Celebrating [Women’s] Independence Day

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With so much recent focus on women’s issues, I’ve been thinking a lot about the common thread between women who overcome discrimination, abuse and hardship.

I’m convinced that it’s the women who cultivate rugged independence that win. Women that refuse to be victims – that think independently – who seem to always look forward, and WILL NOT shrink in the face of adversity.

Where does this relentless “can-do” attitude come from? Maybe it’s gratitude – an ability to focus on what they have, rather than what they lack.

To build some gratitude – let’s look at how far women have come.

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1920 Women win the right to vote
1961 Commission on the Status of Women founded
1964 Civil Right Act – Equal Opportunity Employment
1964 End of segregation
1971 Ms. Magazine published – 300,000 sold in 8 days
1976 Marital rape becomes illegal in Nebraska
1978 Women’s History Month established
1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act passed
1986 Sexual harassment a legal form of discrimination
1993 Family and Medical Leave Act
1996 Virginia Military School admits women
2013 Ban on women serving in combat lifted

While this is not a complete list, is there anyone reading this who cannot believe that less than a half century ago, marital rape was legal?

And, although I did not benefit from the Family and Medical Leave Act, I’m so happy for working women today that get this amazing benefit!

There is a lot for us to be grateful for.

In addition to gratitude, women who overcome adversity embody a spirit that says, “I think differently, and it’s okay.” And that’s a big part of what’s wrong today is the chiding for different thinking. I wonder if women who blast others that don’t think like them actually realize that when they do that, they undermine the very community of women they say they support.

So let’s have a look at some women who challenged “conventional wisdom,” with their rugged independence in thinking and actions.

Margaret Thatcher The first female Prime Minister of Britain who overcame the “glass ceiling” and a debilitating fear of public speaking.

Katherine Johnson NASA African-American mathematician integral in our Country’s first lunar landing.

Mary Jackson NASA’s first African-American female aerospace engineer helping America win the space race.

Dorothy Vaughan NASA African-American mathematician that taught herself FORTRAN, ushering NASA into the computer age.

Eleanor Roosevelt One of Gallop’s Most Widely Admired People, Eleanor Roosevelt overcame significant tragedy. She is one of the most widely regarded female figures of all time.

Oprah Winfrey Poverty and physical abuse characterized Oprah’s childhood. Oprah actually characterized her childhood poverty as a blessing, saying it made her success that much sweeter.

Erin Brockovich A legal clerk who, despite her lack of formal education, led the winning case against PG & E for poisoning residents of Hinkley, California.

Mary Baker Eddy Born in 1821, she is credited with healing herself of breast
cancer. She founded the Christian Science Church and published Science and Health, selected as one of the “75 Books By Women Whose Words Have Changed The World.”

Candace Owens A young, millennial African-American free speech and diversity activist after having been shut down and silenced by the media and Kickstarter for attempting to create an anti-bullying forum.

Ashley Graham Ashley Graham was continually teased about her weight. She overcame self-esteem issues, drug and alcohol challenges, and a closed modeling industry. Today Ashley Graham is a noted body activist and sex symbol.

Elizabeth Blackwell In the mid-1800’s, Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell was the first woman
to receive a medical degree in the United States. She was a
pioneer in promoting women in medical education.

Myra Bradwell In 1870, her application was denied to take the BAR. She started the Chicago Legal News, which became widely popular. She had a column in her paper called “Law Relating to Women.”

This is a brief list of women to admire. Not one of them stopped when they had personal tragedy. They stepped over the carnage in their lives, refusing to be a victim, and drove forward to carve out the life they wanted. Sounds like the way our Country was started!

This is the kind of Country I want to live in, and the kind of woman I want to be. The kind of woman that shows others that barriers are an illusion meant to show us we can…not that we can’t. In every case, these women showed us that our spirit drives our success – not another person, law or agency. They overcame tragedy to become icons of power, influence and success. They shunned the typical way of thinking – and independently defined their future.

So, this 4th of July I celebrate the independence of this great Country, as well as the independence of great women. Being thankful for how far we’ve come, shunning the victim mentality and owning a rugged independence to define our lives will never be something we regret.

As the quote says, “The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me?”

Happy Independence Day!

By Lacy Schoen, CEO Team Lead, Inc., Real Women Real Success

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