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Women's History Month, Next Chapter
Women Making History in the Second Half of Life
To celebrate Women’s History Month last year, I wrote about some women from the past who made history by doing amazing things in later life. This year I’d like to take a look at some superwomen over 50 who are making history right now.
First, let’s look at some of the women who have won the Purpose Prize, a prize awarded to several individuals over 60 each year for making extraordinary contributions in their encore careers. Note: these are just a few of a cadre of dozens of wonderful women, as well as magnificent men who have won the Prize!
When Judith Broder, a psychiatrist, realized the full extent to which mental anguish is disrupting the lives of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, she created The Soldiers Project to support free, confidential, unlimited therapy to the veterans and their families. Watch on YouTube
Ann Higdon's own difficult youth gave her the passion and insight to help high school dropouts earn their diplomas and create beautiful possibilities for their future, via charter schools and training programs leading to certification. Watch on YouTube
Conchy Bretos developed a project to bring assisted-living services to older adults living in public housing so they could remain in their own homes, receiving just the
services they need. Watch on YouTube
Wilma Melville founded the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation, which provides training for abandoned dogs to become FEMA-certified to search for survivors after disasters, then pairs the dogs with firefighters. Watch on YouTube
I’ve also come across some groups of phenomenal females who have banded together to accomplish great things:
Grandmothers to Grandmothers. Over 220 groups of grandmothers across Canada have joined in solidarity with grandmothers who are raising grandchildren with HIV/AIDS from 15 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. They have raised more than $6 million which is sent to community-level African organizations to support the basic needs of the grandchildren.
Great Old Broads for Wilderness. Begun in Durango, Colorado in 1989 (the 25th anniversary of The Wilderness Act) this group works to preserve and advocate for wilderness. Though they have since opened the door to men and younger women—whom they refer to as “broads-in-training”—the group was started by older women, who still form the bulk of the membership.
Raging Grannies. Founded in Victoria, British Columbia in 1987, the Raging Grannies are activists who spread their messages by gathering in retro-granny clothing and singing songs with rewritten lyrics, put to familiar tunes. They have expanded throughout Canada and the U.S. and many other countries; each group is autonomous but the gaggles (I did not make this up) recognize their sisterhood in the Action League of Raging Grannies. Take a look at some of their songs in The Raging Grannies: Wild Hats, Cheeky Songs, and Witty Actions for a Better World.
Granny Peace Brigade. These are New York grannies, along with friends, family members, and others of like mind, who protest for peace. Check out their YouTube channel.
Last, but certainly not least, I’d like to pay tribute to the intrepid Doris "Granny D" Haddock, late of Dublin, NH. After hearing Granny D’s incessant complaining about politics, her friends finally said to her, why don't you do something about it? She did. Between the ages of 88 and 90, she walked 3,200 miles across the country to raise awareness of campaign finance reform. She died March 9, 2010 at age 100. Read her book Granny D and see the film Run, Granny, Run.
By the way, the now-disparaging word crone once referred to elder women who were the leaders, healers and respected wise women within a community. I won’t take the liberty of referring to the women I spoke of above by that term, but I suspect many of them would fit that definition!