The Extraordinary Everyday Woman
By Nicole Spiegel‒Gotsch
What does it mean to celebrate Women’s History Month? I have to admit I was a little stumped when I sat down to write this post. Not because I didn’t have any ideas, but because I was flooded with them. Historical figures, celebrities, artists, writers and even fictional characters came to mind. Um, hello? Anyone else remember the X-Men issue where Storm was named leader of the Morlocks AND the X-Men? Don’t even get me started about Lizzo on the cover of People magazine!
And, while I’m proud to have witnessed Kamala Harris become our first female vice president, ultimately, it’s the women I know personally who stand out in my mind’s eye. Everyday women who lead, innovate and create even as they balance being working moms, caregivers, sisters, friends and wives. Women like my abuela. Born in 1913 in Puerto Rico, she lost her eye as an infant due to a fire. This didn’t prevent her years later from keeping inebriated patrons of her sister’s restaurant in line from atop horseback with a gun on her hip. Nor, despite suddenly being struck deaf at age 50, did it prevent her from successfully raising five children in Spanish Harlem.
Or, like my mom, making the two hour trip on the Q14 bus, to the number 7 train, to the Long Island Rail Road to attend graduate classes at C. W. Post—all with her toddler (me) in tow. I remember sitting on the classroom floor beside her desk doodling and coloring until class ended and we made the long trip home, where she’d cook dinner and do lesson plans late into the night. She’d go on to become an educator known for advocating for children.
In my daily work as a consultant, meeting and speaking with female founders, I’m continually inspired by the intellect, heart and drive of the women I come into contact with. For example, the entrepreneur building her startup while raising three young boys, or the founder battling chronic illness. To list them all here would easily exceed my maximum word count.
Let’s not forget the women teachers and advisors, like Louise Yelin, my college professor and advisor whose words, “you can do anything,” have carried me through many tough times. Or, the mentors and managers: Jean Morley, who taught me the value of pushing back; Anita Fowler, who taught me strength, diplomacy, confidence, curiosity, empathy and ambition by modeling it; or Alice Rodd O’Rourke, who saw my potential, gave me room to grow and encouraged me to do so. And of course—the friends, peers and women I haven’t even met yet whose openness and generosity form a collective sisterhood to draw on and give back to, like the women of New York Women in Communications.
Underestimated, undervalued and frequently unrecognized, sisters, this is my tribute to you. Happy Women’s History Month.