May 11th is a day to celebrate our mothers who have taken on the daunting and challenging task of childrearing. But why should there only be one day to show our appreciation? Perhaps we ought to show our appreciation throughout the entire month of May, and include the many women out there who have forged paths for all mothers who may have struggled to find their own sense of freedom throughout history.
One woman I’d like to celebrate is Ruth Nadel, whom I met just a few days ago at the Women’s National Democratic Club (WNDC) in Washington, D.C. I had been invited to speak at the members’ luncheon where Ruth, one of the WNDC members chose to sit front and center, to hear what I had to say.
Like Rosalie (the woman whom I met at Canyon Ranch), Ruth was significantly older than the other members present. In fact, I was told she was 98-years-old, and had been a member of the WNDC since 1966.
What in the world could I say in the presence of such a wise woman who certainly has shown her Fortytude? I honestly wanted to leave the podium and bolt out of the room—but I had no choice other than to speak. And to my wonderful surprise, as I commenced, I noticed Ruth encouraging me with a nod of approval. And then she smiled from ear to ear.
After the luncheon, Ruth walked (yes she walked) over and congratulated me for motivating her to have Fortytude. She even requested that I sign my book for her. As I was scribbling my name, she leaned down pointed at my calves and said, “Keep showing off those legs. Best legs in Washington D.C.! You won’t have them for long!”
She then giggled.
I of course, was stunned. Did she just say that? I handed her the book and she left the building.
As I sat later, attempting to absorb the brief interaction with Ruth Nadel, a WNDC member who’d overheard our conversation walked over to me and said, “That Ruth Nadel is something else. In case you didn’t know, Ruth is incredible. Google her; you will be impressed. She not only has outlived many of her peers, she has done extraordinary things for women.”
So of course when I returned home that evening, I Googled Ruth and landed upon her biography on the Women’s Bureau website, honoring the “foremothers” with whom Ruth had been lauded in 2005:
Ms. Nadel was encouraged in 1968 to apply for a midlevel vacancy in the Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau, testing whether unpaid volunteer work of equivalent level could be accepted as work experience. She got the job. Ruth worked for 21 years at the Women’s Bureau where she earned the Department’s Distinguished Service Award for her contribution in designing and developing the first on-site, employer-supported child care center and related child care options for working families. As their dependent care specialist, she made sure that eldercare was added in the 80’s.
When she retired in 1989, Ms. Nadel chose to return to “professional volunteerism,” or pro bono work, as she calls it. She is a DC Commissioner on Aging, serves as co-chair of the NCWO Global Women’s Task Force, the Woman’s National Democratic Club Board of Governors, IONA Citizens Advisory Council, and produces a weekly national legislative call-in for OWL, among other commitments. She also works against the stigma of ageism.
Well, the member was right. Ruth Nadel was more than just a 98-year-old woman. She was and still is an extraordinary exemplar of Fortytude who not only forged a path for working mothers, but who has become a pioneer for the older women who still aim to lead fulfilling, passionate and exciting lives.
Thank you Ruth Nadel, for being an exemplar of Fortytude.