Los Angeles will be honoring women from the past and present who have contributed to the arts, advocacy and women’s rights this year during International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month. There will be a series of events raising awareness about issues affecting women and honoring women from Los Angeles.
One woman who has contributed greatly to the arts is Park La Brea’s resident star, Patricia Morison, who will be turning 100 next week. A birthday celebration will be held at the Pantages Theater during a private event on March 9, and at a public event at the Pasadena Playhouse on March 15. Morison is best known for her long career in film and theatre.
Morison, now retired and a resident of Park La Brea since the early 1960s, remembered some of the challenges of being a women in film and theatre.
“They were the same challenges that women have in most businesses,” Morison said. “But in show business, men see-med to think that actresses were somehow more available so there was a little bit more men making passes.”
Prior to a long career in film, Morison was first a singer in Manhattan. Landing her first leading role remains one of her most cherished highlights of her career.
“When I first auditioned for a Broadway show, it was called the “Two Bouquets”, a Victorian Operetta, and I got the leading role. I was just out of drama school and that was lovely,” Morison said.
Morison then arrived in Hollywood in 1939 under a contract with Paramount Pictures, and performed in film and theatre into the 1970s.
She credits her vitality and long life to her genes. Her mother was Irish and a passionate leader who many women admired, she said.
“My mother was the first woman to speak at the House of Commons [of England] after World War I to address the issue that many women wanted to keep their jobs after the war. And many of them had lost their husbands and wanted to keep their jobs … so they said to my mom, ‘You’re Irish — you can speak for us’,” Morison said.
This year, Global Women’s Strike, a women-led international social justice organization, has called for the 16th annual global action in support of women’s rights on Saturday, March 7, on the eve of International Women’s Day, observed March 8.
International Women’s Day traces its roots to the early 20th century during a time of heightened labor struggles in North America, Europe and elsewhere. Women’s History Month, the celebration of the contributions women have made in the U.S., was first celebrated in 1987 after Congress passed a joint resolution calling for Women’s History Month to be officially observed in March.
The event will feature speakers, performers, booths with community resources and information ranging from raising the minimum wage to spreading awareness on the slayings of women in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico.
Alexandria House, a transitional home for women and children escaping abusive relationships, is one of several organizations involved in the planning process. Organizers hope to raise more awareness for their organization and issues impacting women, said Judy Vaughan, founding director of Alexandria House.
“It’s really important to us at Alexandria House to address some of the things that keep women and children living in poverty,” Vaughan said. “There’s a huge overlap with economic issues of no affordable housing, the difficulty to get decent childcare, no increase in public benefits, cuts in adult education in Los Angeles Unified School District and preventing folks from getting a decent paying job.”
In addition to providing shelter to women and children moving from emergency shelters to permanent housing, Alexandria House also takes part in financial management workshops, counseling, providing health care, job assistance, legal counsel, education and other resources.
Nancy Berlin, founding member and board member of Alexandria House, is on the planning committee for this year’s International Women’s Day celebration on March 7.
“This year, we decided to focus on honoring the women and the mothers and caregivers who usually go unnoticed,” Berlin said.
Women’s History Month is undoubtedly a great thing, but often the focus is only on famous women at the expense of other women who have made equally great contributions, Berlin said.
“We wanted to focus not only on famous women, but on everyday women who have been part of our lives. While we will be honoring some famous women who were fighters for women and others, we’re also going to be honoring women who take care of others, such as the women of Alexandria House,” Berlin said.
Vaughan looks forward to International Women’s Day because of the international context of local issues.
“It helps me understand local issues as global concerns. It’s an international movement. It’s celebrated throughout the globe. Many issues here in the U.S. are experienced globally. It also helps me look at the realities of how race and class impact some of the issues that women are dealing with,” Vaughan said.
Connecting back to issues of labor reform and economic strife, Vaughan feels that more attention has to be given to the role of women in society.
“I know people talk about the recession getting better, but for a lot of people, they haven’t seen this glimpse of new hope,” she said.
In addition to Alexandria House, Californians United for a Responsible Budget, No More Jails LA, Veterans for Peace-Los Angeles, Military Families Speak Out and other organizations are participating for this year’s event.
The event will take place Saturday, March 7, at Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy’s headquarters at 464 Lucas Ave, Ste. 2.
Additionally, on March 13, The Ebell of Los Angeles, a philanthropic and educational organization founded by women, will host a special membership cocktail reception for guests to meet Ebell members and learn more about the organization. It will take place at the Ebell of Los Angeles, located at 741 S. Lucerne Blvd. Guests are encouraged to RSVP with Jessica Hernandez at (323)931-1277 ext. 131 or email email@example.com. For information, visit www.ebella.org.
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