Women We Laud

By Kim Taylor

To mark the debut of this new Women We Laud column, I had an initial desire to feature someone bold and prominent, like the film actress and inventor Hedy Lamarr, whose design for a radio-controlled torpedo that hopped frequencies in great part enabled today’s cell phones, Wi-Fi and GPS to function without interference. But a new book about her life by Richard Rhodes, “Hedy’s Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, the Most Beautiful Woman in the World,” and a movie in the making about her life, already sufficiently laud her many beautiful contributions to society.

I also considered Somaly Mam, the dynamic activist, philanthropist and author of “The Road of Lost Innocence: the True Story of a Cambodian Heroine” (with a Foreword by Nicholas Kristof). Born to a tribal minority family in a small village deep in the forests of Cambodia in the Mondulkiri province, Mam was sold into sexual slavery when still a young girl, and escaped to help other girls and women across the globe. Her tireless, often dangerous and heroic work has improved and even saved countless lives (the last count was 6000 girls and women), and has brought the scourge of slavery into mainstream media. High school and college students are now required to read her book, and the Body Shop has partnered with her, so her cause and her excellent work at the Somaly Mam Foundation are already being celebrated. Read more about her at http://www.Somaly.org, delve into her book, and donate to this worthy cause.

Instead, having mentioned these two titans, I’d like to focus on someone far from fame’s spotlight: Peggy Cross. An entrepreneur and mother of two boys from Larkspur, CA, Cross is the owner of EcoTensil, a manufacturer of eco-friendly cutlery. She created a kid-friendly, sustainable paper spoon called SpoonLidz in 2010, and soon discovered that the U.S. prison system comprised about a quarter of her sales due to its emphasis on safety, sustainability and sanitation. Approximately 2.3 million Americans are imprisoned, and the cost to keep facilities running is $74 billion annually.

SpoonLidz, the paperboard lid that morphs into a spoon with a strategic fold, was a brilliant concept. Unlike other eating utensils, paperboard can’t be fashioned into a weapon, which makes it perfect for the prison system. Cross then created the Eco-Security Utensil (ESU) specifically for the prison system, which is a variation on her original green spoon. Her ingenuity, entrepreneurship and creativity rendered prisons safer for people on both sides of the bars, and made the world greener as well.

She’s exactly the type of woman we laud: someone who makes a positive difference in the world on or off the radar, quietly or with fireworks, but definitely with inventiveness and grit. A toss of roses and deep bow to Peggy Cross for a job well done; read more about her and her products at http://www.EcoTensil.com.

Originally published February 2012
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