Every Woman a Mother

In an August 2013 TIME feature, “The Childfree Life: Having It All Without Having Children,” writer Lauren Sandler introduces a woman named Laura Scott. At age 14, Scott decided never to have children. She describes her mother as “bone tired,” working long hours while raising Scott and her brother. It was a lifestyle Scott didn’t want to mimic.

“My main motive not to have kids was that I loved my life the way it was,” Scott explains.

Now at 50, Scott is married, has enjoyed a career as an author and filmmaker — currently working on a documentary called Childless by Choice — and says she is “fulfilled.”

The piece then breezes past a parade of current and past celebrities who, too, claim to relish the childfree life.

“My songs are like my children — I expect them to support me when I’m old,” quips Dolly Parton.

“I had such a wonderful upbringing that I had a very high standard of how a mother and father should behave,” TIME quotes the late Katharine Hepburn. “I couldn’t be that way and carry on a movie career.”

Whether or not these quotes are taken out of context or meant to be facetious, they shed light on a popular tenet of motherhood — and personhood — today: personal choice.

If being a mother is something a woman wants, then by all means, she should pursue it. At all costs. In all quantities. When she wants it. How she wants it. And with whom she wants it. If, on the other hand, motherhood is not something she desires, then she should have the right to avoid it … or put a stop to it.

Still, the article points out, life is hard for a woman like Scott in a world that tends to “equate womanhood with motherhood.” The freedom to choose mother-less-ness doesn’t mean others won’t expect it of you.

Nor should they.

Continue reading at Boundless.org . . . 

Microfinance in America

Grameen Bank Founder Muhammad Yunus

Presenting the first article in “Trends in Social Innovation”–a webzine I’ve been developing for The Philanthropic Enterprise. Enjoy this first piece and check out the magazine for similar stories.

In 1976, while visiting poor households near the village of Jobra, Bangladesh, Muhammad Yunus, Fulbright scholar and professor of economics, realized that a small loan could multiply exponentially in the hands of a skilled worker. Experimentally, Yunus gave a total of $27 USD to 42 Bangladeshi women to purchase bamboo that they made into furniture and sold. Each of the women earned a profit of $0.02 USD. Noting this small—but potentially huge—success, Yunus founded Grameen Bank, the world’s first modern microfinance operation, offering miniature loans to turn poor people into entrepreneurs. Since then, upwards of 12,000 microfinance—also known as microcredit or microenterprise—organizations have sprung up all around the world, ultimately helping 137.5 million poor families pull themselves out of poverty.

This model has grown most rapidly in developing nations, particularly in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

But these days it’s no longer simply poor women in third world countries who benefit from microloans, but more than 170,000 individuals in America.

Read full article here…

What Happened to the Two Women from Little Rock?

Originally published at BreakPoint.org

On September 4, 1957, a young photographer named Will Counts snapped a photograph that would forever pose two women—one black and one white—as the faces of America’s fight for desegregation.
As recounted in David Margolick’s new book Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock, the story begins on a landmark day in America’s civil rights journey—the first day an African American student tried to attend a white school. Actually, there were supposed to be nine, but the other eight were delayed from heading to Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, because of rumors that a riot was brewing.

Fifteen-year-old Elizabeth Eckford didn’t get the memo, and arrived at Central just in time to meet a mob of protesters. Smack dab in the center of the crowd, Central High sophomore Hazel Bryan opened her mouth and began spewing vitriol in Elizabeth’s direction—just in time to be caught on camera and forever be marked as the scapegoat of American bigotry. Similarly, Elizabeth became the martyr for all those who had suffered the scorn of white hatred.

From that photograph, Margolick journeys with the two women through the politics of prejudice in Arkansas, past outrage that the photo evoked on both the national and international stage, and into their own personal stories that are as conflicted as America’s struggle toward racial reconciliation.

Continue reading

Civil Society to the Rescue

Originally published in Sagamore Institute’s newsletter, Outlook (Sept. 15, 2011).

When Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in 2005, it wasn’t the federal government that rushed to New Orleans’ Ninth Ward to feed hungry survivors and bail out those trapped by the floodwaters. Eventually, they showed up, but not before a hoard of “regular Joe” volunteers stepped in—many traveling hundreds of miles from several states away to hand out food and blankets.

America was built on the backs of these unpaid fighters—like the local militia (“minutemen”) who stood up to the British army during the Revolutionary War and who took responsibility to defend their own freedom and care for the needs of their fellow citizens.

Today, America’s citizens are still the front-runners in combating America’s most stubborn problems. According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, there were over 1.5 million nonprofit organizations in the United States in 2009. That same year, public charities reported $1.41 trillion in total revenues and $1.40 trillion in total expenses. Over the past 25 years, the number of civil society organizations has more than doubled, growing at twice the rate of the business sector.

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Indy’s Sports History Set Stage for Legacy

(This story first appeared on www.sagamoreinstitute.org)

In less than six months, Indianapolis will host America’s largest sporting event of the year—Super Bowl XLVI—and take a giant step for a city once known as “India-no-place.”

Just 40 years ago, Indianapolis was the eclipsed little brother of bigger sports cities like Chicago, St. Louis, and Cincinnati. In fact, sportswriter Bill Benner went so far as to say, “Indianapolis didn’t have a bad reputation. It had no reputation.” But in the late seventies, the city set itself on a course that would transform it from “Naptown” to the “amateur sports capital of the world” and the home of Super Bowl 2012.

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