Daring Women: Lewis Foundation unveils book of quotes from those who changed the world
KENSINGTON — Harriet Lewis, of the Lewis Family Foundation, likes this quote from Olympic athlete Wilma Rudolph: "My doctor told me I would never walk again. My mother told me I would. I believed my mother."
"She listened to her mother," Lewis said.
Rudolph's quote is one of the 365-plus quotes from notable women in "Daring Women Who Change The World," the latest book project from Alnoba and the Lewis Family Foundation. All profits from the book will be donated to the Grand Circle Foundation to help Ukrainian refugees.
Lewis and her husband Alan oversee the Lewis Family Foundation, which funnels funds to worthy causes around the world while stressing environmental stewardship. Their home base in New Hampshire is Beaverdam, a country house on 400 acres of land in Kensington that have been in Alan Lewis' family since the 1700s.
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The 98-page book consists of four parts (spring, summer, fall and winter), and is set up by the month, with quotes from notable women leaders who changed the world for each day. The women range from Dolly Parton to Maya Angelou, from Toni Morrison to Phyllis Wheatley to Dale Evans Rogers. Each woman's quote is presented on her birthday. The book offers daily inspiration from women across the globe and across the centuries.
The format of the book differs from most "quote" books and daily inspiration calendars in that it does not begin with the usual Gregorian calendar year, from January to December. It was a conscious choice, Lewis explains in the book: "It starts on March 21, when many Indigenous groups begin their calendars, for spring symbolizes the start of a new year through the birth of new plant and animal life."
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The book begins on March 21 with a quote from Phyllis McGinley, a journalist and editor active in the 1950s and 60s. McGinley is quoted as saying, "God knows that a mother needs fortitude and courage and tolerance and flexibility and patience and firmness and nearly every other brave aspect of the human soul." It ends on March 20 with a quote from Puritan poet Anne Bradstreet, who observes, "If we had not winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome."
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A book inspired by women
Lewis, 73, said that the idea for this book stemmed from the fact that, "Women are unique."
The women leaders highlighted in the book cross a wide spectrum. They are disrupters and divas; poets and public servants; artists and activists; trailblazers and teachers; suffragettes, and saints. They pioneered, innovated, provoked and shattered glass ceilings.
"I think women hold the world together, and it's every woman's duty to help others be successful," Lewis said.
One of her particular heroines, Madeleine Albright, is quoted as saying, "There is a special place in hell for women who don't help other women."
Lewis agreed, pointing out that it's important for women not to isolate themselves. "We need to be together, we need to talk," she said.
One of Lewis' role models was her own mother, Alice Sampson, a widow and breadwinner for the family. "I wanted to go to college, and my mother said, 'Only if you get a job where you can take care of yourself. You can't count on a man supporting you.'"
Lewis took her mother's words to heart. "You need to be there for yourself, be strong, and go after what you want," she said.
Lewis has one daughter, Charlotte Lewis, and three granddaughters. Charlotte Lewis was involved in the book and is part of the leadership team at Alnoba. She also works in philanthropy, notably in inner-city Boston, her mother said.
Lewis observed that Charlotte and her infant daughter, Roselee, will live in a different world than Lewis did growing up.
"The world is more open to women in leadership. It's not frowned upon if a woman is not married, or chooses not to have a family. It's not unusual to see a woman as the president of a company."
But she's concerned that the gains women saw in her life may be eroded. Pointing to the recent Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, she said, "We are having things taken away from us, and it's frightening."
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Book sales will benefit women and children of Ukraine
The Alnoba Lewis Family Foundation has boots on the ground in a dozen countries, helping with environmental projects from installing water filters to solar energy. They've been giving for 41 years. Through the Grand Circle Foundation, the Farm at Eastman's Corner, and Pinnacle Leadership and Team Development, they have pledged or donated $225 million to 50 countries around the world.
Lewis said all proceeds from the book will be used to provide food, shelter and provisions for the Ukrainian women and children living in the Apart Hostel in Wroclaw, Poland. The hostel hosts 70 children, 15 infants and 65 women. Grand Circle Foundation has donated more than $3 million to help women and children impacted by the war between Ukraine and Russia.
"It is a horrible situation," Lewis said.
The foundation's people on the ground, whom she calls "travelers," know the situation in each country and make sure the funds get to where they're meant to. Lewis, who has monitored the Ukraine situation, said, "They need housing, food, medicine. You can't watch that and not want to do something about it."
A book to inspire future women leaders
Lewis said she enjoyed putting the book together.
"It was fun, and we had a good time doing it," she said.
Lewis wrote the introduction to each season in the book herself, basing her musings on what she saw at Beaverdam, the family's home, and comparing the seasons of time to the seasons of life. For the spring segment, she writes, "As in life, spring is a fresh start - a time for wonder, when new ideas take root. It is possibility - it is hope." She concludes, "As we watch Charlotte's daughter Roselee and her brother Edward's young girls, Kinsley and Isabelle, play, learn and grow, we understand that they represent the spring of our family."
Lewis said she's not a writer, but in this case "I took a pad, and the words just poured out."
And she's enjoyed all the seasons of her own life, but this one is her favorite.
"I love being this age," she said. "I love being a grandmother."
Lewis uses the book herself for inspiration and said she likes to flip it open to random pages. "Whatever it says, there's a reason for me to be on that page," she said.
In addition to Albright and Rudolph, Lewis' favorite quotes include this one from Coretta Scott King, "It doesn't matter how strong your opinions are. If you don't use your power for positive change, you are indeed part of the problem."
The book's foreword also features quotes from several regional women leaders who have been honored by the foundation for their work in sustainability.
"Daring Women Who Change the World" is available for $12.95 per copy, plus $2 shipping at alnoba.org/daringwomen. For more information, contact 617-346-6649.
This article originally appeared on Portsmouth Herald: Daring Women book offers a daily dose of inspirational quotes to raise funds for Ukraine