What do a religious nun, a professional basketball player, a country music star, and a trans Canadian activist have in common? All four are women who have been in the news (and my Facebook feed) recently. All four are women who have used their gifts and talents for a greater purpose than personal glory. Certainly noteworthy, and in celebration of Women's History Month, let me tell you a little about each one.
Sister Simone Campbell
Sr. Simone Campbell, a Roman Catholic nun in the order of Sisters of Social Justice, has led the Network Lobby for more than a decade. The Network was founded by Catholic sisters and has a mission to work toward social and economic reform. This month, Sr. Simone will be stepping down and taking a sabbatical. She is the creator of the Nuns on the Bus, a group of religious sisters who tour the country delivering their support of legislation like the Affordable Care Act.
Not popular with mainstream Catholics who opposed the ACA, Sr. Simone faced criticism from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Even so, Sr. Simone continued to organize tours for the Nuns on the Bus. I went to meet the Nuns on the Bus in Columbia, South Carolina in October 2018.
At that time, they were traveling from California, all the way to Mar-a-Lago, Florida. The sisters' goal was to bring to light the truth about how the 2017 tax reform hurt Americans before the midterm elections.
I enjoyed meeting the sisters who were traveling that day. Since I was taught by Daughters of Charity and Ursuline Sisters during my twelve years of Catholic education, meeting and speaking with members of both orders made the time extra special. Sr. Simone's talk was inspiring, and I witnessed how they were really living out Jesus's words.
Sr. Simone had met then-Vice President Joe Biden during the 2010 signing of the Affordable Care Act. Biden. He joined her during later tours of the Nuns on the Bus in 2014. Most recently, Sr. Simone offered a prayer for the country on the last day of the Democratic National Convention. What an honor and a recognition of her work.
Former star athlete, Renee Montgomery, is now an owner in the Women's National Basketball Association. Montgomery, who played for the Atlanta Dream, decided to sit out the 2020 season to concentrate on social justice, redirecting her passion for the game to another purpose.
“There’s a moment right now that I want to capitalize on," she said in this Zoom interview with ESPN's Mechelle Voepel.
Montgomery worked to increase voter registration and participation in the November 2020 elections, even starting her own initiative "Remember the 3rd" regarding local elections. What makes her efforts stand out to me is the fact that Montgomery and other players actively campaigned against Kelly Loeffler, the owner of the Atlanta Dream who had declined to meet with Montgomery to discuss social justice issues. Loeffler angered players with her stance against WNBA's support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Loeffler lost the election and in February sold the Atlanta Dream to Montgomery, Larry Gottesdiener, chairman of real estate firm Northland; and Suzanne Abair, Northland’s chief operating officer. Now Montgomery is in a position to effect change in the sport of women's basketball.
Dolly Parton, the country music superstar and philanthropist, recently turned down the honor of having a statue of herself built on the grounds of Tennessee's state Capitol. Parton, in addition to her decades-long stardom, established the Dollywood Foundation that supports many charities. One of the most famous is the Imagination Library that sends a book every month to young children to encourage reading.
Parton was also in the news for her $1 Million donation to Vanderbilt University Medical Center for the development of a vaccine for Covid-19. She posted a video on Twitter when she received the vaccination from her friend, Dr. Naji Abumrad.
Parton, 75, documented the moment in a video posted to social media in which she encouraged eligible viewers to get the shot and broke into a modified rendition of "Jolene" to that effect.
"Vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, I'm begging of you please don't hesitate," she sang. "Vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, 'cause once you're dead then that's a bit too late." (NPR.org)
Don't worry about not getting a Dolly Parton statue in the capital city of Nashville - you can see one in Sevierville, Tennessee, not far from the Dollywood theme park.
Hershey is celebrating 2023 Canadian Women’s History Month with the“Her for She” campaign. The campaign features five empowering women on their limited “Her for She” candy bars, in honor of International Women’s Day. Among them was Ottawa-based activist, business owner, and trans woman Fae Johnstone. She is the executive director of the consulting firm Wisdom2Action, which focuses on LGBTQ+ issues, stopping gender-based violence, mental health advocacy, and more.
Many are praising the campaign for its diversity, however, others did not approve of the inclusion of a trans woman. Soon after the ad debuted, (#)BoycottHersheys began trending on Twitter. Hershey stood by Johnstone, defending the “Her for She” campaign in a statement to CNN Business. “We value togetherness and recognize the strength created by diversity.”
After the (#)BoycottHersheys tag began to pick up steam, Johnstone pushed back at the outrage.
“The reaction to my inclusion as a trans woman in Hershey’s Canada’s IWD campaign shows just how far we still have to go in the fight for feminist liberation and trans rights,” she tweeted on Mar. 2. “I’m not going anywhere. I’m not shutting up. I will always stand up for women and girls, cis and trans.”
(This is the third candy kerfuffle in recent times – the other two were M&M controversies. The first was about the green M&M mascot changing her footwear, and the other happened recently with a limited edition package of candies with female mascots: green, purple, and brown.)
I think these four could become fast friends if given the opportunity. Despite their different backgrounds and occupations, they are working for change and most certainly will be in future history books!
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