Today is an amazing day for women around the world. Today is OUR day. The day where we make noise, where we fight for our rights as women– to end hunger, end poverty, end domestic violence, fight for gender equality and rally around each other as women. Today is the 100th anniversary of this kinda day.
In thinking how I would honor it, I had a few ideas. But in the end, the ordinary woman won out. Today, at Women On The Fence, we are honoring ordinary women who have done extraordinary things. Five remarkable women, all with different reasons for making it the list.
Here are their stories, and what they teach us all.
1. AMBER BRANSON
Texas Lipan High School girls basketball coach Amber Branson led her team to a regional semifinal victory recently, then gave birth to her third child a few hours later. Feeling an overwhelming sense of obligation to be there for the girls as their coach and mentor, she wouldn’t renege on her responsibilities, even if it involved childbirth in the mix.
Why Amber made the list, is because she shows us how dedication pays off. We often start things in our lives, but we don’t finish them. Amber’s dedication reminds us that when we finish what we start, and stick by those we love, those around us thrive.
2. MARIE WILSON
An advocate of women’s issues for more than 30 years, Marie C. Wilson is founder and President of The White House Project, co-creator of Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work® Day and author of Closing the Leadership Gap: Why Women Can and Must Help Run the World (Viking 2004).
In 1998, Wilson founded The White House Project in recognition of the need to build a truly representative democracy – one where women lead alongside men in all spheres. Since its inception, The White House Project has been a leading advocate and voice on women’s leadership.
Marie shows us why it’s the responsibility of each and every woman to contribute to their own success and write their own history. “If you don’t like something, change it” is what I think of when I think of Marie Johnson. Her work in empowering and training women across the country is remarkable, and one that deserves great honor on this day.
3. CINDY – Mother
Cindy doesn’t have a website, nor was she spotlighted on television. Cindy is a woman who took in children without a home– children who were given up at birth. Cindy is a woman who you wouldn’t know, unless you live off the island of Montreal. She deserves recognition today. Cindy is the mother of three adopted children– one with severe downs syndrome, and two who suffer with extreme mental health problems. One son especially, who suffers with severe anger management and Cindy often comes home to punched holes in her walls. Cindy’s husband has a rare form of muscular dystrophy, and is now virtually paralyzed from the waist up.
Every morning, Cindy bathes and cleans her husband as well as her child with downs syndrome. She brings her children to school, and then, goes off to her job– cleaning houses in her neighborhood. Cindy is the sole income provider of her household. But what’s remarkable about Cindy is her attitude–Cindy never complains. She is very spiritual and has a deep sense of faith. Everyday Cindy makes the ultimate sacrifice by handling everything she does with such grace, all in the interest of those she loves. And for that, Cindy deserves recognition today as an incredible woman.
4. SHANNON – Hairstylist
I’ve told Shannon’s story before, but I will tell it again. It all started at my hair salon. Before me, standing on her feet, making me look pretty for a charity function, was this happy and beautiful 23 year old hairstylist. Moments before, I had seen her playing with these adorable kids. And I said to her, “Those kids are so cute… ” thinking they belonged to one of her clients. “Thanks, they’re my little siblings. A pipe burst in school today, so I had no choice but to bring them to work with me for the day.” Ok. I found it odd, but didn’t say anything.
“Yah, my three little half siblings live me with me now. Our father died in the fall, and their mother became an alcoholic and is now in rehab. If they didn’t come to live with me, they were going to go to foster care, so of course I took them. It’s ok. We’re alright. They’re much happier now, because they saw a lot of horrible things between their mother being drunk and our father being sick. It’s better like this. I love them and I’m really happy. They’re even going to sleep away camp for one week this summer!”
I had to ask her again, thinking I misunderstood… “You live alone with your three little half-siblings? You’re raising them by yourself?” She answered again with a big beautiful smile, “Yes. It’s cool. Life isn’t always easy, but hardships make you stronger and we’re doing okay.” I told her that she impacted me so strongly, that I wanted to write about her. She said no problem. That maybe it will inspire people to realize that women are stronger than most give them credit for. That really in life, we can get used to any situation, it just takes time. And that having a positive attitude makes all the difference. Those were her hopes she said, in me writing her story.
So today, from a 23 year old hairdresser who was handed something in life that she hadn’t signed up for– a sick father who later passed away, three children to care for alone at this tender young age, we can learn what life is all about. When I left the salon, I somehow felt shallow with my freshly done hair. Because truly, life is fragile. And there is sadness and suffering everywhere. But what Shannon taught me, was about resilience. It’s the resilience that I will take away… when life hands you lemons, squeeze it and make lemonade.
COURAGE AND HOPE
5. CHRISTINE MCFADDEN
Christine McFadden was a successful veterinarian with four children (three from a previous marriage and one with her ex-husband John, a former sheriff’s deputy). Christine was just another mom juggling career and family. And then, one day, her ex-husband John entered the house, shot all four of her children and then himself right on the spot. That day, Christine lost everything. Christine said she suffered so gravely, that she didn’t think she could go on. The pain was unbearable. Christine credits another woman who also experienced a similar pain, for reminding her that her children will live forever in her heart. That gave Christine the strength to go on living.
Christine later went on to share her story on The Oprah Winfrey Show. It is said that by sharing her story, she saved the lives of 16 other women that watched her. Christine reminds us of both courage and hope – that hardships will forever change us, but they come as a way to teach us about courage. Christine’s story also teaches us about hope for our own lives– that if she can get through it, then we have the ability to get through our own individual hardships. And that’s why Christine made the list.
So today, March 8th, on the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, stop for a moment and think of the ordinary women you know doing extraordinary things. The trailblazers who are trying to make a difference, one person at a time. These women walk among us… let’s honor them. Let’s join them. Remember, we are all in this together.
Happy International Women’s Day, readers! Today is all about honoring women around the world. Who inspires you? Honor a woman today. Share her story….