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In honor of Women’s History Month, City Year Tulsa Team Leader and Senior AmeriCorps member, Ellen Hughes, gives homage to the women who came before her and to those whose contributions fall parallel to our work here at City Year:

“Elise Boulding, sociologist & matriarch of peace studies, coined the term ‘200-year present.’ The concept is an intergenerational explanation for a moment in time as a sort of big-picture way of thinking about change & framing our individual existence amid points within lifecycles. We can see the relationship our lives have with the past, present & future. At City Year, we frequently refer to a comparable concept through the seven generations proverb: ‘in every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations.’

I’ll demonstrate how this works using the women in my family. Take the birthdate of the oldest to have held, touched, and shaped you, and then extend that out to the life expectancy of the youngest in your sphere of influence. At age 95, my great-grandmother Anna held me as a newborn. At 21, I held my cousin’s newborn Emma. That length of time reaches from Anna’s birth in 1900 to Emma’s end of life near or around 2100.

A lot happens in the course of 200 years. Displaced by the devastation of World War I, my great-grandmother Anna immigrated to the U.S. from Germany in 1918. That same year, German mathematician Emmy Noether pushed past discrimination in the university system to discuss a serious flaw in the theory of relativity put forth by Albert Einstein and published her own theorem on differentiable symmetry. Similarly, in 1979, my mother graduated from the University of Colorado, while that same year, the Iranian Revolution retracted women’s rights, barring women from public participation & educational opportunities. 

The collective experiences of the women in my family and their generational peers form a living time capsule of change. Through their lives, I better understand my place in the march towards equitable opportunities for women. The women who came before me inspired me to dedicate my red jacket this year to the 200-year touch to all the students I can impact with my year of service and how that may impact the next seven generations of women in leadership.”

The impact a year of service can have on you and the students you touch reaches much farther than you may think. You can be part of something bigger than yourself serving with City Year Tulsa.

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