Published in the August 16 – August 29 2017 issue of Morgan Hill Life
When I was 12 years-old, I discovered my great-great aunt’s yearbook on a dusty shelf in my grandparents’ spare bedroom. Pauline Gunthorp graduated with a master’s degree in 1902 among just a handful of women. It would be 18 years before those same women would win the right to vote. The quote under Pauline’s picture read, “You can seal the door to a woman’s wit, but it will seep thru the castings.” Aunt Dolly, as my family calls her, would go on to become a librarian for U.C. Berkeley, travel the world, and live to be more than 100 years old.
I’ve thought about Aunt Dolly a lot in the past year. I wonder how she would react to some of the horrible language we have heard directed toward women, some of the worst of it coming from our American President. I wonder how she would help me teach my daughter to filter out the messages in our society that her only power comes from her appearance, and instead teach her to value strength, intelligence, and grace.
But we have had a lot of wins in the past year that Aunt Dolly missed as well. I wish she could have experienced the Women’s March, and along with it the knowledge that an estimated five million women participated worldwide. She missed some powerful depictions of women in the media, with the film “Hidden Figures” casting light on stories that long-deserved to be told and “Wonder Woman” showing little girls that superheroes can be strong, just, and female.
And then there are the women who I have met in the past year. Since joining the Morgan Hill City Council in January, I have been struck by how many female role models my daughter has locally. From inside City Hall, to our businesses, government, nonprofit, education, and volunteer communities, women make our home a wonderful place to live. Some are visible, with top positions in large organizations, and some exist in the background, doing the quiet work that is necessary to keep our lives moving forward. I’m lucky enough to be a part of a group of mothers in Morgan Hill and Gilroy, and you would be amazed by the support these women offer each other. The love and sacrifice they pour into their work is often taken for granted.
Our “Women’s Week” celebration is a love letter to all of these women. Whether you are a stay-at-home mom, business leader, or community volunteer, we want to honor the work that you do, and engage the entire community in conversation about how to keep the needle moving in the right direction.
There is still work to do. According to the Pew Research Center, in 2012, 71 percent of young women were enrolled in college in the fall following high school graduation, while only 61 percent of males were enrolled. Despite becoming more educated than men, women still hold only 26 percent of CEO positions in Fortune 500 companies and 20 percent of congressional seats.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics still reports women’s median salaries to be 82 percent of their male counterparts. (That number is even lower for minority women.) We will continue this conversation with both men and women who want to participate. But we also will take the time to celebrate our accomplishments, and support each other in the work we are doing in our community.
Aunt Dolly was right, of course. Our voices deserve to be heard. I hope you’ll join me as we step into the light to take a look around at how far we’ve come.
For more information on what we are doing locally the week of Aug. 21 to 27, visit www.morganhill.org/pages/womensweek.