Women's Work: Stories Behind the Movement
Explore the stories of women who share a common desire to be part of a collective effort – serving as leaders, trailblazers, artists, educators, advocates and entrepreneurs.
(gentle piano music)
- I stand in the shade of trees that I did not plant.
I walk down roads that I did not pave.
I drink from wells that I did not drill.
And I have the opportunity to water those trees,
maintain those paths, and to build up those wells.
(upbeat electronic music)
My journey to get to the Ms. Foundation
has been anything but a straight line.
In fact, it's been a lot of left turns
and right turns and ups and downs.
My name is Teresa Younger.
I'm the President and CEO of the Ms. Foundation for Women.
I actually started doing work around social justice
issues when I was a Girl Scout, and I really loved it.
About 4 1/2 years ago, I ended up here
at the Ms. Foundation for Women.
- Join me in welcoming our own
President and CEO, Teresa Younger.
- Building on the legacy, amplifying women's voices
to working for gender equity,
to supporting movement building
throughout the United States,
and really challenging and asking questions
about how do we build a more just and equitable world.
The mission of the organization is on the wall.
We believe in a safer, strong world
where power and possibility are not limited.
- These founding mothers,
Gloria and Marlo and Letty and Pat,
came together to create this foundation
based on the idea that women have the power
to solve the most pressing issues we face.
- Women in the '70s had a high level
of consciousness raising.
Marlo Thomas, Gloria Steinem, Letty Pogrebin, Pat Carbine
thought to themselves what can we do
to help lift up other women's stories?
And that has been part of the legacy
of the Ms. Foundation for 45 years.
It is how do we validate and lift up those voices?
How do we ensure that they get heard
in places they otherwise wouldn't get heard?
And it's not just our voice, but it's the voice
of those who people are not paying attention to.
- God bless the state of Connecticut.
God bless The United States of America,
and we will be strong!
- And when we know that we can lift their voices up,
we can tell their stories, they can speak their truths,
those truths can inform the policies
that need to change the lives of all of us.
Because up until that day, it had only been white men
who were trying to come up with any solution for anything.
- You built a movement and America
is just beginning to feel its power!
- Because we honestly believe that the day
that all genders, men and women,
and those gender nonconforming,
can fully live your full lives,
then we will all be able to live our full lives.
- We're about destructing the narrative
that has been out there traditionally
about what a feminist looks like
and what is happening in the feminist community,
and what feminism as a value is truly about.
- I'm coming out for a fight,
because somebody's gotta fight
for those who can't fight for themselves,
and I should be so fortunate to be that person.
We all should be that person.
Be the kind of woman that when your feet
hit the ground in the morning,
the Devil says, oh ****, she's up.
- We are just getting started!
- The pendulum is starting to swing
in the other direction for women,
saying yes when we mean yes, and no when we mean no.
Speak your truth.
Redefining our roles as women.
It's those little changes that really ripple out
and make a bigger difference.
So yeah, there is such a beautiful movement
happening right now on a global level,
I think both with the divine feminine
and the divine masculine, people really
kind of getting into right relationship
with their own power and how to use it in a peaceful way,
and it's a great change.
My name is Holly and I'm
the Spa Director here at Vasu Studio.
- And I'm Natalie.
I'm the Yoga Director at Vasu studio,
and yes, we're twins.
- I'm a wholistic esthetician
and massage therapist and herbalist.
- I run the yoga team here and help design
the schedule and figure out what our students want,
and what their needs are.
- I'm responsible for all the creatrix design
behind our products that we made,
and all the treatments that happen in our spa.
- And another passion of mine is community outreach,
so figuring out how we can take Vasu
as a studio within four walls and really impact Hartford.
I think sometimes people get really overwhelmed
when they take a bird's eye view of all the things
that need to happen to create change in this world,
and they kind of just throw their hands up and that.
I can't make a difference, so what's the point?
And so really one of our goals here
with Vasu is to really remind people
that the work starts on the ground,
and that it works its way up
and really makes a positive impact.
And it really starts with yourself.
It starts with a conversation you're having
between your own mind throughout the day.
It starts with interactions you have with your neighbor
and how you're going to support them.
And it's those little changes that really ripple out
and make a bigger difference.
- And also, we're useless to everybody around us
if we're not taking care of ourselves
and really recharging our batteries.
So that's really one of our mantras
is live in your light means walk out
into the world empowered and passionate
and rested and motivated,
and that's really when the change happens
is when we're really shining.
(gentle guitar music)
(upbeat electronic music)
There was a time when the world
was a very matriarchal place,
and women were really revered and respected.
And the pendulum kind of swung into the opposite
direction with the rise of patriarchy.
And now I think it's starting to come back
into the other direction where everybody's starting
to realize that we need women.
We need strong, open, free women
that are not afraid to speak their voice,
and not afraid to create and to love.
Somewhere along the line, women got buttoned up
and tucked in, and kind of put
into these safe little boxes and roles,
and that is not where out power lives.
Our power lives in our heart.
It lives in our intuition.
It lives in our knowing and wisdom,
and I think that if women can learn
to kind of be wild and learn
to speak their truth and take up space,
make a little noise, and love unconditionally,
that not only would their partners and families be affected,
but their businesses would be affected
and the world would just kind of come
to life a little bit more,
with more color, more nurturing, more compassion.
I think that's kind of the key.
That's the key to what's really missing in the world.
So instilling that sense of sisterhood
and a tribal community is a huge part
of what we're all about.
And we realized that as we step into adulthood
that oftentimes when our culture, especially as women,
we can really isolate ourselves.
And it truly does take a village.
It truly does take a tribe.
We can't do things on our own.
We weren't meant to do things on our own.
- It's really rebuilding what it means
to have a community and to support each other.
We're redefining sisterhood,
what it means to truly support one another
and empower one another, and encourage one another
instead of looking at someone else shining
as a threat to one's own light.
- Sitting in circle and ritual and ceremony,
and sharing and witnessing and being vulnerable
is all part of that, and creating a container
of trust in a space where you can completely be yourself.
And the more you're exposed to that
in a safe and sacred environment with sisters,
the more you can do that anywhere, any day, any time.
One of our favorite quotes is the sky
would be awfully dark with only one bright star.
So really supporting women to be their best selves,
and to support them through that process so we can
all change the world. - Shine together.
- Generally, people don't remember the people
that do good, but they remember the people who do bad.
If you can help everybody to do good
and give a good perception of women,
then it makes the next people coming on,
makes it a little easier for them.
(soft rock music)
My career started back in 1982.
I knew one of the firefighters in Stratford
and kind of jokingly said,
so when are you taking applications?
And he goes, "We're currently taking applications."
He said, "Get in my car," and we went down
to the headquarters and I got my application
to be a firefighter, something I had never dreamed of doing.
I was the first woman career firefighter in the city.
I'm Ellen Murray, and I am
The Borough of Naugatuck Fire Chief.
It was challenging.
The guys were a lot older than we were.
There were different reactions to it.
Some people took us right in and under their wings,
and other people were apprehensive.
I'll tell you where my biggest problem was, was wives.
We were there for not the right reasons according to them.
That kind of surprised me, 'cause I would think
they would be more concerned if I could
pull their husband out of a fire
than if I was gonna sleep with 'em.
The guys really accepted me, which I was very happy about.
One of the biggest compliments I got
was one of the really old commanders
one day just put his arm around me
and said you can come on a fire with me any time.
I prefer firefighter.
I don't get offended if someone calls me a fireman.
I don't like it when someone says firemen and Ellen.
Don't point me out like that.
I think it's a compliment to be hey, guys.
It's kind of in how it's said, not what is said.
I was going to probably go
into a non-traditional woman's field anyway,
so when the fire department came up,
it became such a challenge for me
that I put everything into it.
When I first came on, the gear didn't fit me well.
The gloves were big.
The boots were made for men.
The gear was huge on me, so besides trying
to do your job, you're always pulling up your pants
and the gloves were like two inches too big.
It was very difficult to do some
of your skills with the clothing.
And since then, I think they realized
the number of women in the profession
and they tailored our gear to fit women now.
So we have one firefighter.
She was perfect to come onto the job.
She takes it.
She dishes it out.
She's like the perfect person to represent females
so that when more then come,
she's made a good path for them.
I'd take 10 Katies if I could.
- I'm Katie Judson.
I'm a firefighter for the Naugatuck Fire Department.
People in the civilian world don't
understand what we do necessarily.
When I tell people I'm a firefighter, they're like oh,
so you're the secretary of a fire department.
No, no I'm not. (laughs)
I actually am a firefighter.
- People would ask me what do you do?
Just if you're out somewhere.
I go, I'm a firefighter.
They go well, what do you do?
I go, everything that the guys do.
Do you drive the trucks?
I'm like, yeah, I drive the trucks.
You go in the buildings?
Yeah, I go in the buildings.
They can't correlate us doing everything that the men do.
- I think for me being in this line of work,
the biggest challenge is the social aspect of it.
You're still kind of on the periphery of the guys.
They go out for beers or they go out
and they do things together,
and you're never really invited.
Quite honestly, it can be lonely at times.
It's an honor to work with Chief Murray.
It's nice to be able to have at least someone
who's been in the same position that I am.
If I'm having a rough day,
I can always bounce things off of her.
She's been there, so it's nice to have a place,
just the sense of security that someone knows how I feel
when it's not the best day in the world.
- It's so corny and everybody says it,
but your life does depend
on the person standing next to you.
It truly does.
- I think the advice that I would
have is not to ever give up.
We're all here for the same reasons.
It's to help people and it's to set
the precedents for generations to come.
- My hope is that someday we won't even
have these conversations, that it won't be an oddity
to see a woman in a non-traditional role,
that we won't have to talk
about women being treated properly.
We won't have to talk about them breaking barriers.
That's just gonna be a common ground
that all women can do anything,
and nobody thinks twice about it.
- This huge thing in my life happened when my mother died,
and I became aware of wanting to understand myself better.
And I think that is really at the heart
of much of this transition that we're seeing
in people just wanting to understand their own energy.
My name is Azua Echevarria.
I'm a healing artist.
I have a business called Age Into Beauty
for which I make healing, self-care products.
- My name is Tony Johnson and I'm a creative.
I'm a professional singer who had a shift
and evolved basically into doing
everything in service of others.
I was creating the jewelry that I create as early as 2005,
and then I noticed after a pretty serious car accident
I survived that there were things happening,
the things you can't see.
The things you can't explain.
As a singer, that happens when you sing.
You affect your audience, so I noticed
that the same type of reaction was happening
with the clients that were purchasing my pieces.
So I started to look upon this idea of alternative medicine,
alternative healing, the healing arts,
which brought me to realizing everyone is wanting healing.
And then crossing paths with Azua later
in this journey, I realized she was one
of the first people I'd met who semi-mirrored,
if not totally mirrored, what I was doing.
- It is a mirror.
Very much. - Totally.
The weekend of her birthday, came to Hartford.
I got here, I fell in love.
I fell in love with Azua.
I fell in love with Hartford.
I met my soul family.
I met these people who were creatives,
who supported one another.
I'm about to be drawn to tears.
Just go out on blind faith and still every day
wake up excited and filled with gratitude to be here.
- Tony and I talk about it often
as this lifting of the veil,
what would be considered feminine rising.
It baffles me that it's 2018
and we're just at the precipice of acknowledging
that we all come from a womb,
and how powerful that is that it is the source of creation,
that it is something to acknowledge and honor.
It's a huge aspect of, I think,
what you're seeing happening right now.
I think when people see, if we're at a market,
our things are on display,
they walk up and they're like, oh.
- Yeah, it definitely is, I would say,
bridging gaps in cultural notions.
You made me think about the notion of ally, true allies,
and trying to better our society by genuinely
having concerned care for one another.
So it's a beautiful thing when we can turn
the mirror on ourselves and see how can I be accountable?
There's a unity that has to form
for us to get further in our culture.
- I've always known since I was young,
always connecting to and finding beauty in
the women who were 60 and older and were confident,
who were also willing and able to share a little nugget
of wisdom, a bit of compassion and connection.
I came to understand that we get better as we get older.
It is not a thing to shun away from.
- We're aging gracefully, aging into beauty.
It's such a beautiful journey.
- What I've learned in my life is I can live on very little.
And that for teaching, if I have a stick
in the sand I can still teach.
I think my interest in girl's education
stems from my own experience.
Until about the age of 12, I was a chatty,
loud, gregarious child.
And then suddenly I found myself
shutting down in terms of voice.
And in truth, I think it's taken me decades
beyond that to recover voice.
What I've realized is because of developmental changes,
boys at the age of 12 and 13 began to sort of push outward,
which is a natural impulse.
And girls have learned that they should pull back
to make way for that pushing outward.
And so I'm interesting in imagining a world
in which girls' voices don't get shut down.
(uplifting piano music)
The key will be whether girls
realize their intrinsic capacity.
(gentle piano music)
My name is Meera Viswanathan and I'm the head
of the Ethel Walker School in Simsbury, Connnecticut.
To be at this school now,
I think about raising a generation of girls
who have come to expect equal access,
and to understand that it is their right
not to feel impeded, is really important to me.
More than any time since the 1970s,
I feel that we're at a watershed moment
for women and women's social identities,
not simply that notion that ethically
or philosophically women deserve a place in the sun,
but much more pragmatically, empowered women
contribute to everyone's well-being.
The #MeToo movement, Times Up, I welcome these movements
because I think they're going to get some light
and air into these previously closeted areas
in which women purportedly had
equal opportunity, but not really.
(upbeat orchestral music)
Education is the most profound
social instrument that exists.
To think that I'm a head of school
is extraordinarily humbling.
All those young faces are watching me,
and that everything I do is noted,
and therefore I have to be much better
than I really am so I don't disappoint them.
And my goal is to be as worthy of it as I possibly can be.
The Marines have a slogan, no man left behind.
I feel the same way about girls and women,
and so we will leave no girl left behind.
And teaching those qualities, grit, resilience,
the confidence that you will need.
- Things are shifting, and they're shifting rapidly.
People don't feel represented.
But the last thing we need right now is quiet women.
We need loud, passionate, inspired women
who are fighting for causes that matter to them,
because that's where the change happens.
I've always been an advocate,
so I've always been that person
that speaks up even when your voice shakes.
(upbeat rhythmic music)
There's so much strength right now
when women are coming together.
So much of my campaign is because of other women.
They're coming to me and they're saying
oh my gosh, it's so great what you're doing.
I'm like join me.
I'm Amanda Webster.
I live in Granby, Connecticut
and I'm looking to better advocate
for our town at the state level,
so that's why I'm running for the Connecticut House
of Representatives in the 62nd District.
I hired the President of UConn Dems,
'cause she's a strong woman and it was really important
to me when I hired a campaign manager
that it was another young women.
So making sure that we're raising the next generation.
I think that's how we do it.
- I'm Megan Handau and I'm the campaign
manager for Amanda Webster.
This year I knew it was a really,
really important year for women running for office.
So I wasn't sure how I could get involved
or what I could do, but I really wanted
to work for a woman running for office.
My friends from school said oh,
I know this woman, Amanda Webster.
Send her an email if you're interested in her campaign.
I saw all of her stances that I was also very in support of.
And she got back to me very quickly,
and then I was working on her campaign.
- We're all running for office,
but we're really changing the narrative of what that means.
We're working together.
We're banded together.
The Time Magazine cover was so cool.
And they had just asked for a photo.
They had asked for some information.
So I'm thinking somewhere in Time Magazine
at one point you're gonna be able
to use a microscope and use my face.
And someone was like, "Amanda, is that you?"
And then that Monday, I walked out
to just get the mail and my face was in my mailbox.
My heart stopped and it was incredible
to be on it with the next generation
of women leaders that are out there
fighting a really strong fight.
It means so much to be a part of that.
I put effort into what I believed in,
against really big odds and against a lot of adversity.
That was really difficult, especially in the final weeks.
It's just walking the walk.
If you wanna talk about empowering women,
put them in charge of your campaign.
We were this small group of people
where it's just my husband and I in the beginning,
and we had to convince people
to win the Democratic nomination.
And then we had to convince people
to be on the ballot in the end.
I remember I saw Nancy Pelosi
voting for Speaker the other day,
and she said I eat nails for breakfast.
And I remember that resonating with me
so much more than I thought anything had recently.
We knocked doors every single day, over 10,000.
We made over, I don't remember what it ended up being,
like 5,000 phone calls.
We did so much work and we lost.
(gentle piano music)
This is hard. - Mm-hmm.
- And I said it kinda earlier when I looked at
the rain, and it was dark and it was cold.
And we were at every polling place.
We take the challenge because it's worth it.
And we had to start from zero.
We saw some of the highest voter turnout,
and it was because we activated people
that finally felt if they showed up, they'd be listened to,
and we have to keep it going, and we will keep it going.
And this is not the speech I wanted to give,
but this is the speech that needs to be heard.
(audience applauds) Thank you.
It would not have been the same campaign
if I didn't follow through and have women
at the helms of every aspect of my campaign.
And those women are doing great, actually.
Megan, who was my first campaign manager,
now works for the recently-elected Jahana Hayes,
her campaign office in D.C.
My campaign manager, Stephanie,
that closed the campaign really strong with me
now works for the Connecticut House of Representatives.
Having that resume line helped them get there,
so I think it's extremely exciting
when one of the wins that our campaign has
is that we now have elevated two women
that worked on this campaign into offices bigger than this.
And I think that's just what we need to start doing
is saying yes, it's really important
that we bring women into this
and that we make them a part of it,
and stop talking about it
and just make it a part of it. (laughs)
- I think it's really important that we continue
to have women candidates and women in office
so that in the future when someone's like me
and they're in their high school classroom
that you have someone who you can look to
and say oh, well they did it.
And if I can act like them and be like them,
then I can do it too.
- I think a woman's work is anything
that a woman decides to work for
when she has every opportunity afforded
to her that a man does in this country.
So a woman's work can be in the kitchen
and baking cookies for her children
if that's what brings her joy
and that's what's best for her family.
What's best for her to do with her time
and what's best for her children,
even if she's not with them.
A woman's work is all-encompassing,
and it varies for every single person.
And so our work as women is to look at each other
and lift up one another, and lift up women
in whatever they decide their work is for themselves.
(uplifting piano music)