March is Women’s History Month and March 8 is International Women’s Day.
The first time I celebrated Women’s History it was a Week ( as opposed to a Month) and culminated on March 8. This was in 1982 when I was executive director of the first Commission for Women established by former Philadelphia Mayor William J. Green, Jr. We kicked off the celebration with the first Women’s Festival which was held at The Bouse, an historic landmark stretching between 4th and 5th Streets and catty-corner from Independence Hall. All of the women’s groups had booths promoting their causes and there were prominent women speakers interspersed with dance and musical performances on stage. It was a splendid occasion, one which I’ll never forget. During the week other events took place such as honoring Dr. Ruth Patrick, a preeminent ecologist at the Academy of Natural Sciences, credited with pioneering research on water pollution. The week-long observance of women past and present was one of the highlights of the City’s year-long commemoration of Willian Penn’s landing in Philadelphia and founding of Pennsylvania in 1682.
During my four-year tenure at the Commission we instigated improvements to the status of girls and women through initiatives carried out by the government. The Police department established a rape investigation unit (as it was called then) and a unit for domestic violence offenses; these were groundbreaking developments especially following the Rizzo administration. All department managers received training regarding sexual harassment and legislation was passed giving women and minority owned businesses preference in the award of City contracts. The Women’s Commission submitted names for Cabinet and other top appointments and influenced the Mayor’s pick of the first female City Solicitor.
The eighties were exhilarating times for the women’s movement locally and nationally. The Commission membership was representative of every sector and included well-known leaders of the community – the Reverend Repsie Warren, Bertha Brown, Rosemarie Greco, Ruth Wells, Marta Diaz, Anne Hearn, Cecelia Yep, and the Honorable Marion B. Tasco. I also got to know feminist icons like Gloria Steinem, Esther Rolle, and Eleanor Smeal through my work on the campaign to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. It was a transformational period of my life, instilling the strong principles and passion that I’ve carried with me throughout my career.
From positions in academia, hospitals, and human service organizations, I have always sought to empower the disenfranchised and ensure equal treatment and protection of all. My seven years at Carson Valley Children’s Aid have been no exception to an intentional quest for social change. Hillary Rodham Clinton as First Lady famously declared in 1995 at the United Nations World Conference on Women in Beijing, “..human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights..” CVCA’s mission is most compelling and potentially impactful for individuals served, especially our youth who are supported in achieving their goals for success in life. The staff and volunteers at CVCA truly make a difference and it is a privilege to be associated with this organization and its legacy.
Diane Kiddy, MSS
Chief Executive Officer
Carson Valley Children's Aid