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Women find their voices in Marblehead

MARBLEHEAD — In a time when women aren’t afraid to speak up, these Marbleheaders are embracing the movement.

Judy Gates, Betty Lautner, and Jessica Barnett invite women to learn about the different ways they can use their voices. They launched a program that hosts a number of free, close-knit presentations at the Abbot Public Library. The idea for 3 Voices came to fruition last year and they have already held three events with two more scheduled for this fall.

“I have always been interested in women’s voices,” said Gates, the program’s founder. “One day I was at a Christmas party and someone I work with brought their wife, who was a lawyer. We got introduced and she said, ‘It’s so nice to meet you, Judy’ in one of the highest pitched, childlike voices I had ever heard.”

Gates said once in a while she meets women who never lost their “little girl voice” but it was especially shocking to meet a well-respected lawyer who still had it. She had a niece, also a lawyer, who told her it was a major problem while she attended law school for women to learn how to speak with authority, given law schools typically have a heavy male presence.

The Marblehead resident of more than 50 years said she sat down with her good friends Lautner and Barnett and talked about how there should be more ways to teach women how to speak with authority. They launched their program and held their first presentation, “Women: Finding Your Voice on Important Issues,” with state Rep. Lori Ehrlich as the prime speaker.

“There is a never-ending bundle of issues we could address …” said Gates. “We aren’t saying men have nothing to offer, we just happen to find there are a lot of issues within male-dominated areas.”

The second presentation hosted was “Finding Your Voice at the Table” (conference table and board room) and “Finding Your Voice in Your Home” (where abuse may not be so visible to the community). Gates said they found great speakers who had years of experience speaking up and speaking out.

“Men always have traditionally been in charge and we discovered that to be true in our community, as well as many others,” she said. “There may be abuse and we don’t hear about it because of fear or women not being able to find someone who can listen. There are just a million things we could do to be helpful for women.”

Funding everything on their own, the three women are preparing for their upcoming events, “Finding Your Voice to Change the World” on Sept. 25, “What Women Need to Know about the Law” on Oct. 16, and “What Women Need to Know for Financial Security” on Nov. 13. Gates said they know many women in the community who, when their husbands pass away, know nothing about their estates or financial situations.

Gates, Lautner, and Barnett have frequent meetings to discuss future topics and their goal is to host six programs a year, three in the spring and three in the fall.

“There seems to be such a need for this everywhere we turn,” said Gates.

Judith Black, storyteller, actress and activist, will be the speaker for the first fall program, town lawyers Ellen Winkler and Trista Christiansen will speak during the October presentation, and Becky Linhart, co-founder of Sharp & Linhart Financial, will speak during the year’s final presentation.

During her presentation, Black said she will discuss, in full costume, the life of Lucy Stone, who in her day was dubbed the “shining star of women’s rights,” alongside Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

“How do you find your voice when you’re told you don’t have one and you’re shut down again and again?” said Black. “It is just so important to talk about because you wish this was all just history or old ideas but it is not and I thought Lucy would be a great way to start out the night. I hope those who attend will find their voice to speak truth to power.”


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