In 1977, the first government-sponsored Women’s Conference was held in Houston, Texas. Attended by over 2,000 delegates from all 50 states, the Conference was the largest all-women gathering since the historic Seneca Falls, New York Convention that was held in 1848. Like Seneca Falls, the Houston Women’s Conference was momentous in the annals of women’s history.
On Wednesday, March 8th, Bay Path University held a re-enactment of the Houston Women’s Conference for over 200 students, faculty, staff, and members of the public. It was called the On the Move Forum and was the brainchild of our Associate Professor of Communications Janine Fondon. Appropriately, it was also International Women’s Day and the rousing spirit of this occasion was present in the audience. As I looked around the room, I was struck by the blending of generations, young and old, and in particular the women who remembered the ’77 Conference. On so many levels, it was as if a torch was being passed, and our students and the other young people present were eager to grasp it.
The On the Move Forum also gave me the opportunity to reflect on my own journey and thoughts of women’s leadership. In 1977, I was working at Boston University, my alma mater, in a management position. I am grateful that I was an early beneficiary of the women’s movement which had experienced a resurgence in the 1960s. Since then, so much of what I have achieved—actually what many of us as women have achieved—is built on the shoulders of those who have come before us. Some women exercised the right to protest, and then there were other women who worked silently within business, education, government, and other areas to change the status quo. They are all heroes.
I took the torch they gave me and developed my own style of leadership and learned from their challenges. Often, I offer students and others this advice, “Don’t give up. Persevere. Mentor others. And always be kind.”
March is Women’s History Month. During this time, I ask you to reflect on those women, both in the past and in the present, who have impacted your life. And whether you are 20 or 80, to pass on the torch.