When you hear these words, what do you think of? Strength. Assertiveness. Empathy. Passion. Imperfection. Power. Faith. Adaptability. Courage. Perseverance. These are frequently mentioned characteristics to describe strong, successful and admired women. We love that “imperfection” is a valued trait – because authenticity is important to success.
This week at Westminster Canterbury Richmond, we celebrate two amazing, authentic women –Lettie Pate Whitehead Evans, our historic benefactor whose birthday we celebrate annually by giving our organization’s highest award for exemplary service – and Betsy Waring King, our 2020 honoree.
Once upon a time (isn’t this the way all good stories should start?), in the late 1800s, Lettie Pate’s husband, Joseph Whitehead, had a bright idea. Wouldn’t sales explode for the company who could figure out how to bottle the new, fizzy, refreshing, popular drink only available in drug stores? Despite his belief that such a scheme would never work, Asa Candler, then president of the fledgling Coca-Cola Company, signed a one-page contract allowing Whitehead to buy the secret syrup, add carbonation and bottle. The cost to Whitehead? $1.
Needless to say, the idea took! Unfortunately, within 11 years young Whitehead died of exhaustion. And that is when a strong woman stepped up. His wife, Lettie Pate Whitehead, took the helm – an unusual move in 1906. She built the business into the amazing success it is. As the years went on, she also built an incredible legacy of philanthropy that continues today. Concerned for the welfare of women, for she came from very humble roots and knew what it meant to struggle, she provided higher education scholarships for young women and safe, secure care for older women. Today, Westminster Canterbury Richmond and other communities benefit from the generosity of her legacy.
It is because of this wonderful example of strong leadership, innovation and generosity that we honor a remarkable volunteer each year on Mrs. Evans’ birthday. This year, we are thrilled to honor Betsy Waring King. Mrs. King was an innovative educational leader throughout her career and continues to serve as a generous, inspirational volunteer. We see the characteristics of strong, admired women in both those we honor this week.
Look around you. We’re sure there are strong, admired women in your life! Perhaps today is the perfect time to thank them for the ways they inspire you.