In Praise of Women’s Work

Santa Cruz Sentinel Photo, 1969. Volunteer Center co-founder Marion McBee, State Senator Henry Mello, Welcome Wagon President and future Volunteer Center Bookkeeper Ruth Weiland.

 Like most local nonprofits, the Volunteer Center was founded by smart, community minded women who joined together to tackle big issues in the 60’s: the poverty and isolation of local seniors, the high rates of adult illiteracy and the needs of local children in poverty. Until quite recently local nonprofits have been disproportionately founded and run by women, as both staff and volunteers.

In honor of International Women’s Day on March 8, we want to celebrate the beautiful legacy of our Founding Mothers – Kathryn Merriam, Marion McBee, Margaret Schaeffer, Mary Kibble, Donna Kern and Maybelle Saunders – whose vision that local people can solve local problems, given the right tools and support, is alive in our agency today.

As I look back I see the legacy of strong women committed to community change in every one of our programs. Women like Fay Moreland, who was on the committee that hired me and was a great mentor to me. Fay volunteered on dozens of programs over the years, but her true love was Literacy Tutoring. She began teaching a young immigrant mother in the home, and noticed that her 5 children also primarily spoke Spanish until they entered school, where it was difficult for them to catch up with their peers. She extended lessons to include the children, helped them with their homework, became part of the family. Not only did both parents learn to speak, read and write English, every one of their children went on to graduate high school and college. Fay’s investment of time, talent, and kindness are still paying dividends today.

We’re proud that the powerful, transformational practice of helping people live better lives was considered “Women’s Work”. Like other types of Women’s Work – teaching, nursing or library work – part of that legacy is that these entire professions are underpaid and undervalued. A recent study of local nonprofit workers found that 50% of nonprofit workers and 80% of childcare workers make less than the California Poverty Index – an hourly wage that lets a full time worker support one child above the Poverty Level.

To the tens of thousands of women who have worked as volunteers and on staff here at the Volunteer Center making our community better: Thank you for your grace, intelligence, strength, and talent. Tomorrow, we are proudly supporting a Day Without a Women  because we know that our community, our nation and our world needs to recognize and value Woman’s Work as much as we do.

Three ways you too can support the day:

  1. Women take the day off, from paid and unpaid labor
  2. Avoid shopping for one day (with exceptions for small, women- and minority-owned businesses).
  3. Wear RED in solidarity with A Day Without A Woman

Learn More About A Day Without Women


Blog Post Written by Volunteer Center Executive Director Karen Delaney.  Karen has led the Volunteer Center for more than 30 years and is an internationally recognized leader, trainer and speaker in the field of volunteerism, community building and nonprofit management. Karen’s formula for success is “hope, fun, curiosity, gratitude, belief in people and good data.”

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