Happy International Women’s Day!

International Women’s Day is a worldwide celebration of the accomplishments of women, regardless of race, gender, nationality, political affiliation, or economic situation. This year, the theme is #BalanceforBetter, focusing on the idea that balance between men and women is truly the key and everyone’s responsibility.

This is actually the 110th year a Women’s Day has been celebrated in the United States. Efforts first began in 1909 to support a garment worker’s strike out of New York. Women were protesting their working conditions and the Socialist Party designated February 28 as the first National Women’s Day.

The Socialists took the day international the following year at a meeting in Copenhagen. It’s goal was to support both women’s rights and universal suffrage. More than 100 women from 17 countries unanimously agreed to the day.

For years after, the movement grew with women in using the day and their voices to keep fighting for equal rights and protesting impending wars, advocating for peace instead. 1975 was dubbed International Women’s Year and it was then the United Nations began official celebrations of International Women’s Day on March 8.

In 2019, women may have equal rights on paper, but reality is a much different situation. We’re still fighting to be treated equally in the workplace, especially when it comes to pay, and to destroy the subtle sexist behaviors that continually plague our society.

We can all play a role in achieving #BalanceforBetter. According to International Women’s Day, “a balanced world is a better world,” and by celebrating the achievements of women, raising awareness around gender bias, and continually taking action against inequality, we can achieve a much needed balance.

Even though today’s the day we celebrate, the drive to #BalanceforBetter continues beyond March 8. Join the online conversation with hashtags #IWD2019 and #BalanceforBetter, and by sharing your photos of your hands out in a pose to represent the balance we’re constantly working toward.

Take a minute today to thank and acknowledge the incredible women in your life!

Ida B. Wells – Women’s History Month Day 2

Ida B. Wells was born into slavery in Mississippi when the Civil War was in its infancy. In the early years of her life, she and her family were freed after the war and then became active in Reconstruction Era politics.

Taught to value education, Ida went to Rust College, but was eventually expelled for starting an argument with the president of the university. While visiting her grandma, she learned that yellow fever had swept her hometown, taking both her parents and youngest brothers.

Instead of continuing to pursue education, Ida was left to care for sister and brothers. Together, they moved to Memphis where she began her career as an educator.

At this point her activism began to really take off. In 1884, Ida was refused a seat on a first-class train, even though she had a ticket. After filing a lawsuit against the train company, she saw victory in her local circuit but the decision was ultimately overturned in federal court.

Soon after one of her friends was lynched, causing her to focus on white mob violence. Her career as an investigative journalist took off as she researched why black men were lynched. Her writing was published in several newspapers’ columns as well as in a pamphlet, but it eventually led locals to drive her from Memphis. The threats continued and increased in severity, causing her to move to Chicago.

The women’s suffrage movement was taking off, and while Ida supported the cause, she was upset that the women involved ignored the problem of lynching. True to her nature, she would openly confront these women.

Because of this, she wasn’t active in any of the women’s suffrage organizations, but that didn’t stop her from staying active in the movement. Instead, she founded the National Association of Colored Women’s Club to address both women’s suffrage and civil rights.

In 1905, W.E.B. DuBois and William Monroe Trotter came to Niagara Falls and began the Niagara Movement. This annual meeting happened from 1905 to 1908 and Ida B. Wells was in attendance.

Though she isn’t listed as one of its founders, Ida B. Wells attended the events of what would become the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, or NAACP.

Read More about Ida:

Patsy Takemoto Mink – Womens History Month Day 1

More than just the first Asian-American elected to congress, Patsy was the first woman of color to make it there, period. Overall, she was a member of Congress in the House of Representatives 13 times, spanning the years from 1965 to 2002.

“Patsy Mink was a vibrant, passionate, and effective voice for the principles she believed in. Her passing is a significant loss for our committee, the people of Hawaii and the people of the United States.”

John Boehner of Ohio said that of Patsy after her passing in 2002. When you read through her political history, you can see just how right he was.

Born in Paia, a Hawaii Territory, in 1927, Patsy was a Japanese-American raised by her father Suematso Takemoto, a civil engineer, and her mother Mitama. Striving for excellence at a young age, she graduated from high school at the top of her class and served as class president.

Early aspirations brought her stateside to Pennsylvania and Nebraska, where she attended Wilson College and the University of Nebraska, respectively. She completed her BA in chemistry and zoology from the University of Hawaii with plans to become a doctor. When no medical school would accept her, she turned her sights to the law.

By 1951, she became the first Hawaiian nisei woman to graduate with a JD From the University of Chicago Law School. She then moved back to Honolulu with her husband, John Francis Mink, and their daughter Gwendolyn.

The discrimination still followed her, only this time it was due to her interracial marriage. Finding no luck getting a job in a law firm, Patsy began a private law practice and worked as lecturer in business law at her alma mater, the University of Hawaii.

In 1954, Patsy founded the Oahu Young Democrats and was working as an attorney for Hawaii’s house of representatives. One year later, she was elected to join them and served there before entering the territory’s senate in 1958.

Everything changed a year later when Hawaii achieved its United States statehood. Patsy now saw herself in the only At-Large seat available for Hawaiians in the U.S. House of Representatives. She didn’t receive the support of her party due to her inability to have her political agenda influenced and lost in the primary.

Five years later, a second seat was created and Patsy again went for it. Without the standard political support, her grassroots campaign was led by her husband and relied on volunteers. Later, with the support of the newly elected Lyndon B. Johnson , Patsy was elected and became the first Asian-American woman in Congress.

What she continued to do is amazing. Instead of summarize all of her political efforts, here’s a brief list to give you an idea:

  • First childcare bill and legislation to establish bilingual education, special education, Head Start, sabbaticals for teachers, and student loans
  • She tried to establish a bill that would create a national daycare system to assist low-income households, but opponents believed it encouraged mothers to work out of the home and leaned toward a more “communal” approach to parenting. The bill passed in the House and Senate, but President Nixon vetoed it, leading to one of Patsy’s greatest disappointments
  • Worked to support immigration reform bills that would aid in preserving reunification provisions, specifically for Asian Pacific Americans
  • Helped educate Americans about the internment of its Japanese people during World War II
  • Constantly advocated for women’s issues, including equal rights
  • Her Women’s Educational Equity Act sought to provide $30 million in funds to assist with promoting gender equity in schools, increasing work and education opportunities for women, and to get rid of gender stereotypes in school materials
  • She worked on Title IX to open up athletic opportunities for women

To learn more about this amazing women, check out these resources:

Don’t miss our annual Women of Distinction event!

Every year, we honor eight women throughout Western New York for their strength in character, dedication to community service, and commitment to mentoring and encouraging young girls and women. This all-girl-led event is called Women of Distinction and it’s coming your way in less than one month!

You are cordially invited to join us Thursday, September 20, at 5:30 p.m. This year’s event will be held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel Buffalo at 2 Fountain Plaza in Buffalo. Our 2018 honorees are:

  • Lindsay Cray: Co-Founder & Executive Director, Earthworks, Inc. (Monroe County)
  • Rosanne Frandina: President of Frandina Engineering and Land Surveying (Erie County)
  • Althea E. Luehrsen: CEO, Leadership Buffalo, Inc. (Erie County)
  • Patti Ann Pacino: Batavia City Council Member (Genesee County)
  • Venus Quates: President and CEO, launchTECH (Erie County)
  • Dr. Dilara Samadi: OB/GYN, Buffalo Medical Group (Erie County)
  • Honorable Joanne Winslow: Associate Justice of the New York State Supreme Court (Monroe County)
  • Betsy Wright: President, UPMC Chautauqua WCA Hospital (Chautauqua County)

Don’t miss the exciting and empowering event – order your tickets today!

Contact Eileen Hettich via email or call 716-935-6030 to ask questions or request more information.

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Interested in Being a Sponsor?
Sponsorship opportunities for organizations of all sizes exist. Invest in the future of girls today by sponsoring an event – 100% of your investment will stay in Western New York to help girls develop important leadership skills. Learn about sponsor opportunities by viewing our sponsorship packet and change the world by investing in girls today!

View the 2018 Sponsorship Opportunities here.

Monroe County Troop gets early access to program honoring Martha Matilda Harper

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This morning, Troop 63113 was invited to the Rochester Museum & Science Center for first access to this weekend’s special program about one of Rochester’s greatest advocates for women. Surprisingly, we aren’t talking about Susan B. Anthony.

Martha Matilda Harper embodied what it means to be a G.I.R.L, or Go-Getter, Risk-Taker, Innovator, and Leader. Born in Canada, she was sent at age 7 to be a domestic servant for relatives. After 22 years, she moved to Rochester where she worked as a servant for a minister and a physician, with the latter forever altering the course of her life. Just three years after entering the United States, her empire began to grow.

Through working for the physician and a gift of one of his tonics, she began experimenting with new products that would benefit hair, opposed to those currently on the market she felt were damaging. To sell her own tonic, she used a picture of her floor-length hair to show the true benefit of using her product. One product grew into a salon which eventually blossomed into the first franchise. In fact, the second location she opened after Rochester was in Buffalo.

At its highest, the Harper Method had more than 500 salons and featured clientele like Woodrow Wilson, Jacqueline Kennedy, and even Susan B. Anthony.

Now she’s honored for her contributions to business today and her work as a successful businesswoman and female empowerment advocate in a time when it was most definitely a man’s world.

Locally, Jane R. Pitt has written several books about the life of Martha. On her site, she wondered if Juliette Gordon Low ever visited a Harper Method salon as well as her excitement over her fellow woman’s success. While we don’t know those answers, we can see the impact she has on the current generation.

At the RMSC, Troop 63113 was able to learn more about Martha’s legacy and even read Jane R. Pitt’s works about her. For more coverage, check out the news story here.

In Memory of Congresswoman Louise Slaughter

Today we offer our condolences to the family of Congresswoman Louise Slaughter. We celebrate the work she did for our communities and the paths she cleared for equality.

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Girl Scouts of Western New York Council Members, girls, and CEO Judy Cranston meet with Congresswoman Slaughter in 2017

At Girl Scouts, we talk a lot about being a G.I.R.L., or a go-getter, innovator, risk-taker, and leader. We want all of our girls to grow up knowing how strong and capable they are, and to us Louise Slaughter embodied this idea perfectly.

Her entire life was dedicated to seeing the needs and fighting for the necessary changes. She went after what she wanted and kept finding new ways to change her world. She never stopped leading and pushing for what was right and good, regardless of what anyone said or did against her.

The loss of her sister to pneumonia in childhood led her to obtain degrees in microbiology and public health. Later, her work and marriage brought her to New York where her involvement with community groups took off. Here she joined the League of Women Voters and Scouting in New York, but still saw greater needs. Her fight with the environmental group Perinton Greenlands Association to protect Hart’s Woods brought her into politics.

Slaughter ran her first race in 1971, losing to the incumbent Republican Walter G. A. Muench. She narrowed the margin in 1973, but fell for a second time to Muench. Nevertheless, she persisted, and finally in 1975 was voted to the Monroe County Legislature. She wouldn’t lose another election in her more than 40 years of public service.

From here, she became the regional coordinator in the Rochester area to then New York Secretary of State Mario Cuomo. In 1979, he was elected to lieutenant governor and she remained in her role.

As the 1982 election grew closer, Slaughter was approached by Democratic supporters encouraging her to run for State Assembly. After two successful terms, she made her move into the U.S. House of Representatives, a role she would hold for 30 years.

She became the first democrat elected in her district since 1910, and the first woman to represent Western New York.

Here are just a few highlights from everything Slaughter contributed while in office:

  • $500 million for breast cancer research
  • Mandated language in new legislation guaranteeing that women and minorities would be included in clinical health trials
  • Helped establish Office of Research on Women’s Health in the National Institutes of Health legislation
  • Co-authored the Violence Against Women Act and wrote the legislation to make the Office on Violence Against Women a permanent fixture in the United States Department of Justice
  • Helped create the Women’s Progress Commemorative Committee through her work on the Women’s Progress Commemoration Act
  • Introduced and fought to pass the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, what she believes is her greatest achievement

Slaughter saw the needs of so many, fighting for changes to help women, minorities, soldiers – all of us. Everything she did was in an effort to make the world better for everyone.

In our own Western New York, she worked to secure funding and helped improve our communities.

Because of all of this and more, we are heartbroken to hear this news. She was an amazing woman who supported our girls. She encouraged them to pursue their dreams and raise their voices for what they believe in.

May her legacy of being a go-getter, innovator, risk-taker, and leader carry on through others who see the issues in our world and believe they can make a difference.

Thank you, Louise, for what you did and how you inspired us.