Time to celebrate WOMANKIND

By Kristen Birtwhistle, President and CEO of UWSJC

Ladies, this week, we celebrated our day. March 8th is the long-recognized calendar event of International Women’s Day. A day where we should both pause and celebrate a moment of needed self-reflection. We must remember how far women have come—but more importantly, how much further we still must go.


Launched in 1908, International Women’s Day was created to shed a new light on women’s oppression and inequality, it drove women to serve as the vocal voice and activists in campaigning for change—be it voting rights, equal pay, or work equity. It’s a day paired with Women’s History month—a signature point in time for women. It serves as a reminder not to rest on our laurels but to rewrite our own history in improving the quality of life for all womankind.


Known as the women’s movement, the feminist movement, or the “first, second or third wave” each version was designed to help women reach that elusive benchmark of hitting a glass ceiling or seeing the final adoption of a national referendum called the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). Today we see the #MeToo, and the Times Up movements fight those same issues which brought those women to the forefront over 115 years ago. They are still common and necessary platforms for calling attention to gender and racial equity, workplace security, and economic mobility for a new generation of women.


In the spirit of this historic month, United Way of San Joaquin County relaunched the Eleanor Project, a five-year “experience” that brought young and established women together—to learn, to talk, to network, to simply just be or become.


We took a hiatus due to Covid—and our five-year road trip just stopped. Or should I say, “paused.” That pause gave us the time to rethink our model that had demonstrated a positive purpose in connecting our communities and diverse women together to learn from each other.


Now it is with profound confidence that we are back—with a new name, but the same purpose.


I have long enjoyed seeing the bandwidth and power of collaboration, and now, as The Eleanor Project becomes a proud partner with United Way’s Women United affinity group, we are providing opportunities for women to support one another. Opportunities for those long conversations, even if over zoom, opportunities to glean wisdom from the established with the more youthful influencers. Together, we can share our ideas, wit, and bold faith in each other.


But what will never change, is the traditional and time-honored anthems that Eleanor Roosevelt herself often exalted. Such as the celebration of our women’s good works, dedication to a cause, and fighting the good fight. It is from her vision that we announce a new Eleanor.


Eleanor by Women United is our new name, but the goal is the same. Our purpose is as inspired as has in the past. We will add greater advocacy and public policy generation to the playbill of our work. We will dovetail our focus on generational poverty, helping balance the inequality that we see in healthcare, housing, or the homelessness arena specifically for our communities of color. Education is a key lever for our work. In doing so, we will be working closely with our own San Joaquin County Office of Education to blend our work together so young girls and young boys can participate in the conversations.


Eleanor by Woman United logo, light blue with white font.

So, we are not starting over with Eleanor; we are merely reseeding her vision to germinate the continued growth of a model that we hope will keep United Way’s focus on the importance of women in our communities.


After all, Eleanor Roosevelt herself said, “It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan.” So, let’s start planning for a brighter future for women across the globe—one girl, one woman, one community at a time.


For more information about Eleanor By Women United, go to our website at unitedwaysjc.org and stay tuned for future programming and events.