Mary Pacifico Curtis tells us the story of Gitta Ryle a child survivor of the Holocaust who found her purpose after a long life of struggle and anxiety. Gitta visits dozens of schools each year telling the story of the Holocaust and encouraging children toward peace and making the world a better place. Personally, Mary benefited from Gitta’s wisdom and friendship to understand there can be life after profound loss. Gitta’s hard-earned message: we must keep rising to meet the new day.
Laurel Burch started with less than nothing and built a global brand expressing joy and beauty. As a teenager on her own in 1960’s San Francisco Laurel created original jewelry by hammering metal on the back of a frying pan. Despite poverty, single parenthood and chronic illness Laurel persisted to build a design empire still thriving more than a decade after her death. Laurel’s daughter Aarin tells the story of her remarkable mother.
CEO/President/Entrepreneur and all-around innovative leader Cynthia Cleveland tells us the story of the remarkable mother-daughter team who created the single most impactful personality test ever designed. Still used world-wide by both major corporations and individuals, The Myers-Briggs instrument makes Jung’s personality types understandable and useful in people’s lives. The idea came from the mother, Katharine Briggs, then the daughter, Isabel Briggs-Myers, built it into a reality… devising a tool that has lasted for decades, helping people understand who they are and how to work together. What type are you???
Deena Metzger has spent a lifetime investigating Story as a form of knowing and healing. She has taught and counseled for over fifty years, developing therapies (Healing Stories) which creatively address physical, spiritual and emotional crises, as well as environmental disintegration. Her longtime friend and collaborator, Naomi Newman, calls Deena a visionary and a prophet. Watch the video and witness for yourself — their deep, long and loving friendship is a testament to the gifts of Wise Women.
You’ve heard of Simon Bolivar, but have you heard of the bold Manuelita Saenz? Diana Burbano tells the story of this South American revolutionary, spy and soldier who fought to free her country from colonial power. An illegitimate mixed-race child raised by radical nuns, Manuelita refused to be oppressed by customs of the day, living life on her own terms. Fierce, romantic, cunning, unconstrained. A wild woman.
Gwen Miller tells the story of “poetical scientist” and all around cool gal Ada Lovelace, creator of the first computer algorithm… in the 1840’s! Ada was the only person of her day to fully grasp the possibilities for computers, or what were called then “analytical engines.” She realized they could be used not only for crunching numbers, but for music, images, communication… while others only saw limits, this young woman saw the future because of her open and curious mind. Meet the remarkable Ada Lovelace.
Zehra Fazal tells the story of a band of Wellesley seniors who secretly became codebreakers in WWII, credited with shortening the war by at least a year. When asked what they were doing in the Department of Defense they were told to say, “Sharpening pencils and emptying trash cans.” No one doubted it. Check out this clandestine tale about these brilliant, brave young women.
Sonia Sanchez laid down the cadence that evolved into poetry slams and Hamilton, influencing multiple generations. Reading her poetry like jazz, she inhabited the work and set a style that still resonates. She also pioneered teaching Black Studies at white universities and was the first woman in America to teach Black Women Studies at the university level. This is Baddddd Sonia Sanchez and you will want to hear actor Joyce Guy tell you her story.
The theme for the 2018 TEDWomen Conference was “Showing Up”, and I did just that, by packing my baby, husband and mother-in-law into our wagon and setting off for sunny (and rainy, and cold, and windy) Palm Springs this past November.
I’ve struggled the past couple months to find the throughline for my experience at TEDWomen because the talks were so very diverse in subject matter. I was able to hear about 64 talks during my three days in the desert, and with so many meaningful messages shared, I’m honored to now share a few of them with our Look What SHE Did! community.
I listened to Stacy Abrams talk about narrowly losing a hard-fought governor’s race in Georgia, and Kotchakorn Voraakhom talk about how she constructed the first new public greenspace in Bangkok in decades, one that boasts zero water waste, protects the area from flooding, and improves air quality for local residents. I was thrilled to meet Cecile Richards, outgoing CEO of Planned Parenthood, whose talk included this brilliant quote that I will now recite forever, “If women aren’t at the table, they’re on the menu”. And I heard speakers from as far away as Kenya and India tell their stories of grassroots organizing to provide girls with education and save them from atrocities such as child marriage and FGM.
Many of the speakers reaffirmed my commitment to women’s empowerment and human rights, such as Dolores Huerta, who spoke about the day-to-day work of activism and how anyone can make a difference in their community. Others opened my eyes to new ways of thinking and flipped my preconceived notions on their head, such as Emily Quinn, who spoke about her experience being intersex and the fact that we all have a combination of male and female markers in our genes—research that renders male/female gender a social construct. Ai-jen Poo spoke about how domestic workers (those who take care of our children, our homes and our families) have the capacity to solve the world’s most pressing problems, and should be looked to for their advice and wisdom.
Now looking back to my program booklet, where I had scrawled some notes in the dark theater during talks, the theme for the event kept jumping out at me from the page headings– “Showing Up”, so I figured I’d run with it. Now, “showing up”, to me, seems like a pretty low bar for anything. I guess sometimes, showing up is all that’s required, for instance when I put gas in my car I just “show up”, no preparation or advance notice required. But I think the TEDWomen organizers meant it in a deeper way. I felt that we were convened there to celebrate women all around the world who show up to work, to fight, to love, to innovate and to bring together what has been torn apart.
What I realized from my experience at TEDWomen is that women are at the forefront of every major social issue in the world. As the incredible and diverse cross-section of speakers shows, women are leading the charge to combat climate change, fighting for civil rights, for fair labor practices, and for the basic human rights of education, food, shelter and safety for everyone, regardless of who they are, what they look like or where they came from.
Of course, I didn’t need to go to TED to know that women have always shown up–it’s what we do. We see a problem in our community, we fix it, we see injustice in the world, we fight for people’s rights, we see discord, we create harmony, we see suffering, we provide care. And in too many instances, that work is invisible to the world. This is where WE (you, dear reader, and I) show up. We have powerful voices that are respected and listened to. We need to know more of the stories of female achievement that have been ignored by society. We need to learn them, recite them, amplify them, and lift them up into the public consciousness. This is the work that Look What SHE Did! is currently doing, with your support.
So thank you, Look What SHE Did! community, for showing up for us again and again. Thank you for reading our monthly newsletter, contributing to our list of astonishing women, donating to our cause, and for showing up every day in your own lives as the astonishing women (and men, and everything in-between) that you are. Happy 2019!
-Sylvia Hathaway Chavez
Look What SHE Did!
Smarita Sengupta, a quiet, business-minded young woman from India decided to do something about sex trafficking and created Destiny Foundation/Reflection. Tanya Monsef Bunger, Board Chair for Global Women’s Leadership Network, tells the story of her friend Smarita’s courage and persistence in the face of great odds, as well as the brilliance of Smarita’s economic ideas about what to do to bring women out of this modern-day slavery.