by Elizabeth Hemmerdinger | bio

Not everything wrong with any one of us can be attributed to age — even when you’re 61. Some things can be attributed to childhood — but that’s another story. Some things, like menopause, seem to be about age but are really about attitude. Or so I said to myself this morning.

Look at Rep. Nancy Pelosi, I said. We graduated from college in the same decade. Today, Jan. 4, we’ll watch as Pelosi becomes the first woman speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. She will be second in line to the presidency. A heartbeat behind Dick Cheney! And the most powerful woman in U.S. political history! I’ve got a lot of work to do to catch up.

Or consider Valerie Harper, best known as Rhoda. She just completed filming “Golda’s Balcony,” in which she plays Golda Meir, the first woman prime minister of Israel. (But not the first woman prime minister. Preceding Meir were Sirimavo Bandaranaike, of Sri Lanka, and Indira Ghandi, of India.) Harper also plays virtually every important person in Golda Meir’s life — her parents, her generals, even her grandson — with extraordinary grace and courage.

Not content with her own extraordinary artistry, Harper campaigns tirelessly to improve the welfare of women around the world. A particular favorite is The Hunger Project, which has aided millions in developing countries, providing loans to women so they can start a small business — and feed their children.

What about Joann Ferrara? I learned about her last spring when the local news (local, yes, but NYC is a still a pretty big market share) covered a performance that Ferrara, a physical therapist in Bay Terrace, Queens, created. Among her clients are little girls with profound physical challenges. Ferrara made them pink tutus and tiaras, taught them beautiful routines and found wonderful teenage girls to aide the little ones in the dance concert.

She has had no financial support, just a huge heart, and through Dancing Dreams she transformed the lives of children otherwise wheelchair bound, now soaring with a sense of shared accomplishment.

I wrote a small check to Joann. Earlier this week she called to thank me, and I asked what else I could do. I was grateful that I knew how to help.

Women of a certain age, we know a lot. We know things we don’t even think are important. But we must use the knowledge, share it around. We must help each other.

Here’s your chance. Tell us how you have been active, or how you’re going to get more active. This year. Right now.

Elizabeth Hemmerdinger, a playwright and screenwriter, is on the board of Women’s Voices for Change.

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