In our early years Agape hosted galas reminiscent of a formative time in our nation’s history:  1900 – 1945.  Our world, country, ideals, economy, and beliefs were impacted by many global events.  Our galas attempted to recapture some of the trials, tribulations and evolution of that time period by inviting guests to select their gala attire from that period, experience the décor, music, and food of that era, and learn a bit about the events, people, inventions and social problems that formed our people and our country. Did you know that Caesar Salad, Oreo Cookies, Hershey chocolate and hot fudge sundaes originated in that time, along with the automobile and motion pictures?

Along with world wars and the crash of the stock market, the Great Depression left its mark for generations. 1 in 4 Americans – 15 million – were jobless in 1933 resulting in tent cities and escalating homeless.

In our research preparing for our galas, we discovered that our Agape model of providing safe, stable housing, education, childcare, and support services for homeless women actually had roots in the Settlement Houses that originated in the 1900s.  Established by women, American Settlement houses were private nonprofit organizations established to promote social welfare of community residents. They worked to reduce and prevent poverty among women and children.

In 1903, 19 year old Eleanor Roosevelt, niece of Theodore Roosevelt, worked at the College Settlement on Rivington Street, New York teaching children to dance and stretch. This experience gave her insight into an impoverished world she had not experienced but for which she would come to be a strong advocate and change maker.

Eleanor redefined the role of First Lady from observer to activist, was an outspoken civil rights leader, and advocate for expanded roles for women in the workplace. She pressed the United States to join the United Nations, became its first delegate and served as the first chair of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. Later she chaired the John F. Kennedy Presidential Commission on the Status of Women.  At the time of her death in 1962, the New York Times called her “the object of almost universal respect” in her obituary.

Eleanor blazed trails for many, especially those who strive to overcome adversity like the Agape women we serve.  One of my favorite ER quotes is on a poster on our wall at Agape:

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

As Women’s History Month comes to a close, we celebrate the strong women, like Eleanor Roosevelt, who have gone before us and made our journey a bit easier.

God bless,


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