Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Iron Ladies

Ever since my childhood, I adored Margaret Thatcher.  As a girl growing up in the 1980s, it was fantastic to watch the evening news and see a woman who was a world leader.  My grandfather was a staunch Republican; his support for Reagan & Thatcher -- and his opposition to communism -- was a major influence on me.  When I learned that Margaret Thatcher and I shared a birthday (10/13), it further cemented my view that we were kindred spirits.  The death of Baroness Thatcher feels like a closing of my childhood, now that Reagan, John Paul II, and Thatcher have all passed on.

At the beginning of April, I had the pleasure of attending one of the meetings of the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation Board.  It has been an honor to represent Delaware, Franklin, Madison, and Union Counties, and now that I am in my second year I have gained a greater understanding of the operations of this board.  Amongst the many reports that came before the board at this session was a discussion of recommendations for the evolution of American Farm Bureau as an organization.  At a recent conference of Young Farmers & Ranchers, one of the top recommendations that emerged to streamline the organization was to discontinue the Women's Committee of American Farm Bureau.

Over lunch that day, discussion on this suggestion ensued.  Many gentlemen were surprised that young people would advocate for removing the potential leadership opportunities that women would have through this special committee.  During that discussion (only days before the Baroness would pass), it was Margaret Thatcher whose name I brought up.  As younger farmer -- and being in the unique position of being one of four women who serve as district trustees for the 22 Ohio Farm Bureau districts -- I have a different perspective on potential leadership roles.  Having grown up at a time when I routinely saw a female Prime Minister of Great Britain, I did not learn as a young person that there were any limitations to what a woman could achieve if she put her mind to it.  While I applaud the good work of the Women's Committee of American Farm Bureau, I am seeking equality of opportunity to serve as a leader.  Not equality of outcome, but of opportunity -- the ability to achieve as an individual, not based upon gender.  Women & men both serve as farmers, as business people, as professionals.  This is based upon personal success, and should be driven neither by bias against nor for one gender over another.

When Baroness Thatcher passed just days later, I was intrigued to reflect on this conversation.  As we live our lives, we never know how far-reaching our impact can be.  I am sure that during her career in Parliament, Baroness Thatcher could never have imagined the devotion with which a little farm girl in Ohio was following her achievements.  The Saturday after she passed was April 13th -- our half birthday.  In her honor, we held an "Iron Lady Party" at the farm.  I invited my closest local friends, who are truly an accomplished, remarkable group of women.  We dressed up in honor of the Baroness, grilled meats, drank wine, and smoked cigars.  It was a diverse group of women (not all of whom had met before), but the conversation flowed freely -- from history to women's issues to funny stories.

My friends inspire me with their activities and accomplishments.  As I looked around the table that night, I was amazed by everything that had been achieved by this group of women.  As unique as each of those ladies is, they are all driven by the belief that they can succeed in their chosen realm.  In this, Thatcher was a role model.  She did not expect to be limited by her gender, nor receive benefits because of it.  Thatcher showed us that a woman can achieve success in her chosen field, and still be a lady.   My favourite Thatcher quote: "Being powerful is like being a lady.  If you have to tell people you are, you aren't."  Amen.