A Thank-You Note to Smart Women
How do I write a thank-you note to the women who came before me? How do I write a thank-you note to the women who stood up and fought for me to have basic rights? How do I write a thank-you note to the women currently courageously shaping the world?
I’ll start by writing: Thank you.
I am writing this thank-you note with a hopeful but sad and heavy heart. In March of 2020, I voted for the first time. It was extremely exciting for me. I finally got to use the right that women fought for me to have 100 years ago. That is incredible. I felt empowered and inspired that this would be a tremendous year for women. Maybe the first female president? I voted and picked up extra stickers for the two young girls I babysit, knowing that they can’t wait to exercise this right one day.
At the beginning of this 2020 election race, we had the most women ever running for president in this country. That alone is a huge win. We had articulate and honest women running. They each ran beautiful and strong campaigns.
A month ago, I felt defeated. I felt discouraged by this country. Honestly, over every other emotion I was experiencing, I felt furious. I couldn’t focus. Questions wouldn't stop running through my head: When will it be our turn?! When will our work be valued or be enough? When will people stop questioning whether or not someone is able to lead this country because of their gender?
And at the same time, I felt guilty.
I felt guilty for not appreciating how far we have come. I felt even more guilty for this thought because we should have been treated equally from the beginning. In 2020, I am able to share my voice. So thank you to all of you who made that possible for me and so many others. You were brave. You had the courage to fight against a system you recognized as unfair.
Thank you Gloria Steinem, Rosa Parks, Golda Meir, Jane Adams, Malala Yousafzai, Amelia Earhart, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and so many other smart women. Thank you for having the moral courage to stand up for what is right in a not-so-accepting world. Thank you for being the first in your fields, for paving the way for so many young women to come. Thank you for taking the first and very scary leap that led us to where we are today.
Thank you for starting this fight and giving me the purpose to continue. We have come so far but are nowhere near our stopping point. But when I feel angry at how far we still have to go, you inspire me to channel these feelings into making change. Elizabeth Warren told us not so long ago, “Our work continues, the fight goes on, and big dreams never die.”
I am angry. I am furious. And I am most certainly determined. I will channel these overwhelming emotions into making this power struggle and fight for equal opportunities heard.
I’m not entirely sure what my next steps going forward are, but I am certain about one thing: this is the generation that will create more opportunities for women and marginalized groups in politics and other positions of power, more than any other generation has before. Our voices are loud, and we will not give up.
There is a lot of work that still needs to be done in this world. I refuse to believe that this fight towards equality is over. I need to do something. I am standing on the shoulders of giants. I owe it to myself, the “giants,” and, most certainly, all women, both present and future. So everyone, it’s time. Let's get to work.
This piece was written as part of JWA’s Rising Voices Fellowship.