On Monday, Beth Maczka of the YWCA of Asheville spoke at the Women Making History Celebration presented by the Asheville Citizen Times. In honor of Women’s History Month, this event recognized twenty women change makers who have shaped Western North Carolina and made Asheville what it is today. These women are:
Anni Albers, Black Mountain College
Becky Anderson, HandMade in America
Leslie Anderson, rejuvenation of Asheville
Terry Bellamy, former mayor, brought affordable housing to the forefront, was on Council when Asheville left the water agreement
Emoke B’Racz, started Malaprops bookstore
Willie Mae Brown, served on myriad nonprofit boards, director emeritus of Asheville GreenWorks
Lillian Clement, first female state legislator in the South
Marie Colton, first woman to serve as speaker pro-tem in the North Carolina General Assembly
Karen Cragnolin, environmentalist, RiverLink
Francine Delany, UNCA’s first black graduate, principal
Wilma Dykeman, author and environmentalist
Frances Goodrich, founded southern highland craft guild
Wanda Greene, county manager (behind the scenes on huge county growth, school construction, A-B Tech)
Deborah Miles, founder and ED of Center for Diversity Education
Susan Roderick, Asheville GreenWorks
Wilma Sherrill, former state legislator
Oralene Simmons, first black student at Mars Hill
Leni Sitnick, first woman mayor, but also grassroots activist who shifted the political landscape with her election
Pat Smith, leader of Community Foundation of WNC
Edith Vanderbilt, essentially created Pisgah Nat’l Forest, Biltmore Industries, etc.
Beth celebrated these women’s groundbreaking achievements and activism with a toast:
“Welcome – I am Beth Maczka, CEO of the YWCA of Asheville where our mission is eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.
I am humbled to be asked to recognize this group of 20 amazing women.
It is truly impossible to do justice to them in a few minutes, for all that they have accomplished and achieved.
- Each one of these women is a sheroe in her area of work
- Each one of these women has a story that is both unique and also shares experiences among other women leaders
Theirs are the shoulders on which we stand today.
Please join me in a toast – albeit a long – a toast to celebrate these amazing women – our foremothers, our sisters, and our friends.
Today we celebrate women…
- Who revived and inspired our community
- Who broke through walls and shattered glass ceilings
- Who spoke up, spoke out and led
We celebrate our foremothers
- Who wrote laws when women did not have the right to vote and
- Who wrote books when women did not have a voice
We celebrate groundbreakers who built, who created, who dreamed.
We celebrate women who fought for a seat at the table and then moved forward to lead the City, the County and the State.
- Who led banks and foundations,
- Who created schools and guilds and bookstores
- Who birthed numerous nonprofits, community initiatives and treasured institutions
We celebrate artists who envisioned a more beautiful, unified, and resilient community.
- Who reminded us of the importance of our elders, our sacred spaces and our heritage
- Who hoped and created and saw a way forward because art and beauty creates clarity and inspiration
We celebrate women who worked and raised families and women who worked and raised organizations and changed systems.
We celebrate every woman who ever doubted that it was possible, but got up the next day and made it so.
- Made it so despite set-backs, made it so despite illness, and made it so despite lost funding
- Made it so out of sheer determination and sweat and sometimes, just by showing up
We celebrate women who reached down and lifted up their sisters to help and follow.
- Who nurtured an idea, encouraged a hope and mentored a young woman just starting her career
We celebrate women of color who broke the double barriers of racism and sexism.
- Who opened doors at school systems, at colleges, at universities, at City Hall and organizations throughout our community
- Who showed us that we gain strength and knowledge through diversity and increased opportunities for all
We celebrate women who celebrated!
- Who created the Martin Luther King Jr. Prayer breakfast, the RiverLink Float Parade and the Power of the Purse luncheon
- With music and art and food and dancing, these women showed us all what was good and right and worthy. And they showed us the importance of celebrating our victories and our struggles and the importance of just coming together
We celebrate women who saw potential…
- Who saw potential in rural towns, in a forest, in a polluted waterfront, in a vacant lot and in a boarded up downtown
- Who saw potential in local crafts, in neighborhoods, in community centers, and in community gardens
- Who saw potential in other women, in children and in families
We celebrate women who laid down, Woulda, Coulda, and Shoulda and raised up, Will, Can and Did!
These women, our foremothers, our sisters and our friends, showed us the way.
- They lit the path
- They gave us a vision when we couldn’t see what was possible
- They created clarity out of red-tape and bureaucracy
- They saw, they collaborated and they did.
Today we celebrate
- Our ground breakers – Edith, Becky, Pat, Leslie, and Karen
- Our game changers – Lillian, Marie, Wilma, Wanda, Leni and Terry
- Our justice makers – Francine, Oralene, Willie Mae and Deborah
- Our artists and creators – Annie, Frances, Wilma, Emoke and Susan
To all of you, our foremothers, our sisters and our friends, thank you!
Thank you for your vision, your courage, your audacity, your voice, and your wisdom. Thank you for:
- Your years of number crunching, proposal writing, strategic planning and law making
- Thank you for your years of attending board meetings, community meetings, public hearings, and fundraisers and cleaning up when the charette, program, forum or gala were over
- Thank you for your years of creating art, music, and literature, and your years of building institutions to make our community more livable while honoring our rich heritage
Thank you for changing the rules and changing the diapers
Thank you for seeking justice and pursuing peace
Thank you for making a way when the way was not clear
We are a better community, a better city, a better county, a better region, and a better state because of each of you.
You are the women who match these mountains – and you made it so.”