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  • Writer's pictureThe Hammonton Gazette

Celebrating the women who have influenced me

Women's History Month began Monday, March 1. (Courtesy Photo)

For Christmas, my husband gave me a framed portrait of Nellie Bly. If you don’t know who she is, Google her and you will understand why he gave me the picture.

It is one of my most treasured gifts and I am trying to figure out where to hang it.

Women’s History Month began Monday and in this era where we strive for equality between genders and races, it has me thinking about some of the women who have helped me form opinions, attitudes, actions and behaviors.

I recently made a list of some of the famous women (real and fictional) whom I admired.

• Margaret Thatcher: Phenomenal leadership skills. Ronald Reagan said she was “the best man in England.”

• Jane Austen: She understood people in a way I wish I did.

• Murphy Brown: No nonsense and fearless fictional TV newswoman.

• Sandra Day O'Connor: A woman of principles.

• Serena Williams: Determination and focus.

• Nancy Drew: So inquisitive.

• Billie Holiday: A voice who can make you cry and smile at the same time.

• Jane Jacobs: Passionately devoted to her cause.

I then turned to my life in Hammonton and those females who influenced me.

When I think to the local women who have impacted my life, I have them broken down into different categories.

Volunteer efforts: Mary Gillespie, Carol Orsi, Linda Cashan, my mother-in-law Angela Donio, Joanne Pullia, Marjorie Pullia, Dorothy Berenato, Linda Bucci, Mary Young and Melissa Durham.

Work ethic:  Sharon Bertino, Sandy Tzaferos, Diane DeCicco, Glen Ann Stoll, Evelyn Penza, my husband’s late Aunt Annabel Arena, Anne Sceia Klein, Susan Coan, Gabriella Mannino, Loretta Rehmann, Rita Pavesi, Carmen Castaneda, Terri Sliwecki, Lori Bertino and Jennifer Jones Rodriguez.

Attitude on life: Jana Sliwecki, Myrna Santiago, Donna Brown, my husband’s Aunt Diane Donio, Bonnie Wendt, Annette Donio, Mary Jane Merlino, Marchell Conway and Leah Rodio.

This is not a complete list as I am sure you can guess.

There are women from my family who helped shape me in my formative years.  My mother, grandmothers, aunts, cousins, honorary aunts and so many more.

I love learning about new people, and I am determined to know more about the women who history has sometimes ignored due to different cultural norms than now.

So I am resolved to make an effort to educate myself on women of the past and hope that my actions will influence the future generation of women.

A lot of Italian families operate as matriarchies.  Think about it. The mother makes the major life decisions and organizes family events and behaviors. I don’t know if that has something to do with our religious and cultural affinity for the Blessed Mother or if it is because women tend to make a house a home in many ways.

Look to your mothers and grandmothers. Learn their stories. I have learned so much from the women of the town. A woman who dedicated her life to raising her children is as fascinating as the successful career women and the women who went for both.

Learn their tricks and good habits.  Learn from their mistakes.  Listen to how they were treated in school and the workforce. Ask women who were adults in the 1950s and 1960s (or other decades) about the first time they opened an account in their own name and not jointly in their spouse’s name or father’s name.

Can you imagine being denied an account if a man wasn’t with you? Ugh.

I think we need to share these stories with each generation in the same manner that we share the stories of how our families came to America or to Hammonton.

If we remember, we cannot forget and then we will hopefully not make the same mistakes in the future.

Gina Rullo is the editor-in-chief of The Hammonton Gazette.


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