Columnist J.M. Sorrell: Courage and commitment

J.M. Sorrell

J.M. Sorrell


Published: 03-05-2024 3:17 PM

International Women’s Day is March 8. While the UN did not adopt the day until 1977, its roots go back to the early part of the 20th century — a time when women in the U.S. and Europe were very active in both suffrage and labor movements. It was more obscure for several decades leading up to the second wave feminist movement when the day was revived and expanded. It is an official holiday or widely observed in many countries, and themes vary each year.

I am inspired to briefly honor eight women for their unwavering courage and commitment to tell the truth in a world increasingly rife with deceit.

Yulia Navalnaya is a human rights advocate and economist who has vowed to step up into a more public role after the death of her husband, Russian opposition leader, Alexei Navalny. Two days before his funeral, Navalnaya told the European Parliament that her husband was killed via Putin’s orders to isolate and torture him these last three years. She said, “If you really want to defeat Putin, you have to become an innovator and you have to stop being boring.”

Letitia James is the New York state attorney general. She has endured misogynist and racist threats for her determination to indict Trump on charges of decades-long fraudulent business practices. After winning the case in February, James now posts reminders of what is owed since over $100,000 in interest is added daily to the original $355 million fine. She is prepared to seize his assets if he does not pay the fine. One X follower mused, “How many people will name their daughters Letitia this year?”

Deborah Lipstadt is the U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism. Dr. Lipstadt is a renowned Holocaust scholar and historian. She is outspoken in the face of an astronomical rise of Jew hatred since the Oct. 7 massacre in Israel. In interviews and speeches, Lipstadt has warned listeners that antisemitism is a threat to all democracies. She compared it to a “cooking spoon to stir up the pot” of societal discord as people lose faith in governing systems. The conspiracies that suggest Jews are controlling banks, elections or the news media cause fear and warped justification to do harm to Jews. In speeches, Lipstadt often tells fellow Jews to refuse to be defined by antisemitism and to embrace their traditions.

Gretchen Whitmer (D) is the governor of Michigan. She models a governing and campaign style that shows her unabashed feminist leanings while vowing to serve all Michiganders regardless of political affiliation. She is a true public servant who continues to earn Rapper Gmac Cash’s moniker Big Gretch. Whitmer likely saved thousands of lives with her statewide COVID emergency orders in 2020. She remained undeterred by death threats and a serious kidnapping plot by members of a militia group.

Verena Brunschweiger is a German philosopher, environmentalist and radical feminist. She has written books about violence against women. In recent years, Dr. Brunschweiger has researched and written about the political and pragmatic ramifications of human procreation. She argues that women are co-opted to have and raise children in patriarchal systems designed to limit potential and that our planet’s resources cannot continue to accommodate human growth. Consider that 100 years ago we had one-quarter of today’s global population. Anthropogenic climate change is a reality that many people would prefer to deny. Brunschweiger receives hate mail and threats regularly yet persists in radio, TV and newspaper interviews.

Pashtana Durrani is an Afghan activist whose primary work is focused on girls’ and women’s access to education. She was always encouraged to value education as her parents’ motto was, “You can go hungry, but not without a day of learning.” Durrani founded LEARN Afghanistan in 2018; she and partners ran 18 digital schools with 7,000 enrolled students by the time the Taliban resumed power in 2021. Durrani was forced to go into hiding and eventually leave the country. She wrote her memoir, “Last to Eat, Last to Learn” in 2022. She graduated from Wellesley College and is currently in a master’s program at Harvard. Durrani is still active in humanitarian efforts in her home country while she endeavors towards a goal of building 34 schools by the end of 2025.

Drs. Jenn Conti and Heather Irobunda are the founders of Obstetricians for Reproductive Justice. Imagine their courage and commitment with the three pillars: To tell the stories of women harmed in the post-Roe era, to create doctor-led activism, and to partner with current and future abortion providers to ensure that reproductive healthcare does not disappear.

When I feel diminishing hope for the future of our world, I remember that these women and countless unsung heroes do not give up. Small and large acts count. We carry on.

J.M. Sorrell is a feminist at her core. She is giving women in her life uncirculated Bessie Coleman and Eleanor Roosevelt quarters throughout Women’s History Month.