Welcome to the conversation!

Welcome to the conversation!

Harriet Beecher Stowe's (1811-1896) best-selling anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852), made her the most famous American woman of the 19th century and galvanized the abolition movement before the Civil War.

The Stowe Center is a 21st-century museum and program center using Stowe's story to inspire social justice and positive change.

The Salons at Stowe programs are a forum to connect the challenging issues (race, gender and class) that impelled Stowe to write and act with the contemporary face of those same issues. The Salon format is based on a robust level of audience participation, with the explicit goal of promoting civic engagement. Recent topics included: Teaching Acceptance; Is Prison the New Slavery; Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North; Creativity and Change; Race, Gender and Politics Today; How to be an Advocate

This blog will expand the reach of these community conversations to the online audience. Add your posts and comments to keep the conversation going! Commit to action by clicking HERE to stay up to date on Salon and social justice news.

For updates on Stowe Center programs and events, sign up for our enews at http://harrietbeecherstowe.org/email.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

"Women in Leadership for Today and Tomorrow" by 2014 Student Stowe Prize winner @donyanasser

Donya Nasser, a junior at St. John’s University, from Orlando, Florida will be awarded the 2014 Student Stowe Prize college award for her essay "Women in Leadership for Today and Tomorrow" published on the American Association of University Women of New York website. Read her award-winning entry below to learn about her advocacy on women in leadership and her call to action. 

The community and student activists are invited to join the Stowe Center for Inspiring Action: Real Stories of Social Change, a free public program at Immanuel Congregational Church preceding the Big Tent Jubilee. The program will include an Inspiration to Action Fair with Hartford-area activists and organizations from 3:00-4:00pm, and a panel discussion from 4:00-5:30pm. The panel will feature a dialogue with Student Stowe Prize winners Madeline Sachs and Donya Nasser, JoAnn H.Price of Fairview Capital, and Patricia Russo of the Women’s Campaign School at Yale University. The conversation will be moderated by WNPR's John Dankosky. RSVPs are strongly encouraged and can be made by emailing Info@StoweCenter.org or calling 860-522-9258, ext. 317.

Women in the United States, and generally around the world, face the stereotype that has been built up against them over decades and centuries of sexism. It is this façade of feminine weakness and the inability to achieve the strength of men that woman must not only endure, but attempt to crumble and invalidate. Young women are born into this generalization of their gender, and even prior to their entrance into this world they are considered unequal to men, whether it is blatantly expressed or implied. We must fight against this male generated theory that women are weak and unable to think past their own “little universe” comprising of concerns pertaining only to their sex. As Ambassador Melanne Verveer gracefully put it, “women’s health translates into everyone’s health,” and of course First Lady Clinton’s revolutionary statement “women’s rights are human rights.”  I have had many experiences with this stereotype, one specifically while working on President Obama’s re-election campaign. While canvassing one day in a Conservative area, I was confronted by a man who responded to my question, “Are you planning to support the President in the upcoming election?” with a brute and swift “No, and the only reason you will is because you are a crazy, lesbian feminist that wants to steal my tax money and use it for your birth control.” I can only imagine what he would have said if I asked him as a candidate campaigning for my own election. 

It is important, no, imperative, to have more women in leadership in order to shatter this disfigured conception that has molded and proliferated over time. Women offer a perspective to the table that is unprecedented and insightful because of the experiences they gather as females, their natural intuition and nature, and their ability to endure and adapt. These qualities allow all positions to thrive and expand the boundaries of success and prosperity.

Women, particularly feminists, are not interested in surpassing men or sustaining an “anti-man” mentality; no, they instead would like to encourage a pro-women disposition so that we may attain equality between the genders. We need women in leadership for today and thus tomorrow, so that we can move toward this objective and provide our own with the achievements necessary to see their goals realized. For those girls that aspire to run for office and transform the country as elected officials, we need more female Representatives, Senators, Governors, and Presidents. For those young women who dream to climb up the rungs of the business world’s ladder, we need more female Board members and CEO’s. For those that hope to accomplish eminence in the world of academia, we need more women as authority figures in Universities, especially fulfilling the Presidency role. According to AAUW’S Director of Research, Catherine Hill, currently we comprise 18% of the U.S. House of Representatives, 20% of the Senate, about 3% of Fortune 500 CEO positions and 15% of Board seats, 23% of college presidencies, and almost twice as many male professors as female (64%) have tenure. In a world with nearly half of the population being women (the U.S. an exception with a higher percentage of women than men) it is ridiculous to consider that they do not hold nearly half of the leadership roles. Ignoring the skills and traits that they could contribute, women should hold more of these positions if considering the population alone. 

My mother has empowered me since a small child competing with a boy for the safety guard duty in elementary school. I have been encouraged to do the same for the women that I encounter in my community, and have done so through inspiring and remaining active. I was recently appointed to the YTH Youth Board in order to defend women’s sexual health, selected as the Youth Representative to the United Nations for AAUW, and elected Vice President of the College Democrats of New York. However, I have tried to point to the importance of women in leadership roles by taking initiative through NOW-NYS and my position as Chair of the Young Feminist Task Force. I have made it my priority to visit schools with the President and explain what feminism truly is to students, despite the negative connotations with the word that surrounds them. I have also founded Watch. Her. Lead, a project dedicated to encouraging young women of color to think about a career in public service and running for office. St. John’s University is a Catholic institution, and not the best example of women soaring to new heights and testing their limits. Strengthening the Women’s and Gender Studies Department has been paramount to influencing the common outlooks on campus and shifting that state to one of equality and progress for our sex. It has raised awareness of the current situation to all of those that were not conscious of the gender gaps that exist. It has encouraged students to change their footprint in history, and take action for the feminist cause. Mostly, it has been a place for young women to discuss their issues, share ideas, and harvest solutions that will provide success they can directly see.

This is the type of leadership I try to encourage other women in my community to take part in: taking reign of our passions and see them through with initiative and activism. My mother’s dream has resonated with me her entire life. She helped me realize women run this world, and deserve to come out of the shadows and warm in the recognition that is due to them. She can only hope that I will one day fulfill that dream for her by running for office and serving all women, especially those of color. For all of these reasons and many more, we need more women in the leadership of today and tomorrow. 

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