Speaker Articles

Reader Responses from Women’s History Month Poll: Women You’d Like to Take to Lunch

For Women’s History Month, we asked: Which women from history would you most like to take to lunch? Many of you suggested a wide range of women from performers to changemakers to spiritual leaders. Highlights appear below, slightly edited for brevity and clarity.

Josephine Baker. She lived out her values and principles with courage and with dignity. I admire her spirit in the face of adversity over time and continents. From childhood, she could survive and thrive, which led her to places where she created and optimized opportunities. She took risks and developed instincts and networks that were supportive. She sang, danced, became an international star based in Paris, a spy for France, and then surrounded herself with a large family of orphans that she adopted. She also visited people in the hospital to lift their spirits when she got older. She is a badass and an inspiration. Rob O’Dwyer, MA

Octavia E. Butler. I have been influenced by her stories but also her devotion to telling the stories she found were missing in the genre. She was known as a shy woman but found her voice and used it to embody the story of Black women. I started reading Butler’s work in the early 1990’s. Octavia Butler seemed to get me and write stories that I could parse for months, stories that stayed with me for decades, stories that I reread periodically to see what else I could get from them. Her writing style is beautiful and fluid. I would like to talk about the courage it took to write those stories at a time when she was the only Black female author writing science fiction, and she was definitely the only author with Black female protagonists in speculative fiction settings. In reality, I think I would just gush like the fangirl I am if I ever had the chance to talk with her at length but I can dream. Sue Hawkins

Pema Chodron. She has helped so many people find their way and improve their lives. She has a great life story. She comes across as warm and personable in her public talks. And if worst came to worst—just sitting in silence with Pema Chodron would probably be as amazing in its way as having a good long chat with her. Jessica Holland

Amelia Earhart. I did a report on her when I was in elementary school. I had to dress up and present it to the class. Back then, I just thought she had accomplished something pretty great. I didn’t even think about the fact that she was a woman doing this. Now, as an adult, I think about what I didn’t know then. How truly amazing her accomplishments were when you consider she was a woman in a male-dominated profession, at a time in history when she was probably among very few women in the entire world attempting this. And of course, I’d like to know what happened to her. Sandra Faust-Mesropian

Queen Esther. She was prepared to lay down her life to help save her people by asking for an audience with the king. In those days, anyone not summoned by the king would be executed for doing so unless the king held out his scepter. Her whole story is a wonderful chapter in the life of the Jewish people and a remarkable testimony of how one woman changed the course of history. Carolyn Pfeiffer, PA

Kasturba Gandhi. Kasturba Gandhi was supported her husband [Mahatma] and lived the ideals of nonviolence and peaceful non–cooperation against the British Empire. She rallied the women to join the movement while encouraging indigenous economic means. Lo and behold, these methods led to independence from the British. Bela Pathak, NJ

Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I am sure that RBG is a popular choice, but she symbolizes so much for me as a woman. She was strong in character and broke the glass ceiling long before it was a thing. She stood by her convictions, faced gender inequality head-on, and persevered. She took care of her husband when he was sick. She went to class for him, took notes, continued her classes, and cared for her young daughter. Before becoming a Supreme Court Justice, she successfully argued several landmark cases on gender equality before the U.S. Supreme Court, where she was eventually called to serve. Even while aging and being sick, she continued to work out every day and sit on the Supreme Court. I cried the day she passed away. I felt like I had lost one of our greatest advocates, and it truly broke my heart. I try to remain inspired and remember what she fought for. Being quiet is being complicit, and I hope that is never me. My Mom is another woman of unbelievable strength and character. She is famous to me, and I would invite her to sit at the table with Ruth and me. Jocelyn Rineer, NJ

Ada Lovelace. Working in I.T., and specifically information security, I think her analytical mind and her life experiences would be so interesting to learn about! And, to give her an update on all we have accomplished since she wrote the first algorithm! Tina Schmidt

Rosa Parks. If it were possible and I had the opportunity to take one woman from history to lunch, it would be, of course, Rosa Parks. I really don’t know much about her other than what is publicly known by everyone. I would like to know what she was feeling and what was going on in her mind. Vivian Bowles

Chef Lena Richard. Not a lot of national attention is given to Lena, but she broke barriers. I would ask her about her time in Boston, where she attended a culinary school founded by Fannie Farmer. We would discuss how Boston was different culturally from New Orleans but still the same. As she had to get each of her classmates to write a letter stating they agreed to let her attend classes. We would talk about her founding her cooking school in New Orleans and some of her famous students, including Leah, Chose of Dookie Chase Restaurant. I would ask where I could get a copy of her cookbook (New Orleans Cookbook) and how it came to be that she had a cooking show in the 1940s in New Orleans that was televised. By the way, she would cook the lunch, and I would clean the kitchen. Maricia D C Johns, TX

Mother Teresa. It would be Mother Teresa for me to have an opportunity to feel her unconditional love. I would know how that feels to let me want to pass the feeling onto others. For love is an act of kindness that can only make the world bloom more love. “Let us all meet each other with a smile as the smile is the beginning of love” is one of my favorite quotes from Mother Teresa. Another is: “Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile. The more I see the chaos of the world and wanting to figure out ways to solve issues, the deeper I feel I fall into the hole. Let’s maybe switch gears and focus on love instead of issues. Love, to me, is a universal law; it can dissolve issues and melt everything into more love. Yihsing Pan, PA

Harriet Tubman. Harriet Tubman refused to ignore the fire and light that lived in her. Well-knowing that she could be killed at any moment for her actions, she continued to follow her life’s mission and purpose, leading hundreds of thousands of slaves to freedom. Harriet Tubman represented the type of “hard-headedness” and “good trouble” that could only be poured into one’s unrelenting spirit by the wholly Divine himself. How did she find the courage to push on despite “man’s” law? How did she know who she could and could not trust? How did she first realize her life’s mission and figure out the first steps to take to set her precarious, life-long success in motion? These are the things I would ask. LeKisha McKinley


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