Much has been accomplished during the 40 years of the founding of the Women’s Movement, but much more still needs to be done, a national speaker’s panel said at the 5th Annual Miami Beach Women’s Conference.
The program, which was held on March 22, in observance of Women’s History Month, was led off by nationally known feminist Patricia Ireland. While Ireland said she was asked to speak on the history of the women’s movement, she said that she found it difficult to focus on the past when so much more progress is needed. “My sales pitch is do not become complacent because we are not where we were but because we are not there where we need to be. There is always something you can do to make a difference,” said Ireland, who is now a labor lawyer in Miami.
he next speaker, Elizabeth Schwartz, who heads the Miami Beach Bar Association, expressed her shock that issues raised 40 years ago remain unsettled, especially when it comes to abortion. “It’s shocking we are still talking about reproductive rights, pay equality and now marriage equality. I am shocked that the anti-choice folks are still out in force. There are incredibly dangerous laws still being enacted,” she said.
The third speaker, Jersey Garcia, executive director of Mi Lola, the National Latina Institute of Reproductive Health, told how her maternal grandmother had borne 22 children, but that her mother, “searching for the American dream,” had emigrated to the U.S. When Jersey first joined the Women’s Movement, she said that she saw the stories of other women portrayed, but none that reflected her culture. “We are forging a diverse and inclusive world where all of us matter. We need to connect across our differences and unite our inconsistencies,” she said.
The panel was moderated by Sherry Roberts, after which the participants proceeded to the Miami Beach Botanical Garden, where the chefs and caterers participating in “Lunch in the Garden” offered an array of delicious dishes in the spectacular outdoor setting.
During the luncheon, State Sen. Gwen Margolis was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award. “I can tell you that I owe it all to the Women’s Movement and people who cared about me,” said Margolis, who was first elected to the Florida legislature in the 1970s, and has been reelected three times, most recently in 2010. She is the only woman to serve as president of any U.S. Senate.
Also at the luncheon, Miami Beach Mayor Matti Herrera Bower was honored for establishing the conference, and for ensuring that the speaker’s portion had remained a free event. Bower founded the conference five years ago, during her first term in office as the city’s first woman mayor. Although she is now serving her last year in office, she spoke of her desire that the conference will continue. “I hope we can grow at the same momentum and get even bigger,” she said.