2-Women Cyclists (50+ Age Group) Race Across The West

2-Women Cyclists (50+ Age Group) Race Across The West

Sylvia Maas, Team In Our Prime, 2019 RAW

Sylvia Maas (Photo from RAW Team Roster)

It starts today, June 11, 2019 at noon.  The Race Across The West (RAW) is an ultra-cycling event across 930-miles of the western United States.  The race in Oceanside, a Southern California beach town just north of San Diego and traverses across undulating terrain of the Coastal Mountain ranges, along the Sonoran and Mojave deserts.  After climbing into the Rockies of southwest Colorado, the ride ends in Durango, Colorado.   Two all-female teams were set to compete in the over 50 age category up until last week.  After six months of intense training, Team Revolution Coaching, a two-female squad competing in the first ever over, two-female 60+ age category had to pull out unexpectedly.  Team In Our Prime, a two-female team in the 50-59 age category, is set to take off this morning and Sistership will be following their progress over the next two days. Teams have 68-hour time limit to complete this grueling 930-mile road race with over 56,000 feet of elevation gain.

Karin Weller, Team In Our Prime, 2019 RAW

                Karin Weller (Photo from RAW Team Roster)

Karin Weller, 57 and Sylvia Maas, 56 have joined forces and experience to build an impressive female team of women over 50.  Both women are     veterans of the RAW and are coming off an impressive, record-breaking cycling race this past October 2018 at the 6-12-24 Hour World Time Trial Championship in Borrego Springs, CA.  The goal of the time trial is to cover as much distance as possible in 24 hours.  The women covered 451.2 miles and averaged 18.9 miles per hour, coming in one minute before the two-person male team. 

Veterans of the Race Across The West

Both athletes are veterans of the RAW.  Karin, an insurance accounting supervisor in Turlock, California, has found a way to juggle work-life with the many hours of training on the road to compete in several endurance cycling races over the past several years.  In 2016, she competed in a two-person mixed team under Team Eland and decided to go do it alone in 2017.  Karin placed 5th in the 50-59 age category.    She found a winning combination with her 2018 teammate Sylvia Mass, a high school biology teacher from San Diego.  Sylvia also competed as a solo competitor in 2016.  After the team’s success this past fall at the World Time Trials, they are racing across the west and challenging themselves in the event that over the past 9 years, has become one of the crown-jewels of ultra cycling.

In a quote Karin shares on her website: stravagirl.com,  she offers us a clue as to what drives her: “With ultra-cycling, I think it’s the distance I like and I like challenging myself.  It’s not easy, it hurts but feels so good to know I’m keeping my speed up, and I’m pushing myself…I love how you feel, the freedom, the nature, the things you get to see.” Her statement summarizes a similar theme with most ultra-endurance athletes we’ve followed.  These races seem to serve as vehicles in which the human spirit finds an excuse to see just how one can push themselves.

“I love how you feel, the freedom, the nature, the things you get to see.” (Karin Weeler)

Sistership will follow the race and particularly these two women, as they seek to set another record and find out once again, what lies on the other side of their current limits.

You can follow the race which starts at 12:00 noon on the official Race Across the West Race Tracker.

Sistership highlights and supports active, adventurous women who show what it looks like to “Age Proud, Grow Bold.”  If you want to support our cause and spread our message, visit our Sistership Store and we give a portion of our profits to supporting selected women adventures and non-profits that align with our mission.  

Two Women Cyclists – Race Across the West

Two Women Cyclists – Race Across the West

Looking for a way to push your physical and mental limits beyond your wildest reaches?  Look no further than the Race Across the West (RAW), a 930-mile bike race across the rugged American West.   No, not “bike” as in motorbike, but a human propelled bicycle race. 

On June 11, 2019 cyclists from around the world, all ages and genders are given less than 4 days to compete in this ultra cycling race across four states.  Tackled by men and women alike, and ages ranging from 15-75, the RAW is a grueling and exhilarating test of the human spirit of grit and perseverance.  

The Route

Starting on the beaches of Oceanside near San Diego, Southern California, riders start at sea level and look east. They propel over undulating terrain of the Coastal mountain ranges into the scorching heat of the Sonoran and Mojave’s deserts. As soloists or 2-4 person teams, they ascend into the Rockies of southwest Colorado to the final destination in Durango, Colorado.  Although the route they cover is amongst the most spectacular scenery of western America,  I can assure you, there’s not much sightseeing happening. These athletes are serious. They pay for the challenge of a race, not a back road touring vacation with optional sag wagons to help you up the hills. They train endlessly to endure sleepless hours in the saddle, stopping only when necessary and never longer than 30-minute stretches, if that.

The RAW and the RAAM

The prize? That varies.  For some, if they complete the race within 92 hours (individuals) or 68 hours (team), they qualify for the honor of participating in for the infamous Race Across America or RAAM.  The RAAM is the big brother to the RAW and the oldest and longest (3000 miles) bicycle Race Across America. Imagine that – killing yourself for a prize that allows you to do it all over again, but this time for three times the distance.  For others, the reward is not as much to say “I did it,” but to test the boundaries of their limits.  How far can a person really push themselves?  The RAW tempts riders to answer this question. Yet for even those who finish, I doubt if the question ever gets answered. The bar just gets pushed a little further into the unknown, and so many come back the next year, trying to answer the elusive question of “what are my limits.” 

Team Revolution Coaching Joins The Sistership

Sistership is a growing network of active, aging women and we select several team and individual ventures to promote each year. This year, we can’t wait to highlight the world of women endurance bike racing.  We are thrilled to support and promote Team Revolution Coaching.  Women, known in distance racing for the stamina and endurance have been populating the rosters of ultra cycling events over the past decade and setting records.  Unlike most sports centered around the strength, speed and agility of youth, when it comes to endurance cycling, age and gender barriers are beginning to blur. 

Women Breaking Records Across The West

In 2010 Denver Spokes (USA) set the record on the 858-mile course, competing as a four-person, all-female team in the 50-59 age category.  In 2015, another team record was established in the 60-69 age category by Spokeswomen (USA), another four-person, all female team.   In 2011, as a solo woman over 50, Seana Hogan (USA) smashed the 858-mile RAW in 3 days and 53 minutes. She’s set to do the 3000-mile RAAM this June, her 7th time – this time as the first entrant ever in the women’s solo 60-69 age category. She’s still an animal!   Last year, Karen Wheeler and Sylvia Maas of the two-female team, In Our Prime, set a new record of 451.2 miles coming in one minute before the two-person male team.  They are set to repeat the race in the 50-59 team category in 2019 and Sistership will be following them closely. But perhaps most intriguing to us is the repeat RAAM team, Team Serpentine Golden Girls.  This is a 4-female team from the UK who completed the race 10 years ago and are returning to see if they can do it again, this time in the 70-74 age category.  

Jill Gass and Liz Inglese

Team Revolution Coaching, another two-female crew, will be competing in the RAW in the  60+ two-person, all-female team category. In response to an ever-increasing field of competitive master’s  women,  the race organizers decided to add another age group in this category, just as they did for the RAAM.  The categories consider the combined average age of team members.  Team Revolution Coaching is the first team to sign up.  Aside from age, these women riders still hunger for the thrill of cycling and competition. They just keep coming back for more.    Jill Gass, 63, is a veteran of 3 RAAM challenges.  In 2010, she and her three teammates of Team Kalyra completed the race in just 7 days and set a new Master’s Women’s Transcontinental Record. In 2014, Jill competed with Frazier Hazlett in the mixed-doubles RAW as Team B4T9 and crossed the finish line in 2-days, 2 hours and 52 minutes, just 28 minutes behind the all-male doubles team.  Jill, along with her teammate Liz Inglese (57) are training fiercely and setting their goals to break this impressive time. 

Follow Their Story

Sistership will follow Team Revolution Coaching as they prepare for this event and during the 4-day challenge. Follow the story and these amazing women. See what it takes just to get to the start line and cycle vicariously through them as they race like the wind across the West, just because they still can.  

For more information, get the most recent updates on our Sistership Facebook Page

Johanna Gabbard is a Physical Therapist, educator, consultant, writer, and avid cyclist.  She is a health expert on musculoskeletal rehabilitation, enhancing optimal human movement and an advocate for active, healthy aging.

Jeanne Socrates – Circumnavigation Record Voyage – Update

Jeanne Socrates – Circumnavigation Record Voyage – Update

To circumnavigate solo around the world is an undertaking very few have accepted.  To do so, without the use of a mainsail or motor is unimaginable for even skilled sailors.  But Jeanne Socrates, the British 76-year-old woman attempting to become the oldest person to sail around the world, solo, nonstop and unassisted, remains undeterred.  The loss of a working mainsail early in her journey is all part of the adventure to this seasoned and highly-respected adventurer.   Jeanne and her vessel, Nereida are 194 days into this epic voyage.  She left Victoria, B.C. on October 05, 2018 and headed south.  Since January, after tearing her mainsail, her boat has been powered by her genoa sail and trysail.

Around the 5 Great Capes of the Southern Ocean

Her chosen route includes sailing around the 5 Great Capes, or the most southern mainland points of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans, also referred to as “The Southern Ocean.”   They consist of South America’s Cape Horn, Africa’s Cape Agulhas, Australia’s Cape Leeuwin, Tasmania’s South East Cape (Australia)  and New Zealand’s South Cape.   Rounding capes in any type of vessel can be extremely hazardous at times.  Ocean and wind currents meet land masses and the confluence of rocks, wind, currents, counter-currents, and temperature changes can produce some of the most treacherous water conditions in the world.  In December, before her mainsail tore, Jeanne sailed around South America’s Cape Horn.  Two months later on February 13, she successfully navigated around Africa’s Cape Agulhus and exactly 2-months later,  she rounded her 3rd landmark.  To the upbeat sounds of Abba and well-earned sips of “Dark and Stormy” ginger wine/rum in hand, she sailed around Cape Leeuwin, just off the southwest extremity of Australia, 194 days into her journey. 


“I’m Not In A Race”

Jeanne is an amazing example and role model for women aging boldly. Sistership has been following her closely to highlight her story and adventure.  We asked her a few questions about her voyage early this month and she was very gracious to respond.  Her answers gave us a little insight into what’s going on in her mind out in the big blue ocean.  Although she has traveled 17,000 nautical miles on her journey, she is 5 weeks behind her mark. She doesn’t hide her frustration and can only imagine that there are a lot of “armchair sailors” wondering what the heck is happening on the Nereida?  For anyone following her detailed blog, Jeanne describes the many conditions and circumstances that have played into her success and delay.  Not having a working mainsail is only one of them.  Although her spirit remains high, she writes “I’m not in a race…!  But I’m very conscious of weather and of winter coming on soon, down here…).”  When I asked her how she’s coming with her mainsail repair, she remained positive.  “Amazing how well I’ve done without that and just the genoa along with a (mainly ineffective) trysail instead…”

194 days and two-thirds of the way done.

Jeanne is two-thirds of the way through her 25,700 nautical mile journey, progressing forward towards Australia’s South East Cape and finally New Zealand’s South Cape.  It’s a familiar place for her.  She did it in 2012 in 259 days and set the record for the oldest woman to circumnavigate the globe solo, unassisted and unsupported.  Seven years later, she is determined to become the older person to achieve this goal. Regardless of what is thrown at her, she continues to tend to ever-changing situations, problem-solving tasks and general chores that arise on a daily, hourly and often minute-by-minute basis.  

Don’t Listen to Negative Comments and ‘Advice’

On my last correspondence a few days ago,  I asked her what advice she had for those attempting to pursue their adventurous dream, even in the face of negativity or the words of skeptics.   Her words were simple.  “…don’t listen to negative comments and ‘advice’ but do what you really want to do. (Being a woman, we’re more inclined to listen to others, maybe?)  It’s so very satisfying to achieve an ambition/dream, whatever it is, so long as no harm done to others in doing so – and it really gives a of self-confidence and self-respect.”  Coming from a woman who’s circumnavigated the globe 3- times already and who’s cemented her name in the world history books, we’d say this is advice we should all strive to follow.

To read more, click on this link.  If you would like to follow Jeanne’s course click here for her blog.


Copyright* 2015-2019. Sistership LLC. All Rights Reserved. 
“Go Your Age” Birthday Challenge – Nancy Eckert, 53

“Go Your Age” Birthday Challenge – Nancy Eckert, 53

Nancy Eckert, 52, has accepted Sistership’s “Go Your Age” Birthday Challenge and will be riding on Saturday with a group of friends from the Goleta/Santa Barbara/Ventura area.  Nancy, an avid road cyclist and mountain bike enthusiast will be celebrating her birthday exactly how she wants to – on her bike with friends.  She is well known in the Goleta/Santa Barbara cycling circles, not only for her cycling skills but for her activism in promoting safe cycling.  Her passion for building a better community is evident if you take a look at how she spends her time.  Nancy is an educator and a staff member of COAST (Coalition for Sustainable Transportation).  This is an organization in Santa Barbara County that provides advocacy, education and outreach programs to improve transportation and promote rail, bus, bike and pedestrian access. 

Cycling past 50, active women, go your age

Nancy takes in the scenery on top of the 3500ft climb to Sulfur Mountain in Ojai, CA

Nancy is also a key member of the Goleta Valley Girls Softball Association.  A former softball player for Cal Poly State University-San Luis Obispo, Nancy blended her athletic experience with her education degree to create a career centered on improving access and opportunities for young girls in the sport of softball. 

Nancy Eckert, Keilani Ricketts, girls softball, softball coach

Nancy hosts professional softball player, Keilani Ricketts at one of her many girl’s softball clinics.

Not only has she spent years offering private coaching and running softball clinics, but she also continues to run a girl’s softball program through Tide Club Softball for area youth.  Her work has inspired and empowered many young girls and women to pursue their dreams with confidence and boldness.


Whether she is cycling, coaching, paddle boarding or hiking, Nancy is always in search of ways to promote physical activity as a way to bring a community together.   Her upcoming birthday ride is a testament to this.  Not many people can talk a dozen friends into cycling 53-miles along the coastal mountains of Santa Barbara,  instead of just blowing out some candles and calling it a day.  You go, Nancy!  “Go Your Age” with gusto.

Johanna Gabbard is a Physical Therapist, educator, consultant, writer, professional speaker, and community organizer. She is an avid cyclist, sailor, retired Army Colonel and former professor for Physical Therapy at Baylor University. Johanna is a health expert on musculoskeletal rehabilitation, enhancing optimal human movement and an advocate for active, healthy aging. She is a co-founder of Sistership LLC, a company dedicated to promoting and supporting active women who choose to “Age Proud, Grow Bold.

At 76, Jeanne Socrates: Sails The Globe, Solo, Nonstop & Unassisted – Again.

At 76, Jeanne Socrates: Sails The Globe, Solo, Nonstop & Unassisted – Again.

In Greek mythology, the Nereids were the 50 mythical goddesses of Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea. They were the patrons of fishermen and sailors who followed their journeys and came to their aid in troubling storms. So it is fitting that a sailing vessel, called Nereida, is carrying her Captain, Jeanne Socrates, around the world on a record-breaking journey of a lifetime.

Jeanne is a 76-year-old British yachts-person and retired math teacher who began sailing at 48.  She is undoubtedly a guru when it comes to circumnavigating the globe in a sailboat. She’s done it three times.  Jeanne is listed in the Guinness World Book of Records as the oldest woman to have circumnavigated the world single-handed in 2013, at age 70.  She is also the only woman to have circumnavigated solo, nonstop, unassisted and without shore support, around the globe from North America.

This amazing adventurer, who actually likes being referred to as a bit “crazy,” has overcome many setbacks in her attempt to pursue her dream of sailing solo and unassisted around the world, and break a record doing so.  In 2016, bad weather and damage to her boat twice foiled her plans, and she returned to the harbor.  This did little to change her determination, and in October 2017, just two weeks as she was set to take off again, she took a bad fall on her boat and suffered several broken bones.  

Jeanne is currently halfway around the world on her quest for another world record, one she vowed in 2013 that she would never attempt again.  She left Victoria, BC., Canada on October 03, 2018 for what she estimated would be a 7-8 month trip.  Among the world’s great bodies of water, Jean must successfully maneuver around the Five Great Capes of the Southern Ocean to bring her full circle back to Victoria. This is no small feat for any sailor, let alone one traveling alone and without the use of a motor.  But on December 19, 77 days after leaving Victoria, Jeanne reached a milestone in her journey.  She successfully navigated the tip of South America, rounding Cape Horn on her 38-foot monohull. She was right on schedule.  Cape Horn is the most southern of the southern capes dipping down to 56ºS.  It is also at the confluence of the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.  With changing currents, temperatures and depths, these waters are considered some of the most treacherous in the world.  

Jeanne had conquered Cape Agulhas, the second of the Five Great Capes along her travels, and after 133 days from her start, she had covered 12,523 nautical miles.

It took approximately 2 ½ months to traverse the Atlantic Ocean, and on February 13th, Jeanne rounded the Cape of Good Hope in the early morning and was around Cape Agulhas by late afternoon.  She had made it around the rocky headland of the southern tip of Africa.   These are dangerous waters with ferocious storms and huge waves, known to reach as high as 100 feet.  Fortunately, after battling the infamous Agulhas current in steep seas, the 4 Knott current finally settled she had moved into the waters of the Indian Ocean.  Jeanne had conquered Cape Agulhas, the second of the Five Great Capes along her travels, and after 133 days from her start, she had covered 12,523 nautical miles

…Tropical Cyclone Haleh is in the forecast…

As of yesterday, March 06, according to her meticulous blog, she is 238 nautical miles to the halfway point of her 25,000+ nautical mile voyage.  Tropical Cyclone Haleh is in the forecast, and she has been working hard to slow the boat down and keep it from heading straight into the predicted storm.  Without a motor and with alternating light and heavy winds, this is proving to be harder than it sounds.  Jeanne is sailing alone, but she is not alone. She has radio and email contact and has been receiving updates from national weather services as well as local boats in the vicinity.  She is also being carried by the community of friends, family, sailors, and strangers from around the world.  Like the Nereids, we are following her journey and cheering for her safe and triumphant return back home.  

If you would like to follow Jeanne’s course and her blog, click on this link. 

Finding Lupe Anguiano. An Unsung American Legacy.

Finding Lupe Anguiano. An Unsung American Legacy.

It was an ordinary morning for me at work in the spring of 2015. My schedule was packed with the names of patients, their age, a brief description of their chief complaint and request for Physical Therapy services.  I perused the summary of each new and returning patient and started my day. Mid-way through the morning, I went out to greet the next person on my list, an 85-year old woman.   After reading her chart, I had already formulated the scenario in my head.   I would go into the waiting room and introduce myself to an elderly woman. She may or may not walk with a cane, and more than likely would be accompanied by a family member or friend. She would be quiet, polite and unassuming and either she or her relative/friend would provide me with a history of her current problem.   Forming preconceptions of a patient from minimal information is a necessary practice for most healthcare providers. Years of experience, patient interactions, and data collection allow providers to formulate patterns quickly with seemingly little information.  Experience also teaches us to be careful.  These preconceived notions could prove to be completely wrong, which was the case today with Lupe Anguiano.

On the front of her shirt, in big bold pink letters, glared the words “Stop Fracking.”

Lupe popped up from her chair when I introduced myself.  Feisty and smiling at me with confidence, she gripped my hand warmly as I greeted her with a handshake.  Lupe had driven herself to this appointment, no one beside her, no cane in hand.  She walked into my office, took off her sweater and sat erect in the chair.  Already sensing I was wrong with my initial expectations of this woman, her T-shirt put the final dagger into my theory.  On the front of her shirt, in big bold pink letters, glared the words “Stop Fracking.”  I chuckled at myself.  Not only was I wrong, I was dead wrong.  There was a big story behind Lupe, and I couldn’t wait to learn more.

At the end of the second visit, I asked Lupe about the shirt she had worn the previous session. Little did I know my curiosity would open up my world to this amazing person and her life of selfless service to millions.  “What’s behind the “stop fracking” shirt you were wearing the other day?” I asked.   She grinned, and her eyes sparkled as if thanking me for noticing.   It was clear this wasn’t going to be a one-line answer. “Well, it’s just one of the issues I’m working on to protect our environment for future generations. I work with the local city officials and state environmental organizations to stop this horrific practice of fracking.  It’s poisoning our water supply and our children’s playground” she answered.  “It’s just one of several environmental issues I’m involved in” she added.

How often does one meet an octogenarian who is actively engaged in fighting for the environment?

I admit, I half expected her to tell me the shirt was a gift from her grandchild and she was just wearing it in support of them.  But I was wrong again and embarrassed that my tendency to trust my stereotypes of age and gender had not yet been tempered.  Lupe’s response was far from the answer I expected.  I mean, how often does one meet an octogenarian who is actively engaged in fighting for the environment?  It was clear I wasn’t talking to an ordinary woman.  This was a someone who at age 75, founded and directed Stewards of the Earth, a non-profit organization committed to protecting the west coast environment from agricultural pollutants, fracking and the downsides of development.  This was a woman who took on the largest mining company in the world, BHP Billiton and Exxon Mobil in their joint effort to bring a liquefied natural gas line (LNG) through her beloved hometown of Oxnard, California.  Lupe devoted three years forming coalitions and alliances with environmental-friendly groups such as the Sierra Club, local and state politicians, and media outlets to build public awareness to the proposal. Opposition spread throughout California, and in 2007, her efforts finally paid off.  The LNG proposal died in the state legislature. Lupe was elated. Her perseverance, despite numerous roadblocks, personal attacks and criticism, were key in stopping the powerful gas lobby.  At 78, she achieved one of the most momentous victories of her career as an activist and proved what one person and the power of persistence could accomplish. After hearing the full story, the gravity of the meaning behind her “Stop Fracking” shirt, skyrocketed in my head to a whole new level.  I was in a state of awe.

Lupe left the Church to advocate for justice and equality for the poor and underserved.

Over time, Lupe modestly shared small bits and pieces of her story with me.  In her earlier life, she was Sister Mary Consuelo, a Catholic nun, who devoted her life to the Church. But over time, Lupe found a deeper calling.  She was drawn to advocate for justice and equality for the poor and underserved.  Dressed in her habit, she would attend public protests and marches.  This didn’t quite sit well with her employer.  Restricted by the rules of the Church, Lupe eventually removed her habit and left.  Without regrets, she knew her mission in life was to serve God and His people.  She also knew the people lived beyond the walls of the Church.  Her calling was to join them.

She schooled me on the pressing need for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).

Each visit, I learned more about Lupe and I eagerly peered closer into her life window.  As I assisted in her rehabilitative process, she schooled me on the pressing need for passage of the  Equal Rights Amendment. I too shared my past with Lupe, and at one point I spoke how I felt fortunate to go to college on a basketball scholarship, thanks to the passage of Title IX in 1972.  Title IX was the landmark legislation that ensured equal benefits to both sexes in all federally funded educational programs and activities. Most of the time, when I shared that tidbit with others, I would get an “Oh wow, you went to college on a basketball scholarship?” remark.  But not this time.  From Lupe’s reaction, it was clear I had opened up Pandora’s box with the mention of the law.

To me, Title IX was a godsend to my family, and the timing was perfect. Colleges and universities were just starting to offer athletic scholarships, and in 1978, I was one of the first females in my community to receive this award.  However, to Lupe, the law was a shallow legislative compromise. Yes, it benefitted some, like me, but it also contributed to bursting the momentum of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). Women were handed a carrot, and they took it, instead of fighting for the whole salad.  She knew first hand, unlike so many others including myself, that for women to obtain full equal rights in all aspects of American life, we needed it written into our constitution.  Equal pay, equal protection, equal access to social and business benefits and equal opportunities could only be guaranteed for generations to come through a constitutional amendment.  Title IX, although a significant victory for women equality, lacked permanence, she explained.  Like all legislative laws, they were subject to change depending on interpretation, the political makeup, and climate.

Lupe Anguiano, UFW, Circa 1968 (PRNewsfoto/Debora Wright)


“Oh my gosh,” I thought… Lupe was one of them – the Giants of the Women’s Movement.

“How did she know so much about this issue?” I wondered.  It was obvious the topic hit a nerve.  The top was off the boiling kettle, and I was about to find out why. Lupe began to open up about her life on the national stage.  The reason she knew so much about the ERA, was that she was one of the founding members of the first National Women’s Political Caucus (NWPC), which included Gloria Steinem, Bella Abzug, Betty Friedan, LaDonna Harris, and Shirley Chisholm. “Oh my gosh, ” I thought. She was not only the former Sister Mary Consuelo or the woman who beat down fracking in California,  Lupe was one of them – the Giants of the Women’s Movement. These were the women I grew up admiring.  Betty Friedan, the founder of the National Organization of Women (NOW) and credited for demanding Congress to take up the Equal Rights Amendment in 1970, was instrumental in forming the NWPC.   Bettye and others knew that support for passing the ERA and other pressing issues related to women equality could only come from increasing the number of women in all aspects of politics, on both sides of the aisle.   The NWPC, a nonpartisan political organization for women, was formed in 1971 to achieve these goals. Smaller state chapters began to take root, and the group took on several important issues of the day relating to women equality, with the underlying purpose of passing the ERA.

I always thought the ERA passed in the 70’s

I listened in fascination as she shared her story. Frankly, I wanted to bow at her feet and thank her for everything she had done for me and so many others.  Yet, I was embarrassed to admit my naivety about the law.  Until she spoke, I always thought the ERA had passed in the ’70s and was part of our Constitution. I could barely look Lupe in the eye as she passionately spoke about her work relating to this vital women’s issue.   I did have a moment of reprieve from my guilt when later I read that 70% of people polled thought as I did.  But, it was only a small consolation to know that I wasn’t alone.  “How could this be and how could I not know any of this?” I thought in disbelief.   Born at the tail end of the Baby Boomer era, I spent the majority of my life reaping the benefits obtained by the tireless efforts of many women and men who came before me.  As a highly educated professional woman, I was discovering how highly uneducated I was when it came to many of the issues that mattered in the grand scheme of things.   I spent my career helping people in need, one by one, with the security of a paycheck, a pension and healthcare benefits.  Lupe, and so many others like her, cared less about securing a comfortable future for themselves and more about righting the present injustices that were affecting scores of people across the country. Needless to say, as I learned more about Lupe, I uncovered more about myself and how my scope of the world was narrower than I believed.  Without even trying, she opened up my eyes to what was possible when I looked beyond my comfortable life.

After a few months, our therapist-client relationship ended.  We were friends by then and met several times for breakfast and lunch just to catch up. I would also check to make sure she was compliant with her therapy and stayed active and healthy.  I knew there was so much more to learn about Lupe.  She was willing to talk, but by this time her biography had just been published, and she felt I should read the book first, then she could fill in all the details.  The book, “Uncompromised. The Life Story of Lupe Anguiano”, had just been released in 2016. The author, Debora Wright, met Lupe through her husband who previously worked with Lupe on another project in the Oxnard community.  Debora was a writer and like me, was captivated by Lupe’s story. Lupe liked Deborah and was comfortable enough to invite her to write her life story. Deborah jumped at the chance and ended up taking six years to complete the project.  She devoted countless hours tracking down and interviewing Lupe, her colleagues, people she had influenced, family members and close friends. She combed through Lupe’s vast archives that are now housed under the Lupe Anguiano Papers at the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center.  In the end, the book was priceless.  Debora had created a thorough and unsurprisingly fascinating biography about this unsung, quiet American activist.

Best known for her work on Welfare Reform, Lupe saw welfare as a “trap.”

Reading Lupe’s life story helped me understand the complexities of her life and the reasons behind the choices and causes she championed.  Beyond the LNG and ERA campaigns she pursued, Lupe is best known for her work on Welfare Reform. A visionary of her time, Lupe saw welfare, not as a social assistance program, but as a noose that ensnared women into dependency.  Minority women were the largest recipients, and welfare stripped them of their self-worth. She noted that white women with small children continued to work and wondered why minority women weren’t afforded the same opportunities?  Welfare, in her mind, was a trap. It kept mostly minority women with children at the bottom rung of the social-economic ladder.  It was a social program designed to help those in need, but in actuality, created a generational cycle of impoverishment.

Lupe spent years working to change welfare policy from a system that enabled dependency to a program that provided education, occupational training, and job opportunities. When she failed to make headway at the national level, Lupe took her ideas to the source.  She moved to San Antonio and lived for several years with women on public assistance.  Lupe knew it was imperative to create a bond with these women and gain their trust. Only then could she educate them about the downsides of welfare.  Lupe gave them hope and empowered them with knowledge and resources so they could pull themselves out of the pit of poverty. When her local efforts proved successful, she set her eyes on the national stage and created the non-profit National Women’s Employment and Education project (NWEE).  This was a novel program designed to provide employment readiness skills and quickly place women into jobs.  It also offered a full year of follow-up and support services.  Interest in the program grew to other cities and states. It attracted the attention of 60-minutes which aired a story in December 1980 about Lupe and her program in a story titled “Getting Off Welfare.”  The exposure pushed her into the national spotlight.  Barbara Bush and President-elect Ronald Reagan noticed and reached out to her.  Even Hollywood was taken by the news and offered to buy the rights to her story, which she eventually turned down.   After years of work and dedication, the program and similar models of welfare reform eventually expanded into New York and Colorado. Lupe and her NWEE eventually helped thousands of women get off welfare and regain their dignity and self-respect through meaningful work.

Can you believe I’ve lived so long? … I’m still here!

Impressive as this all sounds, there’s so much more to the story and this woman.  I am on my second read of the book, and I continue to be amazed at how such a humble, unassuming woman accomplished so much in her lifetime. Granted, she’s had 89 years to do it and hasn’t slowed down yet. Lupe will celebrate her 90th birthday on March 12th.  I asked her about this, and she shook her head.  “Johanna, can you believe I’ve lived so long?”  “I can’t believe it, and I’m still here!” she exclaimed.  “I can, Lupe,” I said, nodding my head in agreement. “How can you not be? Your passion and love for humanity continue to fuel you.” I reminded her.  “And that hasn’t run out yet.” I thought.

“Thank You, Lupe, for Your Service”

Over the past four years, I’ve been blessed to have met and get to know Lupe Anguiano.  She’s been an empowering, influential role model for me as I navigate through my 50’s and the transitions that come during this phase of life. She is the inspiration behind the company I’ve co-founded, Sistership LLC, which started as a group of adventurous women set out to dismantle age and gender stereotypes.  Our motto “Age Proud, Grow Bold” stems from women aging with a purpose, like Lupe.  Unknowingly, she’s raised my understanding of what it means to age actively, proudly and with service.  I’ve given 30 years of military service, yet it pales in comparison to the life of this phenomenal woman.  I think how undeserving I’ve been to the countless well-intentioned people who’ve acknowledged my military career with “thank you for your service.”   I wish I could take every one of those thank yous and redirect them onto my friend Lupe.  They would never be enough, as America owes so much more to this woman, her tireless efforts and selfless service to its people.

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