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We will surely get to our destination if we join hands. Kyi, Aung San Suu Burmese political leader (1945- )

In joining a salon-style discussion group, founded by Margaret Busse, Becky Lloyd and Jennifer Thomas, which they’ve dubbed Fusion, I have learned all sorts of new things.

Did you know that in past generations when higher education was closed to them, many women met together in private to educate themselves? And as they educated themselves, they often found a sense of purpose and community, coalescing around a cause, from abolition to education to temperance to child labor laws?

This past week, Janika Dillon led a discussion in our group titled – Remember the Ladies: The American Woman’s Struggle for Suffrage.

Did you know that as early as the 1700s the desire for equal treatment under the law was expressed by Abigail Adams, and women fought for nearly two centuries for the right to vote? And despite their tireless efforts to free enslaved Americans, women were denied entry to abolitionist meetings because they were women?

As we delved into the topic of suffrage, I was fascinated by this part of American history that I had never paid much attention to before, but simultaneously I was struck by my own self-absorption. Over the past 20 years, I have been single-mindedly focused on my struggle to be taken seriously in the workplace. Yes, I’ve felt some gratitude for the women that made it possible for me to even have a conversation about the glass ceiling. But, wouldn’t it be wise to consider that it was only 80 years ago that women were first allowed to vote?

Do you know what else caught my attention about the struggle for suffrage?

A sense of purpose.

In the struggle for enfranchisement, women from diverse social, political, economic and religious backgrounds became bound together.

Which caused me to wonder, do we as women feel that sense of community and purpose today?

The outbreak of the Mommy Wars, and the general lack of mentoring that I experienced within corporate America would suggest that where there was once sisterhood, we now have sibling rivalry.

Which could be the reason we feel more lonely than ever. A recent study by American Sociological Review suggests that Americans are gradually feeling more isolated. “Over the past two decades, the number of people who say there is no one with whom they discuss important matters has nearly tripled, and the mean network size has decreased by about a third from about 3 people to 2 people, with both kith (non-relatives) and kin alike.

In opening the door on additional opportunities for women, have we closed the door on community?

If we learn no other lesson from the success of the women’s suffrage movement, I would encourage us to remember that women can come together to make a difference.

In fact, I think this is precisely what happened last Thursday.

Fifteen intelligent, articulate women gathered, to teach and to learn. And I must say the nascent sense of community was palpable. A community that in time could coalesce around a cause, energizing us as individuals, and making a significant difference within our sphere of influence.

Is that systergy?

Systergy, n. A collection of women, who by daring and dreaming together, will make synergistic contributions to their own lives and the world.

My feelings of sheer delight as the evening ended would say yes!

That’s cause for celebration!

Are you involved with any group of women where you feel a sense of purpose? What kind of group is it? How does it feel?

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