Valley turns out to celebrate women

March is Women’s History Month, an observance that dates to 1981 and aims to improve the understanding of women’s contributions to America and the world.

The Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum all are involved in marking the occasion and in celebrating the role of women in American history. A variety of resources on the topic are available at womenshistorymonth.gov, in addition to the exhibits and collections being highlighted by these agencies throughout the month.

Personally, I don’t need a special month to remind me of the strong, intelligent women who have had an incredible impact on my life and community. My mother, the late Grace Compston, is No. 1 on my list of inspirational women. The only daughter in a family of five, she married and raised two sons before going to college herself and becoming certified to teach. I came along while she was enrolled in those classes, but she didn’t let having a new baby stop her from completing her studies.

She started teaching school when I was 5, while my dad, the late James Compston, was off work recovering from a heart attack. She continued to teach after he returned to work and eventually completed a master’s degree and became the principal of both Belmont and Bethesda elementary schools at the same time. Along the way she became a grandmother and served as principal of the new, consolidated Union Local Elementary before she retired. She enjoyed several more years with my dad and became a great-grandmother before she died in 2016.

Of course, Mom wasn’t the only woman who inspired me. Some of her co-workers and the co-workers I have had through the years set wonderful examples for me. Other female family members and friends did so as well. I couldn’t even begin to list them all here.

Last week, though, I found myself inspired by the women of the Ohio Valley. I was thrilled to see the large turnout of women – and a few men – at Ohio University Eastern’s Celebrate Women event on Thursday. While I marveled at the incredible stories of adversity and triumph shared by the panelists and keynote speaker Jessica Lynch, I was just as amazed to see how many area residents had a strong interest in the subject.

Even though this was OUE’s third annual celebration of women, this year was the first time I had the opportunity to attend. I didn’t know quite what to expect, and I was pleasantly surprised to find the theater in Shannon Hall packed with participants. They came from all walks of life, ranging from the mother of one of my classmates to the executive director of the YWCA in Wheeling, teachers, school administrators, homemakers, high school softball players and many more.

The theme of the event was “Bravery. Courage. Determination.” And all of those attributes were on display throughout the program.

It was a first-class affair, complete with an opening reception that allowed guests time to mingle and chat with the panelists about issues that are important to them. I am told that the refreshments for that portion of the evening, provided by Pike 40 Restaurant, were excellent; although I did not partake, I have dined at the restaurant and have no doubt the food was delicious.

Following the panel discussion and Lynch’s presentation, guests had the opportunity to meet Lynch and have her sign copies of her book, “I Am a Soldier, Too.” They also had a chance to tour an exhibit in the campus gallery titled “What Were You Wearing” – a look at the clothing worn by survivors of sexual assault. It conveys the message that anyone can be a victim of such an attack, and that victims are not at fault. The exhibit remains on display through March 29.

Kudos to OUE and its director of external affairs, E.J. Schodzinski, for putting on such an important, informative event. Congratulations, as well, to EQT for becoming the title sponsor of the annual celebration through a five-year agreement with the university.

I look forward to attending future Celebrate Women events at OUE. I also look forward to the day when such events and observance such as Women’s History Month are no longer needed to call attention to women’s achievements.

All of us – regardless of gender, age, race or other perceived differences – are in this life together. I hope that one day, we all recognize that and learn to appreciate the sacrifices, successes, struggles and significance of each individual.

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