In the presence of extraordinary women

0

We fully understand why some women and men weren’t feeling in the spirit to celebrate America’s birthday over the weekend. The overturning of Roe v. Wade by the U.S. Supreme Court has eroded any feeling of liberty and freedom they felt.

We are grateful to live in Massachusetts, where a woman’s right to choose what’s best for the health of her body remains whole and protected. We’re also grateful to live in a place where those rights are not taken for granted, and where women and men are willing to stand up for those who live in places where those rights and freedoms are no longer protected.

We were struck in our most recent news cycle — perhaps because of what was happening at the national level  — by the extraordinary achievements of women living on our Island.

Hearing about the achievements of Jennelle Gadowski, you’d guess — if you didn’t know better — that she was a lot older.

Gadowski was recently recognized as a Commonwealth Heroine, an honor bestowed upon 121 women in the state by the Commission on the Status of Women. The award was presented to women who “perform unheralded acts on a daily basis that make our homes, neighborhoods, cities, and towns better places to live,” according to the commission website.

The West Tisbury resident surely fits that description. She is the chair of the NAACP Martha’s Vineyard branch’s LGBTQ committee, where she pushed for Island select boards to fly the Progress Pride flag on town flagpoles. She is also a part of several other civic engagement and activist groups, such as the Young Activists for Social Justice Martha’s Vineyard, Black Lives Matter, the League of Women Voters of Martha’s Vineyard, and others.

On Monday, we had the opportunity to cheer on another group of exceptional women who are among the first responders on our Island, as they marched during the Fourth of July parade in Edgartown. We are proud to know that the Vineyard is leading the way in accepting women into the important field of firefighting and emergency services. 

While nationally, just 4 percent of the career and volunteer firefighters in the U.S. were women, they accounted for nearly 12 percent of the 164 firefighters on the Island this year. That is certainly something worth celebrating.

“I feel like the department has been very welcoming, helping me learn and actually even grow stronger in the area of firefighting,” Edgartown firefighter Vanessa Vacharasovan told our reporter. “I feel very comfortable and honored to work with all of the men and women in this department.” 

We also shared with you the amazing accomplishments of Danielle Charbonneau, an English teacher at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School who also runs the high school’s alternative program Project Vine. Charbonneau has been nominated for, and has reached the finalist round of, the Massachusetts Teacher of the Year, who will be selected this fall. This isn’t the first time she’s been recognized as one of the state’s top educators. Charbonneau was a semifinalist in 2020.

The program is based on the idea that students having the same teacher all day and every year can improve a student’s learning environment. While students in the program still go through the traditional coursework based on state requirements, they are also immersed in project-based learning that adds some “fun” to their learning experiences.

Because the program has a relatively small number of students participating, the teachers and students develop a familial relationship that can help a teacher notice when something is wrong with a student, and strategize ways to assist the student.

Should she win the award, Charbonneau will have the opportunity to share this experience with other school districts, and perhaps make a bigger impact than she already has on the lives of young people.

These are just some of the examples of extraordinary women living among us on the Island — doing all of this while they face the challenges of holding families together, dealing with housing insecurity and the uncertainty of COVID, and many doing it while working multiple jobs in a shifting economy.

Our country — and particularly the Supreme Court — may have let us down, but these women give us reason to be proud, and to have hope that our 246-year experiment of the perfect union can some day materialize.