March is Women’s History Month – 31 days to celebrate women’s achievements, contributions, and accomplishments. While I certainly appreciate that in 1987, the US Congress passed a resolution proclaiming March as Women’s History Month, 31 is just not enough days. So let’s be grateful that women are lauded all year long.
Back in February, I was honored to represent A Woman’s Place (AWP) and accept a Women’s Champion Award from Susan G. Komen Philadelphia at their 25th Celebration Race for theCure kick-off event. It was a meaningful and historic evening – celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Philadelphia Race for the Cure. I enjoyed seeing the tremendous strides Komen has made in finding a cure for breast cancer and supporting those diagnosed with the disease, as well as joining other AWP staff and supporters in a room full of amazing women and men.
In selecting AWP and the other Women’s Champion Award recipients, Elaine I. Grobman, Chief Executive Officer of Komen Philadelphia said:
“We couldn’t do what we do to save lives and lead the fight against breast cancer without these organizations pursing their own missions in strengthening women’s health, women’s wellbeing, and women’s prosperity. Just as women of the past, present and future depend on us – we depend on each other.”
It was a wonderful group of honorees that AWP was part of – organizations striving for women’s safety and empowerment, women’s health, women’s equality, women’s rights. It was so encouraging to see women praising other women and the work they do.
During the evening’s program, a video was shown tracing the history of the Philadelphia Walk for The Cure, which in 1990 had just hundreds of participants. Back then a diagnosis of breast cancer was met with much more silence and uncertainty than today. Jamie Brooke Lieberman, a young victim of breast cancer who succumbed to the disease but never lost her fight or her spirit, was remembered.
The evening was not without sadness and tears, but it was still festive. It was still a reason to smile and be congratulated. It was still about women depending on each other, as Elaine Grobman said, and having that dependence met with encouragement and support. It was a night to celebrate women’s achievements – and it wasn’t even March.
There was more encouragement, support, and celebrating last week (March 19, to be exact!) at the appropriately named Women’s History Month Award honoring Maggie Leigh Groff, the 34th winner of this prestigious award. A true women’s rights champion, Maggie’s involvement with Planned Parenthood began as a volunteer. She has held many positions over the years at both Planned Parenthood Association of Bucks County and Planned Parenthood Southeastern PA, and now serves as Vice President of External Affairs for the latter organization.
Without Maggie’s advocacy efforts, there’s no telling where women’s reproductive rights would stand in Pennsylvania, if they existed at all. Maggie’s tireless efforts on behalf of all women – no matter their background, circumstances, politics, or finances – have led to safer and more equal reproductive rights.
In listening to Maggie speak about her work and the challenges she’s faced, it occurred to me how very lucky women are to have her advocating for us. She spoke of a time of no choice before Roe vs. Wade, and how there are people working even today to turn the clock back to those unsafe and unfair times. It’s easy to get indignant and feel disbelief that women have to fight for the right to control their own bodies, but Maggie works in that environment every day and retains her composure. She does so even when face-to-face with those who feel a woman should not be able to make decisions based on her own health or lifestyle.
It’s fairly mind-blowing that, in 2015, anyone should even have to keep fighting for basic female rights, but Maggie does. She fights and she makes history, and we are all the better for it. Not just today, and not just in March, but every month of the year. And that’s just one of the reasons that 31 days will never be enough.
Heather S. Giampapa
Director of Public Advocacy at AWP