What a day to celebrate!! For those of you who haven’t already heard through social media, friends, or your chosen news platform, TODAY is International Women’s Day. It’s a special day to celebrate all of the wonderful females in our lives. According to the International Women’s Day website, this year’s theme is #balanceforbetter. They claim this theme is “a call-to-action for driving gender balance across the world” and ask “How will you help make a difference?”
Today, I would like to honor several of the women who have had a particularly strong impact on my life and have undeniably made a difference in their own respects. Some of these women I have known for my entire life, a few I’ve only come to know in the past couple of years, and some I’ve never met but feel deeply connected to through what they’ve chosen to share with the world. I hope you also have many lovely, powerful, brave, smashing, hardworking, and purposeful women in your life who aid in making it full.
My Grandmothers, Kitty Duncan and Carla Jones
I thought I’d begin by commending the two matriarchs of my family tree. Gratefully, I have two grandmothers, alive and well. My paternal grandmother, Kitty Duncan, is the epitome of a badass. After her husband passed away too soon, she raised my Dad and his siblings as a single mother. She decided to move out and live alone on a ranch in Colorado when she was in her mid-fifties, largely because she “wanted her grandchildren to experience American Wildlife.” My Grandmother Kitty was a minimalist before it was cool, she is a self-trained Michelin Star chef, a fashionista, avid yogi, and one of the most resilient women I’ve ever met.
My maternal grandmother, Carla Jones, is the ultimate nurturer. She makes entertaining a large crowd seem effortless and she would make any and all sacrifices for her family. She taught me how to sew and knit and would always set up a craft table for me and my siblings when we went to her house in Kentucky to visit.
Both of my grandmothers have aged beautifully. They’ve chosen to accept and avoid altering the natural process of getting older. Despite societal pressures for camouflaging signs of aging, each of my grandmothers has embraced their silver hair and wrinkles. In my opinion, they are more beautiful for it. Their acceptance of the changing of their own bodies, makes me feel more confident in my own.
I had the pleasure of working with Cara throughout my four years at DePauw. I remember entering her office as a first-year class senator when she was the first-year dean and was completely intimidated. She has an assertive presence though her heart quickly reveals itself on her sleeve. Cara meets people within their level of comfort and continuously pushes them to reach for higher levels of greatness. She appreciates and honors diversity in identity and sees the good in every individual. I have never met someone who is more loyal in their personal and professional relationships. Cara holds herself to the highest standards when it comes to respecting others and herself. I could spend hours making lists of the qualities that I admire in her, one I’d like to highlight in this post is Cara’s amazing listening abilities. She actively listens in every conversation, regardless of its “importance”. Through this gift, she makes all who surround her feel important. My gratitude for the many hours of listening she’s offered me through our walks and talks is boundless.
When I moved to the Burren, I immediately wanted to get involved in the cycling community. Karen not only helped make it possible, but she also became one of my dearest friends and mentors in the process. She models aspects of what I hope for my future. She’s a generous and caring mother, lives an active and healthy lifestyle, and has worked diligently in her career. She is self-reflective and strives to continuously make the most of every moment. Before I joined her, she was nearly always the only female on the club spins. Because of this factor, she’s stronger than most cyclists...she can literally “keep up with the boys” and many times surpasses them. As a single woman, she has demonstrated to me how brilliantly one can live life with or without a partner. Her humility and grace in approaching life’s challenges are honorable. We’ve cycled hundreds of kilometers together and through those miles, Karen has expanded and pushed both my physical and mental capacities.
One of the most dedicated professors I know, Dr. Sununu, taught my first-year writing seminar at DePauw. Her guidance has forever changed the way I write and think about writing. Although English is her second language, she speaks and writes far more eloquently than the majority of highly-educated individuals. I once met with her at midnight to talk about one of my papers, and our conversation lasted until nearly 2:30 AM. Very few educators have the capacity to model her level of commitment and meet with students into the wee hours of the morning when daylight hours aren’t sufficient. When she’s not meeting with students in her office, she is organizing “reunions” in her apartment. She graciously opens her home and offers a selection of tea, juice, water, soda, and an array of goodies for all who enter. She fosters community and a collective passion for knowledge and education.
After reading four of her books, A Field Guide to Getting Lost, Men Explain Things to Me, Mother of all Questions, and Wanderlust, I am unable to find words to compliment and commend her sufficiently. Solnit is a careful and curious thinker. She’s found a way to use her writing gifts to share stories and knowledge with the world. I would love to be a fly on the wall in her research process. Her words are rich in vocabulary, but also in meaning. She is consciously and subconsciously making a difference with what she chooses to share with anyone who has access to her writing.
My Sister, Emma Duncan
Many of us are fortunate to have a sister or sisters, but I feel especially fortunate to be given mine. Even though Emma is two years younger than me, she has always had a confidence about her that I look up to and admire. Her presence in my life simultaneously keeps me grounded and pushes me to be more carefree. I am impressed by how deeply my sister seems to know herself, despite being just under 22 years of age. Growing up alongside such a wise woman has been an ultimate blessing. I am grateful to have someone to confide in that comprehensively understands my background and experiences. I am so eager to be a witness of the continuation of Emma’s life successes.
My Mother, Ann-Clore Duncan
After being a stay-at-home mom for our childhood years, my mom began her own business as a college consultant. Even though she opted not to have a paying job during our formative years, my mom volunteered more than enough to equate to a full-time position’s time commitment. She volunteered (and continues to volunteer) for organizations that she believes in. My mom has demonstrated how to balance thoughtfully raising children without losing a sense of individual purpose. She consistently makes the seemingly impossible possible. She’s unafraid of taking chances, she generously serves others without any expectation of reciprocation, and she works harder than anyone that I know. When she started her own business at nearly 50 years old, she demonstrated to me, my siblings, and everyone who’s been lucky enough to know her that there is no age limit to pursuing opportunities that you are passionate about. Following those passions is what’s important.
(P.S. Let it be known that I don’t think 50 is very old...there is no “right” age for anything...it is a social construct that we can choose to give meaning or not)
This list is far from conclusive. I could write multiple books about how much each of the above women means to me and go into further detail about how they’ve made a powerful impact on my life and within their communities. I know many other women who have served as incredible models for how to thrive as a woman and individual and feel lucky to be surrounded by such great examples in my personal and professional life. I want to extend this tribute to all of my female family members, teachers, sorority sisters, artist peers, and dear friends--thank you for being who you are and for continuing your good work.
In addition to thanking the women in my life, it’d be a shame not to mention the men who also help lead the path to a more balanced and equal world. My father and brother are both supportive Feminist men. They are proof that you can be a “manly man” and also believe in helping shape a more equal world for all genders. I hope one day that all people, regardless of their identity, choose to see all individuals as equals...what a pleasant existence that would be.
Take a few moments today to reflect and celebrate the women who have positively impacted your life. There is joy in the progress we’ve made as a society and further progress to pursue. Cheers to women! Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!