There is no better place to celebrate Women’s History Month than at a girls school, and Notre Dame fits the bill! Committed to transformational education, NDP is home to faculty, staff, coaches, peers, and parents who work together to make real a mission of educating young women to transform the world.
Inspiring us daily in this endeavor are strong female role models—mothers, daughters, friends, characters in literature, historical figures, and leaders in faith—who guide our work and give us all something to which to strive. Here are some stories from our teachers and students of the women whom they call “sheroes.”
Ms. Lucy Strausbaugh, faculty member in the religion department, wrote about her daughter, Nadia.
Nadia Tereniuc Strausbaugh is a survivor of the concentration camp-like system of orphanages and institutions in Communist-era Romania. She was six when the wall came down and Romania’s dictator Nikolai Ceausescu was deposed. She remembers that “with Ceausescu just bread and water. After Ceausescu food.” But the food was never enough, and it was of such poor quality that many children lay sick in their beds and died in the night.
Nadia survived starvation, constant beatings, and attempted murder at the hands of a drunk male staffer, who was inexplicably the night attendant of a room full of 13-year-old girls. But this little girl, who had never known love, had a place in her heart where there was always hope, and that hope kept her going until her adoption in 1999 at the age of 15. The transition to living in an American family was not smooth, but she’s come out the other end an amazing, talented, and loving young woman. After speaking to many of NDP’s senior religion classes last month about her experiences, some of which parallel what they were learning in our Holocaust Unit, one senior wrote that “Nadia might be the most popular girl at NDP!” She is one of a kind and is nothing if not persistent!
Mrs. Libby Keady, Upper Level Campus Minister, wrote about her long-time role model and faith leader, Dorothy Day.
Dorothy Day was an activist who worked for peace, women’s suffrage, equality, and social justice. She was not born a Catholic, she converted to Catholicism as an adult. In the 1930s Dorothy Day co-founded The Catholic Worker newspaper to highlight social injustices and promoted Catholic social teachings. The newspaper was so successful that it fueled the creation of the Catholic Worker Movement to tackle issues of social justice. Today, the Catholic Worker has more than 200 communities across the USA doing good work to promote human dignity. In 2015 Pope Francis called Dorothy Day one of “four great Americans”. Dorothy dies in 1980, the year that I was born, so I feel a special affinity for her. Dorothy Day was not a perfect woman (no such woman exists) but she was a good woman who transformed the world!
NDP Junior Leia Sofia M. wrote about her unique relationship with her mom.
My number-one female hero is my mom because she is determined, funny, and loving. I have a very open relationship with my mom. For many teenagers, it’s kind of odd because teenagers have a tendency to shut out their parents. However, my mom and I are both open with each other and it has helped both of us get very close. One interesting part of our relationship is that despite the fact that we’re close, my mom and I are very different people. For example, I’m very social but my mom would rather be home reading a book than go to a social event.
One thing I admire about my mom is how hard she has worked to get where she is now. My mother was an immigrant from Trinidad and Tobago and has a dream to work in medicine. If she has a dream, she will work for it and she did just that. Her hard work paid off with an opportunity to study at Johns Hopkins.
For me, it’s really cool for me to be a first-generation American because I have the immigrant experience from my mother. She tells me stories about what it was like for her in college and in the workplace as a foreigner and has eventually become a U.S. citizen.
I’m grateful to have my mom in my life, and I look forward to our future relationship.
Mr. Tom Peri of the NDP science department honored his mom, Velma Rocchi Peri, who passed away in 2012.
In the shadow of my mother’s passing, I became reacquainted with the breadth and richness of her life as we sorted through family pictures, rediscovered artifacts, and found letters written and exchanged by way of the Baltimore Sun. From this, I share with you my mother.
First, she was strong-willed. She had her opinion, and she was going to express it, always polite but you knew where she stood. My mom was not one to stay quiet if she had something to say.
Second, if Velma liked you, your faults seemed to shrink. That is not naïveté; it is Velma’s brand of advocacy. And if she loved you, then you were on another level entirely: your faults were turned into virtues, and your mistakes were dismissed as irrelevant
Third, she was not inclined to watch from the sidelines. She was a participator. Photos showed of trips with friends, vacations with the extended family, her membership and eventual presidency of the ACIM, her working at the College of Notre Dame, and so much more.
Finally, there is an ultimate truth about my mother that goes deeper than letters and photos. My mother was all about family. Our well-being was always on her mind even to the end. I can never think of her in isolation; she was always with someone doing something. And now I think of her in heaven, sitting around a table full of steamed crabs on the porch. And that table always has room for more who will, in our time, join to sit, and laugh, and just share the pure joy of being.
Love you mom.
Mrs. Pam Keffer from the NDP Library has highlighted strong women in literature, both fiction and non-fiction, throughout the month.
In the NDP library, we create displays each March to celebrate Women’s History Month. I am always inspired as we select books, images, and stories of strong women, some from history and others who live today. The theme for this year is “Nevertheless She Persisted” and Malala Yousafzai really embodies that statement for me. She is a young woman who encountered many obstacles while growing up in Pakistan. She faced extreme violence from the Taliban while trying to get an education. Malala did not give up in fear and has become an activist for the education of young women as well as an advocate for peace in our world. As the youngest Nobel Prize Laureate, she inspires us to realize that everyone has the power to make a difference, that education for women is the key to our future.