Guest Op-ed Women as Heroes

By Christine Armstrong

March is Women’s History month, and Friday, March 8 was International Women’s Day. As I look back on the legacy of women in our country, I’m reminded of the vast number of accomplishments and achievements that women have made. In Massachusetts, alone, these five women stand out  to me as heroes who fought their way to the top. Let’s remember them, honor them, and keep moving forward!

Julia Child

Who can forget Cambridge’s beloved Julia Child? She changed the world of food in America and made French food accessible to the home cook.

 Before all that, Julia was a spy for the Americans during World War II. She worked for the Office of Strategic Services, a precursor to the CIA. There, she helped develop shark repellant and at one point, was Chief of the OSS Registry during her time in China. Julia Child never backed down from a challenge, and throughout her life, she had the freedom to do what she loved.

It’s important to invest so you can pursue your interests, now, and in retirement. Julia lived life to the fullest; we should all take that as an example. Invest in your future and support what you love through careful financial planning. Think outside the box with philanthropic services and sustainable investments – the sky’s the limit.

Charlotte Hawkins Brown

Bet this is a name you haven’t heard before, but let me tell you, it’s one you should know. Born in North Carolina, but  raised in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Charlotte (Lottie) Hawkins Brown’s parents made sure she had every educational opportunity available – a tough thing to achieve for a woman of color in the 1800s. She caught the attention of renowned educator Alice Freeman Palmer, and the rest, as they say, is history. Lottie later founded the Palmer Memorial Institute in North Carolina, providing top-notch educational opportunities to African-American children.

 Consider building into your long-term financial plans, a savings portfolio for your dependent’s educational opportunities – they might be the next Charlotte Hawkins Brown!  A 529 college savings plan is a step you can take to give your children the gift of higher learning.

Louisa May Alcott, Author

Born to a poor family in Pennsylvania,Louisa moved to Boston, when she was two. There, her father, an idealist, an abolitionist and an early supporter of women’s rights, founded a school where he planned to use his own teaching methods.  The school failed, however, and the family’s financial difficulties continued.  Eventually settling in Concord, , Louisa and her three sisters realized early on that they must find ways to support the family. Louisa took jobs teaching, sewing and housework, but soon she embraced her gift for writing, and at age 16 wrote her first book, “Flower Fables” – eventually published when she was 22 years old.  By 1860, her stories and poems were being published in the Atlantic Monthly, and by the time she served as a nurse during the Civil War, her descriptive works entitled Hospital Sketches brought her considerable attention nationwide.  Finally, in 1866, she wrote “Little Women” and from that point forward her family never suffered financially.                

This Women’s History Month, let’s remember Louisa and all women who are the primary earners in their family; make a long-term investment in your retirement and lessen the load.  Regularly evaluate the risk level in your portfolio versus potential reward to keep on track to reach your goals.

Lucy Stone, Abolitionist

Women have been making less than men for years – really.

Lucy Stone noticed this disparity all the way back in 1844. Working at Oberlin College while attending school there , she was paid less than her male counterparts for teaching and menial jobs, and forced to work twice as hard as a male student to pay the same costs. When she asked for a raise, the school declined, and caused a strike they came to regret. After the ordeal, Lucy was hired back, and all of the women were paid the same as their male colleagues. Lucy went on to organize women’s rights activists and was a firm abolitionist. Honor Lucy’s memory by investing smartly in a portfolio – you can start small! The important thing is to protect your future.

Clara Barton

Oxford, Mass., was home to Clara Barton, a volunteer nurse during the Civil War. During a time of deep turmoil for our country, Clara stood up and cared for hundreds of soldiers suffering from wounds and serious illness. After the war, she established the American Red Cross, and was the organization’s first president.

 Health care costs have been on the rise for years; it’s important to plan your finances so if something happens, you and your family are secure. Life is unpredictable; start a rainy-day fund to make sure you aren’t blindsided by unexpected expenses. Putting away a small amount each paycheck will help offset any future cost.

Christine Armstrong is an executive director with Morgan Stanley Boston, and a frequent contributor to Bloomberg Radio, WBZ’s “Before the Bell” and Herald Radio’s “Morning Meeting.” As a financial advisor, Christine’s wealth management practice is centered on helping clients pursue their most meaningful long-term goals by identifying and addressing key financial challenges.

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