I am thinking about the women who have had a profound impact on my life, on our local neighborhoods and our global community. The women who are quietly doing the work to feed their families, advance their communities and create a more just world for us all.
When I think about the women whose shoulders I stand on, I immediately think about my great-great-grandmother. She was an enslaved Black woman in the South who experienced indescribable abuse at the hands of slaveholders until one day she had enough. Like many other enslaved Black people, they fled at night, settling in Crofton, Kentucky. But she never felt free. She always looked over her shoulder, wondering if she would be forced back into slavery or—worse—killed. It is because of this fear that my family does not have a picture of her, but when I close my eyes, I see who I imagine her to be. A strong, brave Black woman. It is because of her perseverance to demand freedom for herself that I see bravery in myself. Women’s History Month belongs to her.
Women’s History Month belongs to our local female community organizers. Women who have committed their lives to fight injustice. Many of their journeys were born from suffering, loss and pain, but instead of hoping for justice, they have committed to fighting for a world where all (wo)men are equal.
Women’s History Month belongs to the young single mother raising two children and working two jobs while going to college. All in the hopes of making the best life for herself and her family. She selflessly balances her schedule to find quiet moments to laugh and play with her children.
Women’s History Month belongs to the undocumented mother working multiple jobs, learning English, serving as a nanny or housekeeper in the homes of our neighbors and raising her own children, while also worrying about being deported back to a country filled with violence and without the resources she would need to take care of her family.
Women’s History Month belongs to the women who are boldly working their way up the corporate ladder to reach the leadership position they always dreamed of. The women who are excelling in careers once thought to be too difficult for women to understand.
Women’s History Month belongs to every woman who has felt invisible, ignored or undervalued. You matter, your contributions (no matter how big or small they are perceived to be) matter, your voice matters, your life matters.
As we honor these ordinary yet extraordinary women during Women’s History Month, please acknowledge their humanity, respect their perseverance and honor their commitment to all of us.