Glamour's Woman of the Year Lifetime Achievement Speech

Here is the speech that Barbra made as she picked up the Glamour "Woman of the Year Lifetime Achievement" award at Carnegie Hall on Monday November 11th 2013.

Thank you, Katie…the first woman to anchor the evening news on her own…and also the girlfriend we’d all like to have because she really listens…and asks tough questions in such a sweet way that she makes people reveal who they really are…And I want to thank Glamour magazine for this honor…and for focusing our attention not only on fashion, but also on the most important issues affecting women today.

I always loved fashion. When I was 12, I saved my earnings as a cashier in a Chinese restaurant to buy frilly frocks. At 18, when I couldn’t get a job as an actress, I started to sing and won a talent contest, but what would I wear? That’s when I discovered thrift shops and antique clothes…exquisite creations from the 1890s that were less expensive and more beautifully made than anything I could find at a department store…a black velvet top embroidered with jet and steel beads…white lace combing jackets…I wore them at the Bon Soir, a little night club in Greenwich Village. But the press started talking about my antique clothes and I didn’t want that to be the main attraction. So I bought men’s fabrics and designed feminine outfits to wear on stage. I was always intrigued by the relationship between the masculine and the feminine.

Fortunately, I was lucky enough to be born with a good singing voice. And that voice ultimately allowed me to speak out and have my opinions heard. I don’t think anyone should underestimate the power of their own voice…Each voice can effect change.

One of my heroes, Congresswoman Bella Abzug, had a loud voice. I campaigned for her in 1970. She once said, “The test for whether or not you can hold a job should not be the arrangement of your chromosomes.” Yet even though women are the breadwinners in nearly half the households in the United States today, they still take home only 77 cents for every dollar a man makes… We’re still fighting for equality.

There is progress, as women now make up the majority of college students, with more opportunities than ever before…But despite some high-profile women CEOs, women make up only 16% of corporate boardrooms…Women make up 51% of the country but only 19% of Congress. Of course, there has never been a woman President…BUT I HOPE THIS WILL CHANGE VERY SOON.

We really need her now because we are witnessing reversals in Congress and certain states that will set back women’s reproductive health…Battles fought and won decades ago are under attack… Planned Parenthood clinics are being shut down, even though they offer so many health services to both sexes beyond reproductive care…and the radical right in the House of Representatives continues to try to abolish access to affordable healthcare for millions of Americans.

In fact, last month the Tea Party minority forced our government into an unnecessary and destructive shutdown which accomplished nothing…but hurt our economy and damaged our nation’s standing in the world. Suddenly we saw just how fragile democracy can be. Those politicians held our government hostage over a law they didn’t happen to like…And those same politicians are making it more difficult in some states to vote. (This should particularly concern women, who spent almost 150 years fighting to “earn” this right.)

Undeniable science on climate change is being ignorantly refuted as we watch the deterioration of our planet…from the water we drink…to the food we eat. Even honeybees, which propagate our food supply, are in danger from environmental poisons!

The gun lobby is blocking modest background checks even though every day…every hour…people are being shot. More than 10,000 people have been killed by guns since the Newtown shootings.

If more women were in office, would this be happening? Maybe not!…But to achieve change, we must speak up…AND EVERY VOICE IS IMPORTANT…Remember in the presidential election of 2000, 104 million people voted and only 537 votes in Florida triggered events that changed the course of history…Al Gore would have enacted regulations to tackle climate change…and I doubt we would have become involved in unnecessary wars…Think what we could have done with all that money if we had spent it on solving problems in this country, instead.

One final point I’d like to make…I’ve always been concerned about gender inequality and I was surprised to find it even in the way we treat heart disease…Did you know that heart disease is the number one killer of women? It actually kills more women than all cancers combined…Over the last fifty years, myriad studies focused solely on men…So heart disease came to be understood as a man’s disease, even though more women die of it now than men…Our lives literally depend on equality in research and treatment.

It’s funny…As a young woman, I wanted nothing more than to see my name in lights on a theater marquee…I couldn’t have guessed how much more satisfying it would be to see my name in stainless steel on the Women’s Heart Center at Cedars-Sinai, where the world-renowned Dr. Noel Bairey Merz is making groundbreaking progress in treating women’s hearts.

Females are very powerful…even female stem cells. It was a woman doctor, Doris Taylor, who has actually grown the first human heart from stem cells…and the breakthrough came when she used only female stem cells…because the male stem cells didn’t work…they got totally lost. This is hardly a surprise, because…just like men…even male stem cells won’t ask for directions.

It’s my privilege to be included among the honorees tonight, They are an inspiring group of women from all walks of life…I would just like to single out the youngest among us, Malala, who dared to believe that every child has an equal right to an education…The outpouring of support for her is the perfect example of the power of one voice.

So, to all the girls and women in the audience today, I encourage you to believe in the power of your own voice…Anything is possible if you have a dream or a vision of how the world should be…Let’s speak out until women are treated equally by the people who pay us; by the people who heal us; and by the people who claim to represent us!

Put your signature where your heart is…write the White House…write a check…Vote! Call your Congressman…Contribute in any way you can to candidates who support your views.

The world is waiting to hear from you…You are the women we’ve been waiting for.

Thank you.

Comments for this Statement

She was right on point in her speech. Her award by Glamour was very much
In rereading her speech today, I am glad to be a woman in the 21st Century
having Barbra as my role model.
Song Bird

Dear Barbra, I have waited ages to send you a message. I first watched you in the movie ''Hello Dolly!" as a little girl growing up in Nigeria in the mid 80s. Now thanks to technology, I can say a heart-felt "Thank You Barbra!" for sharing and inspiring me with your talent, beauty and especially your singing and music.

Your speech at the Glamour event was on point. The issues you touched on resonates with women around the world. I am in the university now (after being deprived the opportunity earlier) and I do believe in the power of my voice and will use it to make a difference. I have worked and fought hard to erase and overcome all the negatives(cultural,family,religious) that I was imbibed with as a girl ..... It hasn't been easy but there's light at the end of the tunnel. I just have to make it. And its all because of women like you that I have the courage.

It is refreshing to see an accomplished Entertainer such as yourself use your celebrity status for remarkably good deeds. Keep shining and stay Blessed Barbra.

There's someone out here who truly admires your work.Your biggest fan! Smiling
oops i almost forgot to congratulate you... CONGRATULATIONS!!!
Thank you.
Liz. Ghana

Dear Barbra,

Congratulations with the award!

What a wonderful speech! It give a lot of inspiration to all women. Thank you again to mention heartdiseases with women, so important.

When thinks are difficult in life I think: how would Barbra handle this? What would she do about it? Than you inspires me to go on and keep trying. When you want to achieve things in life you have to fight for it.

You wrote this week on the Glamour's woman of he Year Lifetime Achievemen Speech:
Believe in the power of your own voice!
Be yourself.
Everyone is Unique!

I will keep this in mind! Thank you.

Warm regards!

Roselinde Oosterhoff
The Netherlands

Great speach, congratulations.

Hi Barbra ,Congratulations on your Special Award ,Well Deserved. You have such a Wonderful Knack for making speeches and this was Exceptional. I applaud you for giving a voice to the Thousands who would love to tell people what the Truth really is .As a Celebrity you have taken the Opportunity to tell the Truth in such an Inspirational Way. I thank you for this and because of you I will try to help change a wrong in this World.
Thank you for all the Good you do !
Lee Anne
PS I will be Watching "Back To Brooklyn PBS" and Can't wait because I was their and it was BRILLIANT!!!!

A friend of mine ushered for that event and was blown away "by the dessert."