Rendezvous Celebrating the Achievements of Women in Business

Photo by Yves Hernot

Rendezvous, Celebrating the Achievements of Women in Business
Proudly supporting the National Breast Cancer Foundation

Guest Speaker: Pamela Griffith

The great English author, William Makepeace THACKERAY found himself in a foreign land at Christmas 1854, and as there were no toys available for the children of the household where he was staying he wrote a pantomime that was narrated and performed. Great fun was had by all.

The story is called the ”The Rose and the Ring”. It begins with the baptism of Rosabella. Her father, king Cavalfiore of Crim Tartary, gave a banquet, and all the royal guests came with fine clothes and expensive presents and they made flattering speeches. Then at the end of the line of guests came the Fairy Blackstick, an ugly old lady with a long nose who was carrying nothing but a plain black stick.

She waved her stick over the baby and said “ As for this little lady, the best thing I can wish for her is a little misfortune”.

The king was furious and he ordered his servants to remove the Fairy Blackstick from the hall. But of course the damage was done.

In fact, the fairy Blackstick’s present turned out to be more valuable than all the other presents put together. I will tell you how the magic worked.

A few years after the baptism the misfortunes began. King Cavalfiore was slain in battle and the rebel Duke Padella usurped the kingdom of Crim Tartary. With her father dead, Rosabella was abandoned in the empty palace by all who had come to her baptism.

The infant, Rosabella wandered into a forest where she was adopted by a lioness who was her first teacher. After living for a few years with the lion family she wandered back into civilization and found a job as a serving maid in the household of King Valoroso the tweny-fourth, of Paflagonia. There she took advantage of her humble situation by educating herself from the school books cast aside by her spoiled mistress, the princess Angelica.

Finally, having acquired a useful sort of education, the education of hard knocks, she married Prince Giglio, the rightful heir to the throne of Paflagonia and she became a wise and loved queen, and lived happily ever after. Princess Angelica who had led an easy life was less well equipped to cope with all that life threw at her.

I am not Fairy Blackstick, and I do not wish a little Misfortune on any one, however any woman who has run a successful business will know instinctively what Thackeray was getting at when he wrote this cautionary tale.

My own story is not all that interesting however I do relate to Princess Rosabella. As a child I was gifted in art and I won competitions and scholarships. I trained as an artist and art teacher. I graduated with first place in art and I expected to neatly slot into the art scene. I approached galleries to give me an exhibition and I found that they did not want a young woman artist. I began to realise that unless I was a male and had a beard and a beret and shabby clothes and had starved in a garret I had not really lived in the eyes of the dealers. I had nothing worth saying.

The women’s revolution was getting underway and I confidently worked toward equality. I cannot say that I have fully achieved this but I have been given some wonderful opportunities and accolades.

I set about learning real skills by doing further courses in the night time and I taught by day. I established a printmaking studio to produce limited edition etchings. I got a loan from a bank and I built studios and bought equipment. All the time I was investing and taking very little profit from the business. With persistence, Galleries sought me out and I began to succeed in the art boom of the eighties.

Back in 1988 I was working on a very big commission called “The Lord Howe Island Suite”. It entailed me going to the Island along with a number of other artists. We all prepared sketch books and from these a judge selected suitable work to be made into etchings. My workshop won the right to print all this work. At that time it was the biggest project of its type undertaken in Australia.
I successfully completed the suite but in the last stage my doctor discovered a cancer in my breast. My husband and I were devastated. I had two little children. The cancer had to be removed immediately and this was followed by radiation which was the way it was done at the time.

I survived the ordeal and have since told many women that early detection is the best insurance against an illness that touches the lives of at least one woman in 11 in the developed world.

When I got cancer the Galleries turned their backs on me again. I was not a good long-term bet. I struggled to get back into the art scene and also to regain my health and confidence. Soon I had regained some ground and was exhibiting every year at a major city gallery. I also had many satellite shows that were a success. Just as I was back on track again as a professional artist, disaster struck. Four and a half years after the first cancer I discovered another lump in the same breast. I had the breast removed followed by exhausting chemotherapy.

As soon as I was strong enough I elected to have the other breast removed so that I could feel a little more confident that the cancer would not return. It was a drastic step to take but I did not want to go through any further radiation or chemotherapy.

You may think that nothing good can come out of two bouts of cancer. I can assure you that it gets you focussed on the things that are important. Family and good
health practices come first on the list. Gossip and soap opera have to go. When it come to work it is essential to enjoy what you do and to be proud of your product.

Last year I had a retrospective show here at Hazelhust that was opened by Mayor Schreiber, and an address was given by Alan Jones. It was a very popular show with large attendance figures.

I have written a top selling book called “Australia – an artist’s journey though the Landscape”. There are 168 pages of my work in colour. It has given me satisfaction to see much of the work that has disappeared into private collections, now available to everyone through this book. I have copies here today for anyone who would like to buy one and have me sign it.

Whilst rewards keep coming I expect that the fairy Blackstick will keep throwing up challenges. I hope that, like Rosabella, I have “got wisdom” and I will continue to survive.

For those women who are trying to juggle it all, let me assure you that if you have done a good job your children will begin to stand on their own feet. Grandchildren will bring joy. Older relatives will make demands on you. With careful planning you will survive the period when you are sandwiched in between generations.

You may remember that Rosabella went to live with a lioness in the forest in the first part of the pantomime. Recently on BBC News, it was reported that a lioness in Kenya adopted a baby Oryx – her third in so many months. The lioness is said to allow the female Oryx several minutes each day to feed the new born calf. An Oryx would normally represent a tasty meal for a lion.

Cases of lionesses showing maternal affection for animals they would normally see as prey are not unprecedented. Lions like all the other species including human beings have kind feelings for babies.

Now female lions do 85% to 90% of the hunting for food and 100% of the cub’s care. The male lions are not called King of the Jungle for no reason. They patrol the territory and protect the pride, for which they take “the lions share” of the female’s prey.

How do the females hunt? Well, they cooperate so that they can take larger beasts. They may hunt at any hour but typically go for large prey at night. The lionesses fan out along a broad front or semicircle to creep up on prey. Once within striking distance they bound in among the startled animals, then they knock them down and kill them with a bite to the neck or throat. Hunts are successful about half of the time, and fifty percent of their food comes from scavenging other animal’s kills.

I see a parallel between lionesses and business women. Not only do women take great care to raise their young and find time to show compassion to others but according to the World Health Organization women do over 78% of all the work.

I see successful women in small business as lionesses. Success is elusive unless women co-operate with others. A woman has to keep the family intact and at the same time juggle her business with many demands on her time. Despite her busy schedule she usually also finds a way of helping others.

Rendezvous, which means to bring together or meet, is a gathering of tested and true lionesses who have found time to not only to promote their businesses and celebrate their successes but also to give something back to the community.

Rendezvous is raising money to support the National Breast Cancer Foundation so dig deeply in your pockets as you may be contributing to research that may one day save the life of a female in your family.

The ladies from Rendezvous are an energetic group of lionesses who deserve our support.

If you would like to read the story of The Rose and the Ring by William Makepeace Thackeray you can google Project Gutenberg and you will find many books in the public domain that can be downloaded and read