Heroines Galore for Women’s History Month

Dear Readers,

Last night was a real treat for me.

The Gender and Women’s Studies Program of the University of Illinois-Chicago presented its annual community organizing and service award to a dear colleague and friend, Aurie Pennick, Executive Director of The Field Foundation of Illinois.

I was privileged to present the award to Aurie, so I got the chance to share some thoughts about women who make history, and why they make it.

My comments follow.

[For more information about Aurie, go here: http://www.thehistorymakers.com/biography/biography.asp?bioindex=1199

For more information about the Gender and Women’s Studies Program, go here: http://www.gws.illinois.edu/about ]


It is my honor to present to my dear girlfriend–and esteemed colleague–Aurie Pennick, the 2010 Civic Engagement, Community Service, and Community Organizing Award from the UIC Gender and Women’s Studies Program.

By way of doing this, I was asked to say a few words about Aurie’s life.

Here they are.

Aurie and I have known of each other for over three decades. We have been good friends for two decades.

But, we have sisters-in-spirit since birth, albeit I in New York, and Aurie in Chicago, into two, oh-so-different—on the surface—communities.

For, it turns out, sisterhood is powerful: It overcomes barriers of race, class, community, and, yes, even early life experience in oh-so-different worlds.

Indeed, this concept that called so many of us to arms in the 70’s–sisterhood is powerful— is what Aurie’s life has been all about.

So, here is my one-minute, about Aurie and sisterhood.

From her earliest years, Aurie understood that she could create her own life of significance and commitment—and help other women do the same—if she worked with other women, if she was a ‘sister in the struggle,” if she brought those words to life, by acting on them—those words, sisterhood is powerful.

And, girls, has Aurie been a (powerful) sister: Beginning with running the first shelter for battered women in Chicago, moving on to her groundbreaking work in philanthropy and fair housing, and, last but not least, moving on to her life as a consistent, (and, yes, sometimes loud), voice for change benefiting all women, Aurie has worked with, as well as for, other women.

Aurie hasn’t hogged the spotlight. She has taught other women, mentored other women, consoled other women, inspired other women.

So, this is, as they say, my “take-away” about Aurie: I look to Aurie whenever I’m feeling tired or angry, because, while Aurie is hot-tempered and outspoken, she isn’t angry; she is only speaking truth to power; that’s what I need to do, too; and while she gets tired, it’s just tired feet, or maybe it’s tired bones, but it’s not a tired mind nor a tired spirit; that’s what I need to have, too.

And so do we all.

Aurie, it is my honor and privilege to present to you our alma mater’s 2010 Civic Engagement, Community Service, and Community Organizing Award.

“Wear it in good health,” as my New York mother-in-law would say.

________________________________________________________________________________ Rebecca


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