Massachusetts Trial Court Holds Women’s History Month Honors at Chelsea High

By Adam Swift

Noted author, lecturer, political activist, and feminist organizer Gloria Steinem, Zooming in from her Manhattan apartment, headlined Tuesday’s Women History Month event held at the Saul Nechtem Gymnasium at Chelsea High School. But each of this year’s nine honorees, along with the women who presented them with their honors and the event’s performers, spoke to the strength and unity of the achievement of women in Massachusetts and beyond. The event was hosted by Boston25 News reporter and anchor Crystal Haynes, who was also one of the event’s honorees along with Steinem and seven others. This was the third annual Women’s History Month event held by the Massachusetts Trial Court. Haines conducted a short interview with Steinem via Zoom after Steinem was presented with her honor by Juvenile Court Chief Justice Amy Nechtem and her grandchildren. The event was also a special occasion for Nechtem, who is a Chelsea native and daughter of Saul Nechtem, whom the high school’s gymnasium is named after. During the interview, Steinmen talked about her youth and the role books played in her education, as well as her hopes for the future of the feminist movement. “I wasn’t going to school very much because my father had a little summer dance place in southern Michigan, and in the winter time, we got in a home trailer and went back and forth to Florida and California,” said Steinem. “So I really learned by reading books. I was in love with Louisa May Alcott, and I thought she was my best friend.” Haines asked Steinem if she was happy to see the advances made by women over the past decades, or if she was frustrated because progress has been too slow. “Both of the above; you and I probably have both of those responses,” Steinem said. “But I do believe we are beginning to see each other without adjectives as the unique individuals we truly are, and of course, we may share experiences because of gender, because of race, ethnicity, economic class, but still, each of us is a unique miracle – somebody who could never happen before and can never happen again.” Steinem also noted that people are starting to rectify history and understand that women were involved in more than just the battle for women’s rights. “I think much of the problem lies in the way the movements have been recorded and women have been left out, including in the Civil Rights movement,” said Steinem. “I think Fannie Lou Hamer, to mention one person, is one person we don’t talk about and should.” Hamer was a civil rights activist and co-founder of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party in 1964. Steinem said the most important thing to make sure movements are recorded accurately in the future is by people talking to each other and telling their stories and by listening to the stories of others. “If each of us talks as much as we listen, and listens as much as we talk, it’s amazing what a difference that can make in individual encounters,” she said. Other honorees included District Court Chief Justice Stacy Fortes; Middlesex Superior Court Assistant Clerk Magistrate Amanda Rowan; Founder and Chief Executive Officer of ROCA, Inc. Molly Baldwin; Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll, who also accepted an award on behalf of Governor Maura Healey; Northeastern University Professor of Law Deborah Ramirez; and Executive Director of New Beginnings Re-entry Service Stacey Borden, M. Ed. A special Honor Guard of women in law enforcement started the ceremony and Chelsea High School student Ivona Niyonkinzo sang the National Anthem. The celebration also included music from the Chelsea High School band, Chelsea native Precious Perez,  and a dance performance by Deborah Abel Dance Company of Boston.   “We may be the first two women to lead the corner office, but we hope we won’t be the last,” said Driscoll. “We are building a diverse body of people who are interested in making sure we are leaning into our values.” Driscoll said she believes the level of leadership from women in Massachusetts will help lead the state to a brighter future. “We want to be a state where you start here, you stay here, everybody feels welcomed, and we are trying to lean in on that work,” said Driscoll. While the ceremony honored women from throughout the state, there was special attention given to Chelsea as the host city. “Women have long been instrumental in passing on our heritage in word and in print to communicate the lessons of those who have come before us,” said Chelsea Superintendent of Schools Dr. Almi Abeyta in her welcoming remarks. “Women’s stories and the larger human story expand our understanding of and strengthen our connections with each other, and I’m grateful to be part of that story in this great city of Chelsea.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.