Women’s History Month is winding to a close and we are spending this final week highlighting some of most powerful voices in our community. This past January, we had the pleasure to include the following list of incredible women’s organizations at our Rock What You Got event. These organizations are helping the women of Minnesota rock what they have through philanthropy, entrepreneurship, activism, and more!
Do something for yourself today and check out these amazing organizations. After all, whether it’s women’s history month or not, anytime is a good time to join an organization that focuses on supporting women. Click on any of the names below to learn more – and if there are any others we absolutely need to include in our September event, let us know in the comments!
The Ann Bancroft Foundation inspires and encourages girls to imagine something bigger. We strive to build confidence and offer tools that will allow a girl to go after her dreams and feel supported along the way. Through grants, mentorship, and ongoing development opportunities, the Ann Bancroft Foundation is giving Minnesota girls strength to achieve their full potential.
We are a Black Woman owned Minnesota Specific Public Benefit Corporation. We provide cultural wealth and financial education to foster skills, capacity, and needed social capital to build generational wealth among Historical Black Women.
GRW’s programming is tailored to realize a vision of a world in which women are guaranteed their human rights to equality and freedom from violence. It is vital that the implementation of VAWG laws is victim-centered and holds offenders accountable. GRW’s programming incorporates an understanding that multiple forms and systems of oppression affect women and girls ability to be free from violence.
Jeremiah Program offers one of the nation’s most successful strategies for transforming families from poverty to prosperity two generations at a time. Jeremiah prepares determined single mothers to excel in the workforce, readies their children to succeed in school, and reduces generational dependence on public assistance.
MAIA is a free searchable national guide to women-owned products and services for your home and business.
Think of her as your personal assistant helping you find a co-working space, a cup of coffee, a website development firm, a building company, a professional development association, plus thousands more! With equality as our baseline, every business listed in the directory is at least 50% women-owned.
The National Association of Women Business Owners – Minnesota Chapter (NAWBO-MN) provides a local avenue for women entrepreneurs to connect with their peers. Women business owners, large and small, join together for regular networking, educational programs, mentorship and support. Nationally, NAWBO was founded in 1975 to open doors for women entrepreneurs by transforming public policy and leveling the playing field. Representing the issues and concerns of women-owned businesses at the national, state and local levels, NAWBO is in the forefront of advocating on behalf of women business owners and the issues that impact their companies.
She Rock She Rock (SR2) is a Minnesota nonprofit dedicated to empowering girls, women, trans and nonbinary folks through the art of music. We provide an inclusive environment that values collaboration and diversity, develops leadership skills and fosters self-confidence. Through our music education programs and events, we believe that creative expression can evoke social change, challenge gender stereotypes and encourage support within, to positively impact individuals and the community.
We have a clear sense of purpose, values, and integrity of our organization. We are a Team. We value relationships, community, life-long learning, mentoring and an atmosphere of shared empowerment. We support all women who work or live in Minnesota, providing opportunities both personally and professionally. We believe in leadership development, from entry level up to the C-suite. We give back to the community and inspire others to do the same.
The WBDC-MN provides WBE Certification to majority-owned women’s businesses in Minnesota, Western Wisconsin, South Dakota and North Dakota. The WBE Certification is national in scope and issued by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). It is accepted by over a thousand major corporations and public agencies in the country. In addition, the WBDC-MN offers training, mentoring, networking and business development opportunities to WBEs.
Women in Networking (WIN) is a Twin Cities based organization in which women in business encourage one another’s professional growth and business success. Our members are a mix of female entrepreneurs, business owners and key players in business to business services.
The WIN experience is designed to be motivating and rewarding for women who value and actively practice the principles and process of networking and lifting up other women in business.
Women’s History Month might be coming to an end, but we wouldn’t dream of finishing out the month without mentioning one of Minnesota’s brightest and most tragic stars, Judy Garland. Born in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, Judy started entertaining at the age of 2, traveling across America with her mother, performing in nightclubs, cabarets, hotels and theaters. She went on to attain international stardom during Hollywood’s Golden Era. Over her 45-year career she received many awards including a juvenile Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award, and she was the first woman to win the Grammy Award for Album of the Year for her live recording of Judy at Carnegie Hall.
Despite her far-reaching success, Garland led a troubled life. At 13 years old, she was signed to MGM where she soon began working on her role as Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz (1939). Film executives constantly criticized her physical appearance which led Garland to struggle with her self-image and mental health. They fed her numerous pills, such as amphetamines, to achieve the desired streamlined figure and combat her exhaustion on set. The constant flow of narcotics soon led to a downward spiral that resulted in Garland’s life-long addiction to drugs and alcohol – a habit which ultimately led to her death at age 47 from a barbiturate overdose.
Although Garland battled with severe addiction and mental health issues, she nevertheless continued on to receive a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in A Star Is Born (1954); at age 39, Garland became the youngest and first female recipient of the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement in the film industry; And the American Film Institute placed her among the 10 greatest female stars of classic American cinema.
In addition to her professional accomplishments, Garland led a lavish love life. She was married five times and had several celebrity lovers including Mario Lanza, Yul Brynner, Frank Sinatra, Joseph L. Mankiewicz and Orson Welles. In pop culture, Garland became a gay icon due to her role in The Wizard of Oz and her numerous personal struggles that seemed to mirror those of gay Americans at the time. Her search for strength, authenticity, and acceptance in her self-identity continues to resonate with and inspire people everywhere.
In 2013, our CEO and owner, Buffie Blesi, attended the inaugural Minnesota Women Business Owners Hall of Fame induction ceremony. During the event, she was struck by how many successful companies in the Twin Cities are run by women and how few of those women are recognized for their accomplishments. Finally, an organization like the Minnesota Women Business Owners Hall of Fame was creating an avenue for these powerful female voices in business to recognize, celebrate, and love themselves.
For this week of Women’s History Month, we want to highlight a couple of those powerful voices that most profoundly impacted Buffie when she heard their story at that first induction ceremony just five years ago: Mother-daughter team, Ebba Hoffman and Sharon Avent.
Ebba Hoffman grew up in a time before women had the right to vote. By 1944, she had married, and was firmly entrenched in her role as a housewife with no dealings in her husband’s Hastings-based business, Smead. When her husband died suddenly in 1955, the newly widowed homemaker, with two young children and an eighth-grade education, found herself at the helm of his debt-burdened office products company.
Over the next 43 years, Ebba steered the Smead Manufacturing Company out of a crippling financial situation, through the era’s gender biases, past competitors, and into a position as one of Minnesota’s greatest, and quietest, success stories. Under her savvy leadership, Smead grew from roughly $4 million to over $300 million in sales. When she passed the business on to her daughter, Sharon Avent. The company had gained a nationwide reputation as an office-products powerhouse.
With her many ongoing innovations, Sharon continued to expand upon her mother’s work. Today, she is the sole owner of this 100-plus year-old company that continues to be identified as one of the largest woman-owned manufacturers in the United States with more than 2,000 filing and organizing products sold in the U.S. and Canada by large retailers such as Office Depot, Staples, Office Max and Amazon.
It’s Women’s History Month and of course we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to highlight this powerful singing trio that became one of the best-selling musical groups to ever emerge from Minnesota! Nicknamed “The Queens of the Jukebox Machines” for their many hit records, the Andrews Sisters were an American close harmony singing group of the swing and boogie-woogie eras. The group consisted of three sisters from Minneapolis: Patty, Maxene and LaVerne. Known for their precise harmonies and perfectly syncopated dance moves, the girls reached heights of worldwide fame and set staggering sales records. Their musical influence continues to inspire modern musicians, such as Christina Aguilera and Bette Midler.
Among their many achievements, The Andrews Sisters were the first female group to achieve a Gold Record award and became one of the best-selling female vocal groups of all time with somewhere between 75 and 100 million records sold. Of their billboard top 100 hit songs, they are most known for “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” “Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen,” and “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree.” They were even among the inaugural inductees to the Vocal Group Hall of Fame upon its opening in 1998.
Andrews Sisters Fun Facts:
During World War II, the sisters Entertained extensively with frequent concert appearances at military bases in America, Italy and Africa, visiting Army, Navy, Marine and Coast Guard bases, war zones, hospital and munitions factories.
They appeared in more films than any other singing group in show business history.
They recorded 47 songs with Bing Crosby, 23 of which charted on Billboard, including three million-selling platters, “Don’t Fence Me In”/”The Three Caballeros,” “South America, Take It Away”/”Get Your Kicks on Route 66-!” and “Jingle Bells”/”Santa Claus Is Coming To Town.”
March is Women’s History Month! We plan to celebrate this month by doing what we do best: highlighting some of Minnesota’s most powerful female voices in music, business, theater and community. Next week, we’ll kick off the month with a look at some of the most influential female musicians in our state’s history. The following week, we’ll dive into the world of Minnesota business, after that comes theater, and last but not least, community.
So come along for the ride as we find inspiration in the past, present, and future of Minnesota Women’s History. While our Minnesota cities might seem small, there’s no doubt that our Minnesota women have made big contributions to the world.
Stay tuned for stories of talented women who Rock What They Got! And we would love to hear from you too, so don’t forget to take some time this month and share about the historical female figures who inspire you the most.