VERMONT’S INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY CELEBRATION
by Louise Andrews, Tracey Durgan, and Sandy Baird
Vermont International Day Celebration: 2018 Honorees
L-R Dolly Fleming, Executive Director Mercy Connections; Sue Gillis, Publisher: Vermont Woman Newspaper; Barbara Jordan: Senior Fitness Expert and Advocate.On March 7th, the eve of International Women’s Day (IWD), one hundred people braved serious winter weather warnings to attend the 5th Annual International Women’s Day Celebration at Burlington High School. Beneath a colorful display of national flags from around the world, we ate delicious foods, made connections, and were entertained and inspired by our presenters. Participants ranged in age from 3 to 103, including women, men, and children, a few of whom unleashed some crayon creativity at the art table. It was a fabulous and enlightening evening.
Since the Russian Revolution in 1917, many countries have celebrated International Women's Day to remind us that the world would be a safer, healthier, more prosperous, saner, freer, and more beautiful planet if girls and women everywhere were allowed to participate equally, everywhere with men in the building of a better world.
International Women's Day should be on everyone's calendar this year (and every year). 2018 saw the strengthening of the "Me Too" movement when millions of women and girls throughout the world, and those who love them, raised their voices to say "enough.” President Trump finished his first year in office being exposed as an abuser of women. He announced his misogynistic agenda to overturn Roe v. Wade and deny women control of their bodies. In response, women and girls over the planet shouted: throw out the abusers and the predators, resist male control of all societies and build a movement to stop the age-old discrimination, violence, and harassment of the 51% of the planet that is female.
International Women’s Day is, as Mayor Weinberger’s City Proclamation describes, “a worldwide holiday to educate all people about the condition of women and girls throughout the world.” It’s an opportunity “to celebrate the diversity of Burlington’s residents and to learn from women in our community about their experiences and aspirations.” At the annual Burlington IWD Celebrations, the city comes together to honor the women and girls of this planet, celebrate their accomplishments, and commit to ensuring the rights of women of all ages so they can lead secure, creative, healthy, and free lives.
Each year, the IWD volunteer planning group recognizes three local people (women and/or men) for their work to uplift women and girls in our community. Our well-deserved 2018 awardees are Sue Gillis, publisher of the Vermont Woman newspaper; Barbara Jordan, fitness expert and advocate; and Dolly Fleming, Executive Director of Mercy Connections, an organization that helps women transition from jail back into our community. These honorees not only do such good work, year after year, but also did us the honor of speaking at the celebration, informing and inspiring us with their experiences and commitment.
The honorees reflected on their personal motivations and commitments to advancing the cause of women and girls, whether by thoughtful, intentional design or by simply leading by example. Sue Gillis has been raising our collective consciousness about issues unique to women for over 30 years through Vermont Woman. Barbara Jordan’s followers made up a large portion of the audience as her personal journey to healthy living has inspired scores of seniors to adopt their own healthful practices, no matter what their age. And Dolly Fleming read a poem she had adapted which encouraged each of us to move beyond lip-service to actual action within our communities to support each other in “finding our own loveliness.” Each honoree has been instrumental in lifting up women and girls in our community to the betterment of the whole.
This year, a special award was given (in absentia) to Tarana Burke, social activist and originator of the #MeToo movement. A video of Tarana explaining her work was shown. She outlined the origin of the “Me Too” phrase and stressed “empowerment with empathy” as a way forward.
We are so grateful to all who made the event fabulous, starting with the intrepid attendees and honorees who didn’t let threats of heavy snow scare them away. We’d like to express our gratitude to guest speaker, Robin Lloyd, of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, and Doreen Kraft, Director of Burlington City Arts, who presented Mayor Weinberger’s proclamation designating March 8, 2018 as International Women’s Day in Burlington.
All who came to the event found a bountiful spread of delicious food provided by generous local businesses. Many thanks go to City Market, Knead Bakery, Davorka Gotto, Hannaford, Shaw’s, Price Chopper, and the Burlington School Food Project for their amazing support. Thanks also to Burlington High School for providing technical equipment and support, and the use of a lovely space for us to gather.
The Burlington 2018 IWD Celebration’s sponsors are The Caroline Fund, Ned and JoAnn Winterbottom, and Zonta Club of Burlington, with publicity help from Burlington City Arts and The Peace and Justice Center.