I can’t help but feel today represents all the strong and determined women that came before us. The women who fought for equal rights and equal pay, the women who fought to be given the same opportunities to achieve their dreams and do more than just type memos for their male bosses, the women who held signs for the woman’s suffrage movement, and the women who stayed strong in their beliefs that we are capable and worthy of being in a powerful role- whether it be running a business, running a company, running a city, or now running a country.
Eva Jean Kelly Herbert, my grandma or Tutu as we called her, was one of those women.
“Kelly Maureen”, she once told me “Don’t ever let anyone tell you what you can or can’t be. Don’t ever back down to anyone. You can become anything you want. Be the strong woman I know you will be because the world needs more of them”.
I’ve never forgotten that moment. I know exactly where I was when she told me that. And I believed that moment reverberates in my head every time I try to empower and encourage young women. It’s a passion of mine because it was a passion of hers.
Tutu was one of the very first female parole officers in Los Angeles county back in the 1960’s. She was beautiful, always dressed to the nines and such a badass. She backed down to no one. Scary people didn’t scare her. Big strong men flexing their muscles in her face- she didn’t blink. She could go toe to toe with anyone and wouldn’t even flinch.
She lived a comfortable life in Laguna Beach and could have kept that lifestyle if she chose to. But she chose a different path and divorced my grandfather because I strongly believe she was rescuing her “self” and deep down knew she was made for more.
Years later Tutu would get a boyfriend named John that she had for many years. He adored her and wanted to marry her but she refused. She was adamant she was never going to be in a position to depend on a man again. “I just want to take care of myself and do what makes me happy” she would say. So they dated, all the way up to the time of her death.
Tutu was progressive. Ahead of her time. She believed that wearing heals didn’t make you sexy, they made you strong. She believed looking great wasn’t about getting male attention, it was about feeling your best. She believed that women friendships were the best and she had so many amazing besties. She believed that inside each of us was the capability to become all that we are made for, regardless of the hurdles and challenges before us. She believed that women should never (ever!!!) apologize for being smart, driven or powerful. She believed that there is no force stronger than a woman determined to rise and determined to grow. She believed in being inspired by other strong women- pointing out to me as a child all the other badass women in her life and encouraging me to know that I too, had the power inside myself to become one. She believed the only person who could stop us was ourselves. She believed women were fierce.
Today, the first day in the history of our amazing country, a woman takes office as the Vice President of the United States. The glass ceiling is broken.
I believe there was a party in heaven today. Women like Amelia Earhart, Marie Curie, Maya Angelou, Rosa Parks, Florence Nightengale, Katharine Graham, Coco Chanel, and so many other grabbed hands in a very large circle and rejoiced together. I know- without a doubt- Tutu joined them. And I know she, and all the other amazing women in that wide circle are smiling down from heaven and sharing my sentiments… It’s about damn time!!