2020! What a year to be a woman! In the United States we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment that granted the vote to women and unleashed huge social change in America and societies around the world.
As I have listened to much of the hype surrounding this notable anniversary, I have found myself thinking that although I am grateful for my political voice, I know in my soul that women have been the heart and lifeblood of the family and communities for many generations prior to 1920.
I am new to the world of Big Ocean Women, but I have spent a fair amount of time wading in the waters of feminism and women’s issues. I strongly believe that women need to support each other and that we achieve success when we do so. This month’s tenet “We work in partnerships with our global sisters to create generative solutions” is one that rings so true to me. I think that the most authentic growth and sustainable change and improvement in this world comes about through organic and shared experiences. Many times, these experiences begin in small ways, or in small communities. They address needs that exist in individual families or small groups.
I wanted to share with you today the work of a foundation that I have had the privilege of working with over the last year: The Stella H. Oaks Foundation. Its mission is to lift single mothers and their children out of poverty through education.
There is an African proverb that says, “If you educate a man, you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman, you educate a nation.”
Stella H. Oaks found herself a young widow in 1940 with three young children. Ultimately, she decided to leave them with her parents in Utah to attend Columbia University in New York City to begin studies towards a master’s degree. After a great deal of difficulty and many setbacks, she completed her Master of Guidance and Personnel Administration in August 1946. With her degree in hand, she went on to help students who had not finished high school to complete equivalency certification and obtain better employment opportunities.
Stella was active in community activities and was an advocate for mental health initiatives including the formation of the Child Guidance Clinic in Provo, Utah to help children with psychological difficulties. She was elected to the Provo City Council and served as assistant mayor. She worked tirelessly for senior citizen causes as well.
It would have been easy, even understandable, for Stella, a young widow, to focus solely on improving her own situation. But as is so often the case, not only did she lift her own family through her education, she brought others in her community along. She was a force for positive and sustainable change. As you can see, what started as a personal need, started a ripple that turned into a wave that is still being felt by the generations of today. The Stella H. Oaks Foundation has given over 500 scholarships to single mothers. There are no limits on the impacts that will be felt through the generations of children raised by these mothers; their societal and geographical impact is infinite and unknown. What we can be sure of, however, is that the lessons of hard work, sacrifice, support, love and partnership will permeate all these outcomes. As these women and their children work together in their homes, their communities and the world at large, they will seek and find solutions that serve the greater good.