Rita Henley Jensen (left) and Lyna Voung

NEW YORK (WOMENSENEWS)–Women’s eNews has moved and it’s such a big deal for us we have to spread the word.

We marked the event with our first annual celebration of International Women’s Day last Sunday, March 8, which demonstrated the power of having not just a room of our own, but a place big enough to do our work and also host public gatherings.

Women’s eNews moved into new headquarters on Feb. 28–just 10 days before the event–with the hopes that it would become a hub of women-centered activities.

The rent for the new space is twice what we were paying. However, it’s three times as big and built to suit our needs, with room for expansion. It’s spanking new, gets great light and has up-to-date Internet and phone connections. Plus, we have a small office to sublet, to offset some of the rent.

Throughout the fall and winter, as the Dow dipped and banks teetered, the board and staff debated turning back, staying in the old place as crowded and outdated as it was. With what is going on worldwide, how dare we reach toward the future? In the end, we decided we did not have a choice; we had to believe in ourselves and a brighter day for women.

Encouraged to Reach for the Future

Sunday encouraged us to keep believing.

The day brought fun, powerful prose, learning while walking and homemade culinary offerings. And we did a little fundraising too because one of our board members, author and documentary-maker June Cross, read from her book, signed autographed copies and donated sales proceeds to Women’s eNews.

The staff managed to get a life-size blow-up of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton side-by-side and more than one guest was game to have her photo taken with their arms around them, giggling all the way.

The crowd was hushed, however, during June Cross’ discussion of what led her to make a documentary about being the unacknowledged daughter of Norma Storch, a white actress later married to sitcom actor Larry Storch of “F Troop” fame, and her father, James Cross, a well-known performer on the vaudeville circuit. Cross spent her summers with her mother in Hollywood, expected never to reveal to her mother’s friends and family that she was in fact Norma Storch’s daughter.

“Did you get your mother’s permission before you revealed all of her secrets?” one guest queried Cross after her reading. The room collectively held its breath. What if she hadn’t asked?

Forgiveness and Understanding

Cross was able to reply a hearty yes and then went on to demonstrate the level of forgiveness and understanding she had reached with the mother who had left her in the care of a black family in Atlantic City for most of her childhood.

June Cross reads from her memoir.

“My mother was a good person and she had given her word she would do it. And she did. She went on camera and told her story,” June said. She added that the details her mother did not wish Cross to reveal in the documentary are included in the book, which was written more than a decade after the documentary aired.

After it aired on PBS and the secret daughter was now very public, Cross’ mother was very surprised by her friends’ reactions. Her conservative friends quickly phoned with sympathy for what the mother and daughter had endured; liberal friends cut off the relationship, saying they felt misled.

The complex interplay of racism and gender bias against white and black women also were on display during a walking history tour around our new building, called “Where Brave Women Walked.”

Tailor-made for March 8, the guided tour was led by Betsy Wade, the retired foreign copy desk chief for the New York Times who was the named plaintiff in the historic sex discrimination lawsuit against the Times and her spouse, James Boylan, journalism historian and founder of the Columbia Journalism Review. Together, the two walked the group through old New York, providing a rich narrative of the lives of the women who came before us. The tour began in front of the building where Anthony and Stanton published Revolution, a weekly newspaper that operated out of the row of buildings where the two fought for equal rights for women.

The tour stopped also where a woman who would become known as Sojourner Truth worshiped at an early Methodist Church, before moving on to an all-black congregation. Truth was born a slave and became a nationally known abolitionist and women’s rights advocate.

Thirsty and Hungry

The tour was limited to 25 and a few more snuck in at the end of the line. Most returned to 6 Barclay thirsty and hungry, ready to enjoy the feast provided by all of our guests.

Guest Elizabeth Olana, who teaches at a community college, was surrounded as she explained how to eat the traditional Ethiopian chicken dish she had prepared. Meanwhile Daniel Fisher, a member of our architectural team, was trying to figure out why his chocolate chip cookies had turned out flat as pancakes.

“I followed the recipe,” he said. “But I didn’t use butter; I used oleo that tastes like butter.”

“No good,” he was quickly told by some of the assembled cooks. Nonetheless, his cookies went fast, as did the Asian chicken wings, supplied by Women’s eNews correspondent Sharon Johnson, as well as the Vietnamese stew, the spicy rice dish from India, the hummus with pita, herb bread with a selection of cheeses and brownies.

While plates were being emptied, the designer of the space, Lyna Voung from the firm Holzman Moss, described the environmentally sound decisions reflected in our new office, which include Energy Star appliances and a highly efficient heating and cooling system.

Voung, along with architect Margaret Sullivan, contributed their own time covering the ceiling’s acoustic tile with donated fabrics in a manner that recalls an American quilt, the quintessential women’s craft.

“Yes, it turned out pretty well,” Voung said.

We even raised a bit of money from the book sales of “Secret Daughter” and some outright donations.

If you would like to join in, please don’t hesitate. For as our board chair Betsy Chandler said, “Women’s eNews makes sure that the voices of women are heard.”

Donate now at: https://womensenews.org/support.cfm

Rita Henley Jensen is founder and editor in chief of Women’s eNews

Women’s eNews welcomes your comments. E-mail us at editors@womensenews.org.

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