Legacy International has always been an advocate for the advancement of women in society, and we are especially proud this month as our organization is run mostly by women. As Women’s History Month comes to an end, we would like to share with you the following responses from Legacy team members about what International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month means to us. 

A Message from Founder and President of Legacy International, J.E. Rash:

As the Founder and President of an international non-profit organization that has been managed and staffed by a majority of women for over four decades, I find it difficult—and somewhat patriarchal—to justify what I believe should be the norm in any establishment. However, as a result of the continued and dedicated efforts to prioritize this discussion in all social, political and economic sectors, I want to express what should be obvious.

I look forward to and work assiduously towards the day that gender no longer plays a distinguishing factor in an individual’s right, access, or ability to reach their full potential; to a time when there is equal and equitable opportunity and respect for all. I am confident that that day is coming and we must consciously dedicate ourselves to the process and work required to reach all women in every society and nation. This includes the imperative to educate boys and men! All gender identities need to have a place and representation in society. That demands careful, culturally-sensitive approaches that are inclusive, welcoming, and designed to enlighten and break down centuries-old barriers and myths. By listening to other perspectives, we are able to achieve the first step towards dismantling such barriers and inequalities. Fundamentally, these efforts must be sustained by pressure and action that reflect the realities of this day and age.

What does Women’s History Month/International Women’s Day mean to you?  

History is filled with examples of women who showed bravery, tenacity, creativity and selflessness, and when I hear their stories, I can better appreciate what I have as a result of their actions.  The History month and day allow me to reflect on what I am doing and what I can do to show the important contributions of women worldwide.  

Mary Helmig

Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day means a chance to celebrate the triumphs and achievements of women. It also means considering the ways we have much work to do in closing the gender gap, empowering women, and providing access, equality and equity between men and women.    

– Hayley Pottle

Name a woman you look up to and why.

International Women’s Day may only come once a year, but it is a reminder that all 365 days of the year, I am surrounded by strong, inspiring women. These women include my mom who is constantly volunteering to be the room mom, delivering massive quantities of snacks to friends, neighbors and grandchildren and always is the first to remind you when it’s someone’s birthday. My Thai host grandma, lifting her own parents in and out of bed every day, riding her motorcycle around the village and inspiring 30 third graders to sing and dance around her classroom. My sister Kate, who is raising three incredibly empathetic, fun-loving girls of her own, my sister Mary, who can make you laugh and feel very understood in the same sentence, and my sister Dr. Ellen who is researching ways to combat drug addiction, while never failing to answer one of my calls. I see my best friends: Sonja, who moved across the world to research political economics, Liz who works directly with COVID patients while also raising a daughter, Gogo who shares her creativity with the world through hand-made hats, jewelry and an amazing garden, and Anna who is fighting for maternal health and diabetes awareness. These women challenge my stereotypical understanding of womanhood. These women remind me that being a woman is more than gentle femininity, agility around the kitchen, the arrival of your period every 28 days and even motherhood. These women remind me that being a woman is having the confidence to be yourself, whoever that may be.

    – Theresa Kozelka 

Maria Montessori  — her educational methods and philosophy emphasize bringing out human potential.  Through practical life exercises, learning becomes a lifelong process. From 1906 until her death in 1952, she had a significant impact on educational methods and was an early advocate for education of disabled children.  J.E. Rash, Legacy’s Founder encourages us to study her writings on the stages of development which help shape Legacy’s youth programs.

    – Mary Helmig

What is the most important message you want to send out to young women thinking about their careers?

You do not need to do it alone. Most women have never had a mentor; It is time that changed. The support of a mentor is associated with a range of career benefits including increases in compensation and career satisfaction. Look to someone you respect and ask for their support as a mentor or a sponsor.

When you find success, bring other women up with you. Recognize that you have insight and wisdom to offer that is likely hard-earned. You need not be at the peak of your career to share what you have learned. There are others in a challenging situation you have navigated who could benefit from your insight, support, empathy, and guidance.

    – Mike DuVall

Know your worth and value. Negotiate, network, and be proactive. Don’t be afraid to take initiative and promote yourself.

    – Hayley Pottle

Always strive to do your best in whatever you are studying or pursuing.  Expose yourself to new ideas and ways of thinking.  Be confident that after achieving key core skills, you can move into any field you wish. Be a good team player, always be prepared and people will respect you. – Mary Helmig

How important is it for women to lift each other up and what does that mean to you?

It’s very important for women to lift each other up, but this is not always the route we women take. It’s easy for people to think of the world in terms of a zero-sum survival game: if I win, you lose and vice versa- in dating, in social life, in work. This sometimes leads women to the delusion that if I cut down others, I prop myself up. Even those who are not malicious, can turn a blind eye to a woman in struggle if they allow their fear of hurt or ostracism to dictate their choices.

Some might say, it’s only natural to act this way. But if we look at nature, so much of it does not function in this zero-sum, individualistic way. Much of the growth and magnificence we see in our oceans, forests, and skies is a product of symbiosis and cooperation. We don’t grow when rooted in fear. We grow when we show love to each other. I have been fortunate to have some amazing women around me who understand this point and have taught me some wonderful lessons through their kind and brave actions. Perhaps they will help you too!:  

Spread “Good Gossip”: Instead of cutting people down behind their back, we can mention to others what we really appreciate about them.

Ask: When you see a woman in a challenging situation (harassment, discrimination on the basis of gender, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, economic situation, immigrant status, religion etc.) find out if/what she/they need and if you can do something!

Offer Resources, if Possible: Does your friend need a place to crash during her visit to the city for a job search? To borrow the car for her interview? Someone to watch the baby or puppy while she gets some self-care time? A few extra dollars to join that professional association? A letter of recommendation?

Offer Respectful, Emotional Support and Friendship: Sometimes the most powerful thing you can do is just listen, not with pity, but with interest and care. To provide hugs, or positive feedback, if that’s what you/the person wants. Recognize the person is probably doing the best they can.

Offer Experience and Knowledge: You can help other women navigate the learning curve, by sharing upon request, your own experience. Recognize that their trajectory may be different from yours, but your experience, serving as a mentor, can be helpful in informing their own.

See the Potential in Them: A lot of our hang ups in life, the things that bring us down, have nothing to do with us in essence, they are learned. And can be unlearned. We all have some beautiful gifts to give to this world- so encourage them to discover their own unique potential/joy.

Laugh, Have Fun, and Celebrate Milestones Together: Celebrate completed health goals, graduations, baby showers, weddings, birthdays, promotions, scholarships, awards, entry into schools, and all the little goals along the way! Party it up! 🙂

Bernie LaMontagne

What barriers have you faced, as a woman, in your experience? How did you overcome them?

I was very active in the women’s movement (yes, they called it “women’s lib” but we liked it at the time!) in the 60’s and 70’s. (Also, “women’s lib” was very often used as an epithet by threatened males.)  Now, in the history books, it is called the “Second Wave” (after the suffrage movement in the early 1900’s). Our efforts during this time period grew out of the Vietnam war protests and the struggle for race equity, and  focused on equal rights for women in politics, work, and sexuality.  This was a very exciting time of tremendous social change (especially if one lived in the southern U.S., as I did) and very much determined my personal outlook, my  choice of career at Legacy International, and my bedrock beliefs and actions taken in support of universal values and social justice.  Women today cannot imagine not having access to work outside the home, or the ability to sign a legal document, or reproductive freedom. Yet NONE of these things were available to women when I was born. These changes were fought for and won in just in the past 50 years. (Yes, some work was available outside the home in the 50’s, like nursing and teaching. Not much else.) Yet difficulties remain: see the gender inequity in the highest offices in government, or in business, CEOs, etc. See the difficulty in getting a rape conviction, and the tendency to blame the victim. See the constant war on reproductive freedom, and the not-so-subtle financial punishments (insurance pays for Viagra, but not for birth control pills.) There also remains discrimination and long-term career effects, should women in the workplace take time off to have children.  Still, our society today is light years distant from the 1940’s and 50’s, when women had just had a taste of economic self-determination due to World War II when they first had the chance to work outside the home in the factories.

    – Susan Brock

The Legacy team is composed of men and women from all backgrounds and experiences, but we all converge on one belief — that women are equally as intelligent and strong as men. We commit to do our part in the fight to end gender inequality and to continue to empower women within and outside of our organization.