International Women’s Day on Sunday, March 8 is a day to recognize important women in our lives.
IWD has been celebrated for over a century, with roots beginning in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland in 1911, according to the IWD website. It was soon adopted by other countries.
“It’s good to take a moment to recognize the women in our world as the wonderful people they are, as equal, as leaders and influencers who despite cultural, political and financial barriers have overcome them and made a difference in our lives and the lives of others,” said Larry Schallert, assistant director of College of the Canyons’ Student Health Center.
Residents in the Santa Clarita Valley shared who the important women are in their life, what they’ve done for them and why IWD is an important day to celebrate.
Passion for helping others
“It is important to have holidays like International Women’s Day that recognize women because we often forget how significant the women in our lives have been and how significant their contributions to the community and country have been,” said Schallert.
Growing up, Schallert described his home as being filled with kindness and understanding. “(My family’s) willingness to advocate and organize for people with disabilities and to strive to see everyone as equal, really impacted my life,” said Schallert.
For Schallert, his wife and daughter are the most important women in his life. In Schallert’s 35 years working in the field of mental health, he’s discovered and practiced his passion for helping others. His family shares the same passion. Janae, his daughter, has pursued a career in mental health as a county and health agency mental health specialist, that aids sexually exploited children, Schallert said. His wife, Susie, is a special education teacher and caring friend, he said.
Women supporting women
“It’s really important to pay tribute to those who impact our lives, and to give credit to where credit is due,” said Mallory Partis, a student at California State University, Channel Islands. “There are generations of women who made our lives easier, and it’s important to continuously appreciate them and the women around us.”
When Mallory Partis decided to pursue a career in teaching, she had women in her life who fully supported her. Partis’ sister, grandmother and boyfriend’s mom and aunt are the most important women in her life. They’re all hard working women with genuine hearts, according to Partis.
“It’s refreshing to have women surrounding me who support my wishes, and want what is best for me,” said Partis. “I think they also challenge me to go outside of my comfort zone and to live my life to the fullest.”
Influencing the future
Working in government has always been in City Councilwoman Marsha McLean’s blood. Since McLean was elected to City Council in 2002, she has served four mayoral terms. Growing up, McLean credits her mother and aunt for being the ones who shaped her life.
“If anyone influenced my life, it was my mom and aunt,” said McLean. “They both worked for the Los Angeles Police Department.” Their hard working attitudes and pride to be working for the police department is something that McLean wanted to experience in her career, she said.
Recently at a City Council meeting, McLean also shared the story of Claudette Colvin, a 15-year-old from 1955 who refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a segregated bus. Colvin’s story happened nine months before Rosa Parks’ arrest for the same story.
McLean looks up to Colvin because she was able to inspire a wave during the civil rights movement, yet she never received the credit.
“Many times, those who do the work and lead the way don’t get the credit,” said McLean, at a City Council meeting. “But one doesn’t really do it for the credit, one does it because it’s in the heart and something within that knows it’s the right thing to do.”
Laurene Weste has lived in Santa Clarita all her life and looked up to many women who helped Santa Clarita become what it is today.
“To start, my mother was the most important woman in my life,” said Weste. “She taught me to be strong, goal-oriented and she always challenged me.”
As Weste later pursued a career in city government, where she served five mayoral terms, she was inspired by countless women in leadership positions who helped shape Santa Clarita.
“I had so many leaders in the community who I respected like Joann Darcy, who was part of the first City Council,” said Weste. Darcy served as mayor for four terms between 1987 to 2002.
“Darcy was an extremely good long-term public servant and had strong community leadership in her blood,” Weste said. “I am blessed to have learned governance from Darcy.”
In addition to Darcy, Weste believed that Connie Worden-Roberts was one of the most remarkable leaders in Santa Clarita’s infancy.
“Connie Worden-Roberts was one of the main driving forces for cityhood,” said Weste. “She worked hard to get our road system funded and worked through enormous battles with CalTrans.”
Weste could not think of an issue that Worden-Roberts didn’t address while she was in leadership, which is what she admired most about her.
“In our valley, we’ve had more female volunteers and leaders than most communities,” said Weste. “We have a lot of strong women here.”