I was watching one of my favorite movies the other night: Secretariat. Secretariat was an American Thoroughbred horse that made history after winning the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes (which he won by an astounding 31 lengths) in 1973. The movie was also about Secretariat’s owner, Penny Chenery (portrayed by Diane Lane), a housewife and mother who turned around and saved the family’s Thoroughbred horse farm, Meadow Stable, after her father became ill. She also successfully navigated her way through the male-dominated world of horse-racing, quite a feat for a woman in the ‘70s, and was said to have “embraced the role of a rare female business leader.”
I remember watching all three of Secretariat’s races on TV when I was living and working in Washington, D.C. I remember how thrilling it was to watch the big, beautiful horse, nicknamed Big Red, make history – an exciting distraction during the unsettling time of Watergate and the Nixon scandals.
March is Women’s History Month, a celebration of women’s contributions to society in American history. The celebration recognizes the important contributions made by women through programs in school, workplaces and communities. I thought about how Penny Chenery made a difference at that time in history, and she is just one example of a woman whose accomplishments can be recognized during Women’s History Month. Chenery received letters from girls all around the country telling her what a role model she was for them.
This year’s Women’s History Month theme is “Visionary Women: Champions of Peace & Nonviolence.” The theme honors women who have led efforts to end war, violence and injustice – pioneering the use of nonviolence to change society. Locally, the Zonta Club of Flint will host the Tenth Annual Genesee Regional Women’s Hall of Fame which will be held this year on April 19 at the Flint Institute of Arts. Inductees (past and present) are honored for achievements that have positively impacted Genesee County history.
I think Women’s History Month is a good time to honor the strong women in each of our lives. Another way to celebrate is by reading a book about an accomplished woman such as My Own Words by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a collection of essays on everything from her early career, on being a woman, the law, and much more.
Penny Chenery embraced her role as a female business leader. She made tough decisions. She attended Columbia Business School, served as a Red Cross volunteer during World War II, and didn’t back down when others told her she would fail. In the movie, Secretariat, she says: “This is not about going back. This is about life being ahead of you and you run at it! Because you never know how far you can run unless you run.”