Since 1987, March has been declared Women's History Month in the U.S. - a time to honor the historical, political and cultural achievements of this nation's remarkable Women.
According to the National Women's History Project, it began as a mere week in March per the proclamation of President Jimmy Carter in 1980, but over the next seven years 14 states recognized the month as a period to champion women, motivating Congress to follow suit. So all ladies of all ages - single and otherwise - stand up and take a bow, because these next few weeks are your standing ovation!
These women have profoundly affected society for decades and show no signs of stopping.
In the spirit of this month-long celebration, we at Sunrise Senior Living want to take the time to highlight a handful of women who are making their voices heard and their impacts felt, with no regard for any "limits" their age might be assumed - incorrectly - to impose. In places ranging from the halls of our nation's Congress and academic lecture halls to the silver screen and concert venues all over the U.S., these ladies have profoundly affected society in numerous ways and show no signs of stopping any time soon.
Gloria Steinem: Pioneer of feminism
For more than 50 years, Gloria Steinem has been an icon and pioneer of feminism in America. Before the ideas that would create the term "feminism" had fully crystallized among outspoken women, Steinem began to lay the foundation for the women's movement of the 1960s and 70s. She first entered the national discourse by writing a seminal 1962 piece in New York magazine on professional women's options for embracing (or rejecting) motherhood. The piece quite simply changed the world, and from that point on, she has never stopped writing, demonstrating, performing, advocating and working tirelessly on behalf of women's rights.
What makes all of this even more outstanding is that Steinem keeps going strong in her work at age 82! As her official website shows, Steinem regularly speaks to college students and has helped lead major social protests and demonstrations, such as the massive Women's March in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 21, 2017. She is an indisputable champion for all Americans, and appears to have plenty of work left to do.
Elizabeth Warren: She persists
As junior U.S. Senator for Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren recently made headlines for a protest on the Senate floor. During confirmation hearings for Attorney General nominee Jefferson Sessions, Warren read a 1986 letter from Coretta Scott King opposing Sessions' nomination as a federal judge (which he did not receive) in light of his controversial actions against African-American voting rights. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell responded by using a little-known rule to end her speech, and was quoted by The Washington Post as saying, "She was warned...Nevertheless, she persisted." The phrase punctuating McConnell's statement has become an informal rallying cry.
Warren's act is just the latest in a long history of advocating for working Americans, which began long before she won her Senate seat in 2012 at age 62 and continues unabated today at 67. Beginning public life as a lawyer and professor specializing in commercial law, bankruptcy and legislation affecting small businesses, Warren also held advisory posts working with Congress. She became best known for her criticism of the banking practices that led to the 2008 financial collapse, and helped create the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a federal department tasked with helping average Americans evade predatory lenders, before her senatorial campaign.
Meryl Streep: A star among stars, an "Iron Lady"
There aren't many movie stars who can claim the sort of critical acclaim and enduring popular appeal of Meryl Streep. And few in any era have managed to keep their successes going and not even vaguely hint at retiring or slowing down at 67, especially in Hollywood, which isn't always amenable to ladies of a certain age. But the four-time Academy Award winner is no ordinary Hollywood star. She is renowned for her chameleonic ability to play women of many different time periods and nationalities.
Breaking out with a role in the Vietnam War epic "The Deer Hunter" in 1978 and soon after winning her first Oscar - Best Supporting Actress - in "Kramer vs. Kramer," Streep continued a streak of critically adored and award-nominated performances that has hardly let up. Major highlights include "Silkwood," "Sophie's Choice," "The Devil Wears Prada," "The Bridges of Madison County" and "The Iron Lady." And she uses her platform to support her beliefs, having set up scholarships at various colleges and donated millions to screenwriting workshops and other charitable endeavors.
Joan Baez: A troubadour still going strong
As one of the most singular voices to emerge from the folk scene of the 1960s, Joan Baez started her music career at 19 and is still releasing new material and touring almost 60 years later. Her catalog is a broad mix of original songs, folk traditionals and social commentary, including now-iconic tunes like "Diamonds and Rust" and a cover of The Band's "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" that was as of big a hit as the original!
The latter aspect of Baez's song catalog - social activism - is arguably the most prominent. It's also what led her to meet a young, unknown Bob Dylan in the early 60s and help him get established as one of the best-regarded singer-songwriters of all time. She and Dylan both performed at the 1963 March on Washington led by Dr. Martin Luther King, demonstrated alongside Cesar Chavez and in protest of the Vietnam War. Baez still performs at fundraising shows for a wide variety of social causes to this day.