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Is the World Ready For Lincoln Girls?

By Suzanne Fogarty
Head of Lincoln School 

On Thursday, September 20, I moderated a panel of four Lincoln students who presented as part of in the Young Women’s Circle at the RISE Women’s Leadership Conference in Providence. The questions I asked them were about diversity and inclusion, gender, what keeps them up at night, and what advice they would give an audience of 500 participants on how to mentor and raise young women.

Their words were, perhaps unsurprisingly, wise, poignant, strong, and complex. And because I am the proud head of Lincoln, I asked the students to reflect on what it means to go to an all-girls school.

They offered a variety of perspectives, but they also shared a common observation that talking about challenging and difficult issues like sexual assault and mental health are critical in today’s day and age. In the Lincoln community, with its strong foundation of putting girls first for over 130 years, with its deep roots in Quaker values—equity being one of them—we carve out the space and the confidence for girls and young women to speak up and to speak out, to own their opinions and their stories.

One such opinion comes from Eliza Staples ’19: “I know all-girls schools will not single handedly change deeply ingrained notions, nor will they eradicate the issues of sexual assault, sexism, or bias against women, but they are a good place to start. At Lincoln, we can gather and discuss these issues... We see something that we think is unjust, that has affected us or the people we love, and not only do we want to do something about it, we know that here, we can.”

That freedom is one of the hallmarks of a Lincoln education. Recently, the director of Middle School, Deb Hanney, shared the following quote by Caroline Caldwell at Middle School Parent Night: “In a society that profits from your self-doubt, liking yourself is a rebellious act.”

I love this quote. Not because liking oneself should be a rebellious act. But because it is a call to action for girls and young women who live in a world that seems to say being self critical is the path to acceptance, that girls must reach deeper and speak louder just to explain themselves, and that they must grasp for a higher bar in order to gain respect. This is why we teach our students skills like public speaking, so they feel the power of Lincoln’s voices; self-defense classes, so they recognize the strength within themselves; and courses like Gender Studies and Language and Power, so they can better navigate the complex world in which we live.  

When Lincoln students enter the red doors of this school, they know that their opinions matter, and that their ideas and feelings are our focus. It is a welcome respite in a society that does not always put girls first, and it is exactly why girls’ schools—Lincoln School—have never been more important, never been more relevant, and never been more necessary than right now.   

And, as often happens here at Lincoln, our students, like Camilla Ledezma ’19, say it best:

“[In the here and now] we cannot forget about the steps that so many, from Ruth Bader Ginsburg to Tarana Burke, have taken to make the country and the world a more welcoming, empowering place for women and girls. What we learn at Lincoln means we’re taking our own steps toward that goal as the next generation of powerful women. Through our classes, our open group discussions (during which no topic is taboo), our programs outside of school, and more, we’re not just being prepared for the world; more importantly, we’re learning how to prepare the world for us—so that we can finally speak the truth and be believed.”

To all the girls out there, not just at Lincoln, but beyond: We hear you. We believe you. And together, we have hope that our tomorrow will be a brighter, bolder, and better place for all.

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