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2005 – 2015: Women’s Voices for Change Celebrates 10 Years

Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D. is a Gynecologist, Director of the New York Menopause Center, Clinical Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Weill Cornell Medical College, and Assistant Attending Obstetrician and Gynecologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. She is a board certified fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Allen is also a member of the Faculty Advisory Board and the Women’s Health Director of The Weill Cornell Community Clinic (WCCC). Dr. Allen was the recipient of the 2014 American Medical Women’s Association Presidential Award.
Patricia Yarberry Allen, MD, Publisher

Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D., Publisher

In 2005, Women’s Voices for Change, a nonprofit organization, was created by a small group of women for whom words and the power of words were critical. These women were convinced of the need to change the negative connotation of one word: menopause. Our first event was a gala that was unique even for New York City events. This gorgeous evening, “Black Tie, No Pants,” attracted 400 women wearing their most beautiful gowns and jewelry—women happily unaccompanied by husbands or escorts. We raised $600,000 from the support of these women who in the prime of life were willing to out themselves as part of the menopausal transition. They were ready to see themselves as they really were: powerful, beautiful, elegant, and authentic, not as they were traditionally portrayed in the media at that time.

                                   

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Above, highlights from the Women’s Voices for Change 2005 Gala

The founders conducted listening sessions with numerous women from 40 to 80 years old and resolved to represent the real lives of women in the second half of life. We understood that the word menopause had become a powerful symbol of all that women in the second half of life were taught to fear—that once their value as women who had the power to reproduce ended, they lost much of their value to society. We understood that the cultural context of the word menopause focused only on what would NOT continue: women over 40 would not be seen as young, sexy, important, desirable, active, vital, or visible and would no longer be part of the important conversations of life.

In 2006 our most visible project began—a daily magazine for women over 40, womensvoicesforchange.org, where we celebrate the power and wisdom of women in the second half of life. We were an original site at that time, using menopause as the gateway word for women who were expected to become disgruntled, disappointed, and ultimately to disappear from the larger stages of life. We replaced the cultural meaning of the word menopause with the realities of reinvention that occur when women are no longer confined to child-bearing and child-raising.  At the start of the second half of life, women can once again become pregnant. However, it isn’t a nine-month pregnancy. This gestation is generally a decade of hormonal change and transition fueled by increasing self-awareness and a drive toward authenticity.

We were the first site to focus on serious long-form content that would appeal to women who don’t want their information lite and who want to be represented somewhere as they knew themselves to be. The founders and the editorial committee who have worked with our editors over the past nine years understand and respect the voice of our demographic. We address such topics as emotional and physical health, policies that affect women’s inequality, and issues that affect girls and women around the globe, along with lighter subjects that are part of the conversations that appeal to us and our audience, including fashion, film, and fun. Our literary focus is serious, with Poetry Sunday created and overseen by Laura Sillerman, one of the founders, and now passed on to Rebecca Foust, a brilliant poet and teacher who is our first named poetry editor.

We tackle sex and sexism, age and ageism. We run articles on highly accomplished women with unusual careers—articles that encourage our readers to imagine how interesting and fulfilling their second half of life can be. We celebrate midlife “reinventions”—the actress who becomes a lawyer, the many women who start college in their 40s.  We profile women who have made a difference in their community and their country. We believe that these scouts—often women not well known outside their community or region—are women who provide templates for how to remain active, productive, and passionate as 21st-century women.

We were the first in the online space to recognize that the years after 40 are the most important in a woman’s life.  We acknowledge the great wisdom and experience of women in this life stage.

Ten years later, I am pleased to report that our organization, WVFC, is still here.  Our site, womensvoicesforchange.org is nine years old and has exceeded 5 million page views, 5,000 posts, and works with contributors from around the world. This year we will embark on a mentoring initiative to show women on the cusp of the second half of life that their best decades are ahead of them.

Christy_Turlington_Burns_Every-Mother-Counts_FounderChristy Turlington Burns, Founder of Every Mother Counts (Courtesy of Every Mother Counts)

Today we are honoring Christy Turlington Burns at our annual luncheon in New York.  She has been chosen as our 2015 Champion for Change, an award given to women who have made a difference.

Christy is certainly a role model for women of any age. She embodies reinvention with her transition from being a successful supermodel to the life of a woman who became a serious student and author (Living Yoga: Creating a Life Practice) while still working.  She is a wife and mother, and is a global maternal health advocate who is making a difference in the problems of maternal mortality worldwide with the creation of the non-profit organization Every Mother Counts. She is a director and producer of two documentaries that bring awareness to the problems that women who are pregnant with no or limited health care face both around the world and in America.  These are: No Woman, No Cry and the new Giving Birth in America (see the trailer below). Every Mother Counts is a major force for change, and Christy has been the agent of that change.

Christy will be in conversation today with our board member Dr. Sharmila Makhija, department chair of obstetrics & gynecology and women’s health at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center, at a sold-out fundraising luncheon. We look forward to hearing about the trajectory of Christy’s work.

Women’s Voices for Change is a 501(c)3 non-profit. This organization and its online magazine have been supported solely by contributions. We need your help to continue our mission.  You can contribute by PayPal on our site or by mailing a contribution to Women’s Voices for Change at 509 Madison Ave, Suite 1212, New York, NY, 10022. You can help to increase our visibility by asking all the women you know to sign up for daily posts via our newsletter and share our posts with your online community. Contact us at editorswvfc@gmail.com for all suggestions or inquires.

We look forward to a great 10th anniversary of the founding of womensvoicesforchange.org in November 2016.

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  • Diane Dettmann September 21, 2015 at 5:57 pm

    Congratulations Pat and WVFC on your 10th Anniversary! You inspire women and give them a purpose to spread their wings and fly. Thank you for all you do. I’m so honored to be a contributing author for WVFC. Your organization continues to inspire me both as a woman and a late blooming author!

    Reply
  • Andrea September 21, 2015 at 3:04 pm

    Congratulations Pat on making a difference in the lives of so many women! We are so fortunate to be part of the WVFC conversation. Congratulations on a wonderful 10 year celebration luncheon!!

    Reply
  • Roz Warren September 21, 2015 at 12:28 pm

    Happy Anniversary! I’m very proud to have written a few of those 5,000 posts. I continue to love WV as a writer and as a reader. You are making the world a better place.

    Reply
  • B. Elliott September 21, 2015 at 8:11 am

    Congratulations on all WVFC has accomplished! Ms. Turlington has aligned herself with an organization as extraordinary as her efforts.

    Reply