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Women make their mark in North Georgia
Inaugural Expo, new magazine created to celebrate accomplishments, promise of areas female leaders
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North Georgia Women’s Expo

When: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 29

Where: Brenau Downtown Center, 301 Main St., Gainesville

How much: $5; on sale at Times office, 345 Green St., Gainesville; on website and at the door

Website: northgeorgiawomensexpo.com

It’s hard to imagine any community in America that wasn’t built with strong female hands as part of the construction crew, and ours is no exception.

Throughout the decades, women with vision, character and courage have stood alongside the male pioneers of North Georgia to build the schools, businesses and government institutions that made our part of the world a unique and special place to live.

This weekend, an inaugural event is scheduled to celebrate the role women continue to play in forging the foundations of our community and to help them get even further ahead in their goals. The North Georgia Women’s Expo, set for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Brenau University Downtown Center in Gainesville, will bring together a diverse group of women from the area to network, share ideas and celebrate their accomplishments.

The expo, presented by The Times in collaboration with WomenSource, aims to inform and inspire those in attendance and give them the tools to achieve even greater success in a challenging, changing world. The event will include vendor booths, door prizes galore and program highlights designed to shine the light on career and personal guidance.

In tandem with the Women’s Expo, The Times will introduce a new magazine, Moxie, that showcases many of North Georgia’s women — some you may know, some you may not yet know — in a lively, image-rich format. As you’ll see in its pages, there are no shortage of determined, successful women in our area who have blazed amazing trails in every imaginable field.

That’s really not a new trend. North Georgia women have long held positions of power and influence. That history goes back to female leaders like Helen Dortch Longstreet, widow of famed Confederate Gen. James Longstreet who settled in Gainesville in the later 19th century. She was more than 40 years his junior, born just a few months before his pivotal role in the Battle of Gettsyburg, but became his confidant and caretaker in his later years. After his passing in 1904, “The Fighting Lady” became the state’s first female postmistress, a vital and influential political position in those days, and spent her lifetime battling for environmental and civil rights causes.

The years that followed saw a progression of female pioneers in many fields: Beulah Rucker Oliver in education, Frances Meadows and Sissy Lawson in local politics, Lessie Smithgall in media and philanthropy, and countless others in business, the arts, faith and nonprofit ventures, many toiling out of the spotlight to make lives better in meaningful ways.

That legacy continues with dozens of key female leaders plotting our community’s future in both the public and private sectors. Without their keen eye and human touch, our region would lack a three-dimensional view of life that blends both the need for economic success with the roles of family and charitable causes.

This is how the world of women has evolved. At one time, few were able to break out of childbearing and homemaking roles to explore the world in other ways. The women’s movement of the mid-20th century broke that model, but left many still wanting to blend careers with families.

Today’s women have that option, and more. They are pushing employers to offer that life balance that allows them, and subsequently the men in their lives, to fulfill their occupational goals without giving up the other quality-of-life activities that make them happier and more productive. They can’t always have it all, and that equilibrium is sometimes elusive, but the effort to achieve it continues.

They also control much of the buying power that drives the local economy. A survey by Greenfield Online for the Arnold’s Women’s Insight Team shows that female buyers account for 85 percent of all consumer purchases, including 91 percent of new homes, 92 percent of vacation buys, 65 percent of new cars, 93 percent of food, 80 percent of health care spending and they manage 89 percent of bank accounts. Online, female shoppers account for 58 percent of Web-based purchases.

This is because they also are more independent than ever. Nationwide, 40 percent of women with children under age 18 are the sole source of their household income, according to Pew Research. Half are among the healthiest, wealthiest and most active generation of women in U.S. history.

And they’re more educated than ever. In 2013, the U.S. Education Department estimated that women earned 62 percent of associate college degrees, 57 percent of bachelor’s degrees, 60 percent of master’s degrees and 52 percent of doctorates.

The days of seeing a female doctor, lawyer, scientist or political leader as an anomaly are long past. What was a man’s world for generations has changed, within the past few, into a society where both sexes play an active role in the leadership decisions that drive our future.

This rich legacy of female leadership and initiative can and should only grow in the years ahead as our community expands its economic and cultural reach. It can’t reach its lofty goals without everyone pulling on the oars, men and women together of all backgrounds, races and callings.

The Women’s Expo and Moxie magazine offer opportunities to recognize the accomplishments of the past and the challenges that lie ahead. We urge North Georgians to take part and join the celebration this Saturday.

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