{FOF Woman of The Week} June Steenkamp

Sitting in a Pretoria, South Africa, courtroom every single day, just feet from the man who murdered her beautiful and smart 29-year-old daughter, Reeva, June Steenkamp is hoping to learn the real circumstances of the death.

“I look at Oscar [Pistorius] the whole time, to see how he is coping, how he is behaving. I’m obsessed with looking at him. It’s just instinctive. I can’t explain it,” said 67-year-old June.

She doesn’t have to explain a thing. Any mother understands what is motivating June. Losing a daughter is the most horrific thing that can happen to a woman. “I think he has to see me, the mother, the person who gave birth to her, that he’s taken that away,” June said. “That’s what I want to see, that’s why I want to look in his face and he must look in mine. He must see now that I am there for justice for Reeva, no matter what happened, and the truth, obviously, which we don’t know we’ll ever get. But I hope for that.”

June has seen countless photos of the bloody crime scene and her daughter’s catastrophic head wound. She’s watched Oscar’s hysterical crying and retching. Through it all, one question haunts her, she says. Is he acting? Did he indeed think an intruder was in his bathroom, as he’s repeatedly claimed, or did he know it was Reeva, go into a rage and kill her?

June says Reeva told her she and Oscar were arguing frequently in the weeks before her death, and that she was afraid of being with him. We’ve read e-mail exchanges confirming this. We’ve heard Oscar was a jealous, hot-tempered man and once even berated Reeva for talking to another man for too long. If I were June, I couldn’t help but think he was guilty.

June is a special woman. “I’ve lost everything that’s important to me,” she said, “but, still, I can forgive. I’m being strong for Reeva. I have to be there. It’s hard for me to do it, but I’m representing my child. I’m there for her, as much as it’s hell for me, I know that I have to be there. I’m not a person who wants to punish him. I want my daughter back, but it’s never going to happen.”

Since their daughter’s murder, the Steenkamp’s have moved to a quiet village, where June opened a pub and her husband, Barry, is training horses.

For her fortitude, June Steenkamp is FOF Woman of the Week. We hope she finds the peace she deserves.

{FOF Woman of The Week} Sister Judy Vaughan

The church hasn’t always looked kindly at Sister Judy, a 68-year-old feminist nun, whose activism has ruffled more than a few feathers, and on more than one occasion. But even if the rules of the Catholic Church sometimes restricted her, the Sister’s commitment to God remained true and she recently celebrated her 50th anniversary as a Catholic nun.

Sister Judy’s Catholic upbringing in Los Angeles left her with three career choices when she graduated high school: Become a nurse or a teacher, or join the convent. She chose the third, making her vows months after graduating from St. Mary’s Academy High in the early 60s, at the height of the civil rights marches, antiwar protests, and emerging second wave of feminism.

Sister Judy joined the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet and graduated from Mount St. Mary’s college in 1968 with a major in sociology and a minor in psychology, before she earned her master’s degree in sociology from San Diego State University and doctorate in social ethics from the University of Chicago. Grasping the momentous social and political movements around her, Sister Judy began to challenge the church, declaring that abortion could be a moral choice. After she became the director of House of Ruth, a homeless shelter for women in East L.A., the L.A. Archdiocese was so upset by her defiance it forbid Catholic social workers from referring women to her and House of Ruth.

For the last 18 years, Sister Judy has been running Alexandria House in L.A., a transitional center for homeless women and children, which she considers her most important project.

She continues her work as a nun and as an activist and is raising her adopted daughter, now a teenager. Her commitment to her beliefs and her years of helping women make her the FOF Woman of the Week.

{FOF Woman of the Week} Grieving Mother of MH370 Passenger

We don’t know her name, but that doesn’t matter. A Chinese mother, whose 36-year-old son was on Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, barged into a press briefing by the airline demanding more information on the missing plane. Her anguished cries were heart wrenching: “My son,” she weeped. “I just want my son back.”

article-2584133-1C69423300000578-784_634x422

Worse, she was physically carried from the room by a group of Malaysian guards.

A statement from the airline, following this incident, spoke of feeling empathy for the families of the missing passengers. Yet, reporters weren’t even allowed access to this grieving mother, or to the other Chinese relatives who were inconsolable over the lack of information about their loved ones.

Even if the executives from the airline know nothing, their management of the awful situation is horrendous. This mother was waiting in Malaysia for four days and learning nothing. She had enough and succeeded in getting her voice heard round the world.

She is FOF Woman of the Week.

[Read: {FOF Woman of The Week} Annelie Nordström]

{FOF Woman of The Week} Annelie Nordström

Annelie Nordström, 57, has discovered the answer to Sweden’s gender wage gap—switch genders! Chairwoman of Kommunal, Sweden’s largest municipal workers’ union, Annelie released a powerful video, How to Get a Raise in 47 Seconds, on March 8th, International Women’s Day. Part of a ‘Be A Man’ campaign, it shows a team of makeup artists brilliantly transforming Annelie into a man before our eyes. While the video is a clever public service announcement created to expose the country’s wage disparity, Annelie means business and wants equal pay for women and men, now! Women in Sweden earn about $346,000 less than men over their working lives. Women in the United States earn about 77 percent as much as their male counterparts.

Annelie’s blog says she’s “a nanny by profession,” but started working in human resources and politics, ultimately landing her powerful position at Kommunal. Over 80 percent of its members are women. The ‘Be A Man’ campaign features an app inviting women to submit photos and transform themselves into men, dressed in a variety of outfits from business suits to construction gear. Try it yourself!

Annelie lives in Stockholm and has a son named Jens. For the movement she’s started in her country, and its potential impact around the world, Annelie Nordström is FOF Woman of the Week.

[Read: {FOF Woman of The Week} Helen Mirren]

{FOF Woman of The Week} Helen Mirren

FOF names Helen Mirren, 68, the Most Fabulous Woman Over 50!

We started with 64 incredible FOF women, from four categories—acting, singing, writing and the political arena—and asked all of you, over a period of weeks, to vote on your favorites. Helen Mirren and Tina Turner were the last two women standing. Although Tina made it to the end, Helen triumphed with over 75 percent of the final vote. So this week, we’re paying tribute to the Dame and Oscar-winning actress, who’s been blessing the world with her talents for nearly 50 years.

Helen began her acting career as a teenager in school productions and got her big break at age 20, when she was cast as Cleopatra in a production of Antony and Cleopatra at The Old Vic Theater in London. During the last 48 years, she’s brilliantly acted on stage, in the movies and on TV and has won 88 awards and 66 nominations. The only actress ever to play both Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Elizabeth II on screen, she took home awards for both roles.

Besides her acting, Helen is known for her impeccable style and was named one of the 50 best-dressed women over 50 in 2013 by the British newspaper, The Guardian. She’s also one of the models for Marks & Spencer’s Womanism campaign. Known to push style boundaries every now and again, Helen once dyed her hair pink after admiring pink tresses on a cast member of America’s Next Top Model.

Queen Elizabeth II, in 2013, named Helen Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire, to recognize the actor’s contributions to the world of performing arts.

Married to American director, Taylor Hackford, since 1997, Helen lived with actor Liam Neeson in the 1980s. She’s never had children and once told an interviewer she doesn’t have “motherly instincts.”

Dame Helen, we all adore you.

[Read: {FOF Woman of The Week} Jan Brewer]

{FOF Woman of The Week} Jan Brewer

Jan Brewer, outspoken Arizona Governor, vetoed a controversial bill that would have allowed business owners to refuse service to gays and lesbians, as well as many other groups, according to their religious beliefs. While similar bills have been proposed in other states, Arizona’s bill was the only one to make it through the Senate and the House.

Governor Brewer ultimately decided put the kibosh on “The Religious Freedom Act” because it is “broadly worded and could result in unintended and negative consequences,” she explained. She also faced pressure to veto the bill from numerous companies and organizations, including the NFL, which plans to host the Super Bowl in Phoenix next year. The bill could have allowed discrimination against virtually anyone, and would have blurred the lines between freedom of religion and outright discrimination.

The governor’s veto is another step in the progress she has made during her four years in office, which includes making Arizona into a U.S. hub for entrepreneurs and taking the state budget from a $3 billion shortfall to an $800 million surplus. Governor Brewer also continues to make headlines for her continued attempt to secure Arizona’s border with Mexico in an effort to decrease violent crime.

Originally from California, Governor Brewer earned a radiological technologist certificate from Glendale Community College. After spending years devoted to her family, she was inspired to enter politics in 1982, due to concerns with the school board in her area and her children’s education. She had served in the Arizona House of Representatives, in the Arizona State Senate and has been the chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. She also authored a politically themed book, Scorpions for Breakfast, published in 2011.

Governor Brewer and her husband John, a chiropractor, have three sons. For vetoing an outrageously discriminatory bill and putting human rights above all else, we’re proud to make her FOF Woman of the Week!

[Read: {FOF Woman of The Week} Geena Davis]

{FOF Woman of The Week} Geena Davis

Few of us have a resumé that reads: “Oscar-winning actress, film producer, writer, former fashion model, and Olympic archery team semi-finalist.” Except if you’re Geena Davis. Modeling and acting since 1982, 58-year-old Geena has received countless awards for her work on screen and accomplished a great deal of impactful work off screen. Intensely interested in the subject of gender bias, she chairs The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and also works with other visionaries and activists to improve the lives of women around the world.

Speaking at a conference last week, Geena asked the audience: “What if unconscious gender bias is a much deeper problem than we’ve ever imagined?” She pointed out that the ratio of female to male characters in TV and film hasn’t changed since 1946, and that men hold for 81 percent of the roles on TV. She is intent on reversing these shocking statistics.

Next month, Geena will serve on the jury of the New York International Children’s Film Festival.

Married since 2001 to Reza Jarrahy, a plastic surgeon, Geena and her husband have three children. One of the shining examples of a woman who can channel her vast talents and passions into a range of relevant projects and compelling performances, Geena is FOF Woman of the Week!

[Read: {FOF Woman of The Week} Shirley Temple]

{FOF Woman of The Week} Shirley Temple

Shirley Temple, child star turned U.S. Ambassador, died this week, at age 85. She burst onto our screens, curls galore, at just three years old, in the 1932 parody series Baby Burlesks. The youngest actor ever to win an Oscar (albeit a special children’s one), when she was six, Shirley became one of the top-grossing performers during the Depression. “As long as our country has Shirley Temple, we will be alright,” President Roosevelt once declared.

Shirley’s mother, who enrolled her in dance classes around the time of her debut, was behind her adorable daughter every step of the way. Nicknamed “Curly Top,” for her famous hair, Shirley left the house each day sporting 56 curls that mom had painstakingly created. Although the child star made millions, she later discovered that half of her income went to her parents and much of the rest went to other family members and staff.

As Shirley reached her twenties, in 1949, she moved away from show business and into politics. She was a U.S. delegate in the United Nations General Assembly from 1969 to 1970, and became Ambassador to Ghana in 1974 and later to Czechoslovakia. When Shirley met her second husband, Charles Black, in 1950, she said it was “love at first sight.” They had two children and were together until his death in 2005.

Shirley Temple will remain a national icon for generations to come. She was the quintessential child star, but continued to perform throughout her life, even as she took on the roles of a wife, mother, and public servant working overseas. Make sure to put a ‘Shirley Temple’ mocktail on your Valentine’s Day menu, in her honor.

[Read: {FOF Woman of The Week} Mary Barra]

{FOF Woman of The Week} Mary Barra

Appointed CEO of General Motors just a few weeks ago, Mary Barra, 52, was in the news again yesterday, when she was named the Most Powerful Woman in Business by Fortune magazine.

Not only the first female CEO of any major global automobile maker, Mary was the first woman in her family to go to college. She earned her MBA from Stanford in 1990, and worked her way up the corporate ladder at GM. Prior to her current position, she was in global product development, purchasing and supply, responsible for the design, engineering, program management and quality of GM vehicles worldwide. She will use her engineering and business-savvy to cut costs and develop GM’s global presence, especially in China.

Known for her no-nonsense attitude, Mary was responsible for the demise of GM’s 10-page dress code while she managed the GM Human resource department, replacing it with two words: “Dress appropriately.” She credits her parents, who both grew up in the Depression era, for her strong work ethic and belief in the importance of teamwork. Mary says that she has never asked for a promotion or raise. Instead, she worked hard at every position she held and the job offers came in on their own.

Mary is married to Tony Barra, a consultant, with whom she has two children. She should be proud of her accomplishments.

{FOF Woman of The Week} Olivia Manning

You’re tall (5’ 11”), beautiful, smart and homecoming queen at your college senior prom. You recently married the football team’s starting quarterback, who was drafted, a day after your Acapulco honeymoon, to play pro football. Seems like you’ve got a pretty sweet life ahead of you.

Turns out, you do. Your name is Olivia Manning, and almost 43 years after your 1971 prom at Ole Miss, you’ve come to New Jersey to watch your middle son play in the Super Bowl, on the same field that your youngest son’s football team calls home.

You don’t have to guzzle Budweiser or know the meaning of “third down” to have heard of brothers Peyton and Eli Manning, respective star quarterbacks of the Denver Broncos and the New York Giants.

But even if beer and football are in your blood (or, at least, in your husband’s blood), you’ve probably never heard of their FOF mom, Olivia. Hailing from Philadelphia, Mississippi, Olivia raised her three boys (oldest son, Cooper, is an energy trader) in New Orleans, where husband Archie played for the football team right out of Ole Miss.

Olivia worked tirelessly to rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

(more…)