Generational perspectives intersect to define the evolution of women's issues

by Sara Woelfel and Laura Schreiner

 

Photo illustration by Zakry Eden

They may carry phones in their back pockets and lattes cupped in their hands, but when gathered around a table to discuss the issues women face in today’s society, their voices sound much like those who sat around these same Stritch tables generations ago with calculators in their pockets and pencils in hand.

Earnest and vigilant, the young women of Stritch – as represented by five undergraduates in their early 20s who shared their perspectives for this story – harbor genuine concern about the challenges still confronting women in America despite the great gains toward equality made in recent decades. Yet, the disquiet they feel fuels their resolve to be a part of their generation’s response to the latest iteration of women’s issues in society.

Are they arming themselves with placards, organizing demonstrations or taking to the airwaves in discontent? Not quite. In fact, their response isn’t expected to make headlines or show up on the evening news broadcast anytime soon. But when they talk about what will make the biggest statement to the world and provide them with the best chance of refuting the preconceived notions society may have about women, they sound a whole lot like the four alumnae profiled in the pages that follow who graduated from Stritch decades ago.

Again and again, these Stritch women of yesterday and today, who together span nearly seven decades in University history, shared a united message. Unprompted in their separate interviews, each arrived at her own conclusion that education stirred in her an awakening to her value, her abilities, her future and her power. As one undergraduate said, "It’s something that’s yours and yours alone. No one can take it from you."

The alumnae profiles and student reflections featured in the links below offer glimpses into the indomitable spirit of women through all ages and stages of life. The beauty of their stories lies not in their pinnacle achievements but in the defining moments that sometimes painfully steered them to new awareness and opportunities. The life they led might not have been what they envisioned, but, as one alumna said, "I think the life I would have imagined for myself would not have been as exciting as the one I’m living."

Photo gallery:

Historic photos courtesy of University Archives and student panel photos by Naomi Kaufman, '07, '12