Monday, February 27, 2012

In honor of women

It’s amazing how much changes in the world – and how quickly.
I was thinking of that when recently watching the finale of “Downton Abbey.”
For those of us obsessed with the British production that’s become a mega-hit for PBS here in America, the recently concluded second season was even more tantalizing than the first. And sure, it’s perhaps nothing more than a highbrow soap opera – but it’s also a very entertaining way to explore how society can seemingly change overnight.
During this season, primarily devoted to World War I and its aftereffects, the narrative served as a reminder of how change can sweep through a society no matter the era. It also put a very pointed focus on the role of women during that time. From housemaids who were dreaming of a better life to the Lord’s daughters who suddenly see their days can be about more than pretty dresses and fancy dinner parties, the characters helped convey how things we take for granted were groundbreaking during another time.
This month, March, is designated as Women’s History Month, giving us the chance to again pause and think about women and their role in society – both now and in the past.
Here in Rockland, events such as the Women’s Celebration Brunch at the Nyack Center honor local women who continue to impact their surroundings.
Rockland County has no shortage of these women, from doctors to teachers, politicians to musicians, artists to environmentalists, entrepreneurs to athletes.
Each woman has her own story. Each woman lives her own life. But, as we well known, from family and friends, there are many common threads.
These are the things that make us laugh together, plan together and sometimes, cry together.
The connection is sometimes what helps you get through the day. It’s not about discounting the contributions or importance of men in the world (we wouldn’t want to be without them), but sometimes, all you need is a word with your mother, sister, daughter or best friend to get you through.
Our new series, “Ladies’ Night: The Maria Luisa Way,” is tapping into that very concept.
It was evident during our very first gathering that women whose lives take them to very different places (jobs, schools or at home raising children) all came together in the lower-level gallery of ML Gifts and easily bonded. There was thoughtful discussion, acquaintances made and yes, even though we had a few gentlemen guests in the room, there was a very strong sense of female accomplishment – who met at which awards ceremony, who worked on which committee together, whose business was helping another woman’s to grow, etc.
Here in Rockland, we can readily look to those who’ve made a name for themselves, some even steps away from the Maria Luisa shops themselves. Think of famed actress Helen Hayes, who long made her home on Broadway, to evocative author Carson McCullers, whose onetime home was also on Broadway though in the other direction. These are just two of hundreds, if not more.
Celebrating the accomplishments of women can only help spur more achievements.
Having spent some time on the Women’s History Month website (, I learned that today, organizations including The Library of Congress, the National Archives and Records Administration, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Gallery of Art, the National Park Service, the Smithsonian Institution and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum have banded together to continue to offer programs, exhibits and more “paying tribute to the generations of women whose commitment to nature and the planet have proved invaluable to society.”
The site, which welcomes you with a charming photo of Amelia Earhart and tells you its mission is to foster “learning about women’s tenacity, courage and creativity through the centuries,” goes on to give a bit of background about the month.
It seems that before the 1970s, women’s history was not a topic given much attention. A Women’s History Week was introduced in 1978 in California, built around International Women’s Day (March 8). By 1981, Congress had officially recognized the week and in 1987, it was expanded to the monthlong celebration that continues to today.
That’s the summarized version; there’s the proverbial “wealth of information” found throughout the site and its links, so why not spend some time there yourself?
You might even be inspired by this year’s theme for Women’s History Month: “Our History is Our Strength.”
Perhaps you’ll take a moment to reflect on your own history as it relates not only to you but also to your family and those you know.
Maybe even think of a teacher who made an impact on you or a boss you had early on who gave you the chance to prove yourself, each imparting lessons that remained with you for decades.
Remember those feelings – and pass them on to another young woman this month to keep the history alive.
– Mary Shustack

Newsletter Editor
Maria Luisa Boutique / ML Gifts & Accessories

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