Remembering Helen Thomas, A Genuine Trailblazer

Helen Thomas was a true MAKER and a genuine trailblazer. As a resolute voice for gender equality, Helen’s strength of character made her a force to be reckoned with, inspiring generations of women like me to continue our work of breaking down the barriers that have stood in our way.

As the first woman to break into the White House press corps, Helen covered ten Presidents and countless diplomats.  But in Helen’s story, with all its twists and turns, there’s one player that sticks out in my mind: her father. 

When Helen talks about her life, she often credits her father for pushing her to succeed.  It was he who urged her to use her determination to make the world reward her immense talents and recognize her as an equal.

Though Helen’s father couldn’t read or write himself, working as a grocer to support his family, he encouraged his daughter to go to college knowing that education would be her tool to level the playing field. This was especially important since she was a woman and a daughter of immigrants during a time when our country offered no favors for either.

My experience was not dissimilar. I too am the daughter of immigrants, and my father’s encouragement was instrumental to helping me become the person I am today. When I was growing up I recall that he would come home every night, exhausted from working to support our family, and read to me about Gandhi, Dr. King, and Eleanor Roosevelt.  That’s how he instilled the importance of education in my life. 

As immigrants, our fathers knew what it was like to have to change their names to be accepted, to have to work twice as hard for the same opportunities.  It was our fathers who taught us to hold power accountable, demand equality, and strive for the American Dream. My father taught me to fight with advocacy and policy, Helen’s father taught her to fight with the pen.

As we reflect on Helen’s life and tremendous accomplishments and continue down the road to equality that she and other trailblazing women have paved for us, her story is a reminder that as we build the sisterhood, we must engage our fathers, sons, and brothers to help us clear the way.  

If we learn one thing from our fellow MAKERS, it's that when women succeed, we all succeed.

// Reshma Saujani is the Founder of Girls Who Code, a New York City-based organization that works to educate, empower, and equip teenaged girls with the skills and resources to pursue opportunities in technology and engineering. //

Photo: Washington Post/Getty Images