100 Years of Empowerment: Boston One of Ten Cities to Host International Women’s Day Celebration.

Some of the country’s most successful women gathered at the Back Bay Sheraton Hotel in Boston to celebrate century of activism, empowerment and progress during the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, March 8th.

This year, International Women’s Day Boston was sponsored by the Boston Women’s Network. According to IWD’s website [internationalwomensday.com], the first official International Women’s Day was recognized in 1911, in countries such as Austria and Denmark. However, in 1908, 15,000 women marched through the streets of New York protesting for higher wages and the right to vote. Over the past century International Women’s Day has continued to grow in size and was celebrated in more than 170 countries this year.

This year’s celebration in Boston featured a daylong series of eight speakers, including Magic 106.7 WMJX’s on-air personality Candy O’Terry. Former Prosecutor Wendy Murphy chaired a discussion on women’s and children’s rights, while Transplant Olympic gold medalist Dottie Lessard discussed women’s athletics. Win founder and CEO, Dr. Paula Fellingham, facilitated a second presentation. Actress Deidre Hall talked about media and women. Athlete Tamilee Webb covered the topics of body and health.

These speakers were followed by a dramatic presentation called “We Did It For You,” which was streamed from Los Angeles. According to the IWD website, “We Did It For You” was created to acknowledge and celebrate women’s historic achievements and how they affected and changed the society in which they lived. The play is their story, what they did, thought and dreamed, a depiction of the diverse and historic accomplishments of the many women who bravely stood for equality and social justice.

According to Susan Luongo, President of The Boston Women’s Network, BWN received a phone call from one of National Directors of the Women’s Information Network about Boston participating in their International Women’s Day celebration.

“WIN realized that there was no formal celebration of the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day,” said Luongo. “They decided that someone needed to recognize this historical event so they created the celebration in ten American cities and overseas.”

They knew that they couldn’t do it themselves and they enlisted the help of women around the world and in the USA”. ”They approached me and asked if I could host the event in Boston, and the rest is history.

In addition to sponsoring events like International Women’s Day, BWN offers many opportunities for women to connect. They hold monthly meetings from September through June offering a variety of theme based programs. Each meeting begins with a sit-down dinner and features a speaker for the entire evening. Guest speakers at the meetings focus on key issues facing women in the workplace in the areas of business, finance and personal. In the summer, they hold an annual golf charity. They invite other networking groups from the greater Boston area to attend this event.

Boston Women’s Network was formerly National Association of Female Executives Boston, and was founded in 1974. NAFE is one of the country’s largest associations of professional and business women providing resources through education, networking and public advocacy. Nancy Carmichael started BWN in 2006, redirecting the networks mission into business and finance. Carmichael was replaced as president three years later by Susan Luongo, along with a team of professionals including Peg O’Connell, Paula Pritfi Weafer, Kim Kramer and Christine Horan. Since then BWN has shifted their mission focusing on building a regional association of professional and business women holding meetings, events and working with women’s non-profit organizations like Dress for Success and the Greater Boston Big Sisters Association.

“BWN was started by a group of professional women who wanted to network with one another,” said Luongo. “They wanted to share ideas and insights that help could each other in the workforce and daily in their lives.”

Besides monthly meetings and special events, BWN is planning on starting a mentoring program.

This mentoring program was designed to work with non-profit organizations, however the program is in the development phase.

“We are going to implement mentoring long term,” said Luongo. “We will need to explore what the program will entail and how it will benefit women that will participate.”

For more information about The Boston Women’s Network, or to find out how to get involved, visit http://www.bostonwomensnetwork.org/

Robert Sondak is a Spare Change vendor and writer. Robert has a Bachelors degree from the University of Massachusetts Boston, College of Public and Community Service, (CPCS). Robert also minored in Urban Planning and Advocacy.

Robert Sondak is a vendor and a writer for Spare Change News.

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