Women We Laud

By Christina Verigan

Ernestine Fu

Student, teacher, venture capitalist
Stanford student Ernestine Fu has a busy schedule: class, laundry, a coffee break, and a partner meeting at venture capitalist firm Alsop Louie Partners. Yes, you heard that right. Fu is America’s youngest venture capitalist. How does she get it all done? Multitasking. While most people are unable to successfully execute multiple things at once, to Fu, it comes naturally.

In a typical hour-long class, she’ll also answer more than a dozen emails (business and personal) and write a paper, while also holding up her end of the class discussion and taking detailed notes. In short, her brain has more capacity than most people’s. In addition to being a master multitasker, a Mensa genius, and an incredibly hard worker, Fu is always looking for new projects to take on. That’s how she got started at Alsop Louie, where she is a salaried campus associate who scours Stanford for innovative entrepreneurs the firm might like to back financially.

Fu has always been an overachiever. At 15, she founded Visual Arts and Music for Society, a nonprofit organization that connected high school artists with volunteer opportunities in hospitals, senior centers, and orphanages. Once she got to college, Fu founded the Frugal Innovation Initiative with the aim of improving the lives of people in developing countries through education and health projects.

Today, in addition to working at Alsop Louie, she is studying engineering at Stanford, where she has also taught classes in entrepreneurship. Much of Fu’s recent coursework has involved special projects with faculty. For instance, she has researched the impact of climate change on coastal infrastructure and is co-authoring a book about public service and young people.

It was through a Stanford connection that Fu met Stewart Alsop, a founder of Alsop Louie. At age 19, she became the youngest venture capitalist in history, and two months into the job she closed her first deal, funding Qwhisper, which specializes in storage, search, and analytics software for social media content. In the spring this brilliant lady will graduate with both her undergraduate and master’s degrees. As for her future plans, Fu has her eye on continuing as a venture capitalist, pursuing a PhD in engineering, being an active philanthropist, and perhaps even becoming an entrepreneur herself.

New Hampshire’s Capitol Delegation

Jeanne Shaheen

Kelly Ayotte, Ann McLane Kuster, Carol Shea-Porter, Jeanne Shaheen
When election season comes around, political junkies keep an eye on New Hampshire. Host of the first primary of every presidential campaign, New Hampshire is fiscally conservative, but progressive on social issues. The state’s motto, “Live free or die” tells you how seriously New Hampshire residents take their politics. Recent elections in the state have been tenser than ever, reflecting the partisan climate in the rest of the country.

After Election Day last month, New Hampshire made headlines—but not because of hanging chads or brawls at the polls. It is the first state in U.S. history to elect an all-female Congressional delegation! Come January, Democrats Jeanne Shaheen and Ann McLane Kuster and Republican Kelly Ayotte will join incumbent Democrat Carol Shea-Porter on Capitol Hill. Shaheen was New Hampshire’s first woman governor – and also the first woman in the U.S. to be elected governor and senator.

For the past 15 years, female politicians have thrived in New Hampshire. In 1999, it was the first state to simultaneously have a female governor (Shaheen), State Senate president (Beverly Hollingworth), and State House speaker (Donna Sytek). Many in New Hampshire are proud of their state’s support of female leaders, who are often encouraged to get involved by local governments and female mentors. There is hesitation among New Hampshire voters to say that women govern differently than men. By minimizing these biases, candidates’ individuality and platforms take center stage—and as more female politicians serve their constituents well, gender matters less.

While all four women have different visions for New Hampshire and for America, they do have one thing in common: They are all mothers, and have been since early in their political careers. These inspiring ladies know how to balance work and family, tackling the tough jobs of motherhood and government office. Perhaps they’ll bring some of their balancing skills to Washington, where U.S. democracy relies on moderation and compromise across the aisle.

Classic Heroine
Dorothy Day (1897–1980)

Social activist and candidate for sainthood
Growing up in Brooklyn, Dorothy Day, born a Protestant, was far from a model Catholic schoolgirl. She dropped out of college, wrote for radical newspapers, and went barhopping in Greenwich Village with activist artists. She was a divorcee who had a child out of wedlock. She protested outside the White House, and went to jail more than once. And now, 32 years after her death, she is being considered for sainthood.

Despite her wild-child youth, Day converted to Catholicism when she was 30 years old, just after the birth of her daughter. Day was a pacifist dedicated to helping the poor and fighting injustice, and she saw Catholicism as open-minded, welcoming converts from all walks of life—“the church of immigrants and the church of the poor,” she called it. Five years later she founded a newspaper called The Catholic Worker, which sold for a penny an issue and quickly had 100,000 readers. Less than a year later, she founded a “house of hospitality,” a shelter and soup kitchen in Manhattan to help the city’s homeless and hungry.

Day was an outspoken advocate for the poor. She felt that the government neglected its neediest citizens while continuing to pursue international warfare. Her life spanned all the major events of the Twentieth Century. She was first arrested in 1917 for civil disobedience at a protest outside the White House in favor of women’s suffrage. In the years leading up to World War II, she spoke out against the dangers of fascism, racism, and anti-Semitism, and after the war, she denounced nuclear armament. She fought for civil rights, protested the Vietnam War, and stood with César Chávez to demand rights for workers and immigrants.

As Day became more famous—or infamous—her involvement in protests and rallies not only helped her in her mission to aid the poor, but also spread her philosophy of peace and social justice. Her activism inspired millions of people to donate to the organization that ran her homeless shelter and 200 sister sites. The Catholic Church embraced her once she publicly decided to be pro-life, despite having had an abortion in her early twenties.

During her life, Day scoffed at the notion of sainthood, having once said, “I don’t want to be dismissed so easily.” Perhaps this is because she felt that her kind acts could and should be undertaken by everyone. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, New York’s archbishop, has joined the archbishop of Chicago, Francis E. George, as her one of Day’s most powerful advocates. “I am convinced she is a saint for our time.” The next step of canonization is to prove that Day is responsible for two miracles—one posthumously performed. Some argue that the incredible amount of money she raised for charity is a miracle in and of itself. Whether or not she becomes Saint Dorothy Day, her generous spirit sets an example we all can aspire to.

Originally published December 2012
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