by Victoria Brewster, MSW
Three of my mentors are women in history who practice the values of social justice by the programs they have advocated for, initiated and created; Eleanor Roosevelt, Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama. They also all happen to have been, or are, current First Ladies. These women to me exemplify what women today can be and do. The fact that they use/used their status and their title for the betterment of society is amazing and happens to be values of the social work profession as well.
Eleanor Roosevelt, former First Lady, dedicated her life to human, civil and international rights. She joined the Women’s City Club, where they focused on child labor laws and worker’s compensation; She joined the League of Women Voters and helped establish the legislative program for this organization; She toured the country during the Great Depression and acted as her “husband’s ears” as he was in a wheelchair and unable to do so; She learned about the widespread hunger and sorrow and brought many issues to then President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) because she wanted him to be more aware of everything that was happening throughout the country.
The National Youth Administration which was created focused on work projects, vocational training, apprenticeship training, educational/nutritional camps for women, and student aid. She encouraged governmental support for art by supporting the establishment of the Federal Writers Project (FWP), Federal Theater Project (FTP), and Federal Art Project (FAP). I would say she is most known for reaching out to the minorities and the poor. She fought for civil rights and human rights during World War II. She visited the troops overseas. In 1945, she joined the NAACP and increased her involvement in the civil rights movement. Eleanor was against violence. She worked with Thurgood Marshall and helped with housing and community planning for African Americans. She supported the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) and fought against the discrimination and segregation of public schools.
Hillary Clinton, former First Lady, played a role in advocating for the creation of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) and the Foster Care Independence Act (FCIA). SCHIP program administered by the United States Department of Health and Human Services provided matching funds to states for health insurance to families with uninsured children, where the families had incomes that were considered modest, but too high to qualify for Medicaid. The Adoption and Safe Families Act was enacted in an attempt to correct problems that were inherent in the foster care system that deterred the adoption of children with special needs. The Foster Care and Independence Act aims to assist youth aging out of foster care in the United States in obtaining and maintaining independent living skills.
Michelle Obama, current First Lady, fashion icon and role model for women and an advocate for poverty awareness, nutrition, healthy eating and exercise. While at Princeton, she was involved with the Third World Center, an academic and cultural group that supported minority students, running their day care center which included after-school tutoring. In 1993, she was the Executive Director for the Chicago office of Public Allies, a non-profit organization encouraging young people to work on social issues in non-profit groups and government agencies.
She currently advocates on behalf of military families, helping working women balance career and family, encourages national service, and promotes the arts and arts education. Let’s Move! was announced on February 9, 2010 in order to hopefully reverse the trend of childhood obesity. She has been involved with the planting of the White House Kitchen Garden (an organic garden). She has installed bee hives on the South Lawn of the White House. She has been a fierce advocate of LGBT rights.
These three women promoted, advocated, created and spoke/speak openly about issues that were/are near and dear to them and fit the times. Being positive and influential role models for young girls and women is important for all of society to see. These three further define social justice by their acts, their behavior and their causes. Social justice is based on the principles of equality and solidarity, the teaching and implementation of values, basic human rights, dignity of every human being, participation in change, and a sense of personal responsibility.
What more can one ask for?
*First posted at: http://www.socialjusticesolutions.org/2013/01/26/social-justice-part-iv/