by Laura Sillerman 

January is the customary time for restating intentions and revisiting missions. Figuratively and literally, we open the closet doors and rearrange things according to some plan or organizing principle that seems to make sense.

As we open the metaphorical cabinets of Women’s Voices for Change, we revisit our mission: to revolutionize the meaning and perception of menopause in the 21st century.

All of us who remember the early days of the organization and the zeal with which we embraced this undertaking recall the words of Faith Childs as a fire lit in her eyes, "We have done this before. We can do this again." Many of us were goners from that moment on, seduced and captured by the vision of once again marching for the rights of others, and chanting in protest against injustices we would put to rest forever.

But as 2007 opens and WVFC re-commits itself to insisting that women be recognized as vital, viable, versatile and vivacious throughout their lives, we must recognize that we are not of one generation and the memories some of us hold dear are experiences others had from a distance and some of us did not have at all. This year’s 45 year old was born in 1962. She was only 1 at the time of the "I Have a Dream Speech" and 13 when we marched out of Saigon. Ms. Magazine’s first issue appeared when she was 10.

Likewise, the 72-year-old who stands next to me in yoga class was 32 when I was marching in protest of the Vietnam War — caught up in the needs of her young children and remembering clearly the elation of VJ Day. Her history is not mine, and my passionate political moments are not hers.

Yet, we are together now.

We are the women of the menopausal transition, the force that needs to be recognized and the sisterhood demanding our own reckoning. We are a cross-generational affinity group; therein is our challenge and our magic.

Our methodology will not be the same. The brash in-your-face techniques of the ERA fight are mythology for the younger of us and mysterious to those who are older. The MBA precision in the procedures of our younger sisters is akin to an ice skating triple axel to those of us who wore headbands and flowers in our hair. 

Put these differences together, though, and you have a strategic powerhouse, made up of sure-fire and effective paradigms that worked at different times in history. If making history is what we are about (and make no mistake that is precisely what we are about), having as many stewards of as many historic moments as we do is going to be what gets that history made. 

Get out your tools and burnish up your memories — of marching or brainstorming, of telephone party lines or Case Study study groups. Let’s start this year by planning some ways to make WVFC known and to make known what we stand for. Gray matter matters much more than gray hairs. We’re not a generation, but we are a generator of change. Let’s use our brains and our recollections to revolutionize the way the world views us.

Laura Baudo Sillerman, an author and poet, is president of a New York City-based charitable foundation.

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  • Dr. Pat Allen January 10, 2007 at 12:51 am

    Such a marvelous statement of who we are and the power that comes from mixing the generations of the New Menopause.
    WVFC is certainly lucky to have you as a founder. You know instinctively how to help us see what is possible and how to give us a template for action and vision just when we need it most.

  • michelle January 9, 2007 at 1:50 pm

    I just stumbled onto the site, but I wanted to say that I really appreciate your recognition of the diversity of “older women.” Too many stereotypes exist that just ignore our differences and lump as together as inactive and ineffectual. As you say, we should be celebrating our diversity as our strength.

  • Faith Childs January 9, 2007 at 10:12 am

    What a call to arms, Laura! I want to stand up and cheer and yell, “Count me in, and don’t start the revolution without me.” You’ve pointed us toward our North Star.

  • Elizabeth Hemmerdinger January 8, 2007 at 10:01 am

    Right on, Laura. Love all those new V-words associated with grey matter. Elizabeth