The Empowered Lady of the Harbor

As I sat, reflecting on the generations of empowered Saint Dominic Academy alumnae who will come together at the end of this week, either at the Biergarten in Jersey City or at The Breakers in Spring Lake to celebrate our Alumnae Reunion weekend, it occurred to me that both of these events will be celebrated in view of the water. And what better backdrop then than sparkling blue water, catching the light of the sun and the reflection of the sky (or the skyscrapers) to showcase the beauty and devotion our alumnae have shared with Saint Dominic Academy throughout the years. That thought, as thoughts often do, led me to reflect on images of women that come to mind when we think of the word empowered. And I realized, that in writing this blog weekly since September, I have neglected to give focus to one of the most welcoming, strong and empowering women ever to venture to Jersey City; and we at SDA were here to welcome her when she arrived.

History.com shares the following: The Statue of Liberty was a joint effort between France and the United States, intended to commemorate the lasting friendship between the peoples of the two nations. The French sculptor Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi created the statue itself out of sheets of hammered copper, while Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel, the man behind the famed Eiffel Tower, designed the statue’s steel framework. The Statue of Liberty was then given to the United States and erected atop an American-designed pedestal on a small island in Upper New York Bay, now known as Liberty Island, and dedicated by President Grover Cleveland in 1886. Over the years, the statue stood tall as millions of immigrants arrived in America via nearby Ellis Island; in 1986, it underwent an extensive renovation in honor of the centennial of its dedication. Today, the Statue of Liberty remains an enduring symbol of freedom and democracy, as well as one of the world’s most recognizable landmarks.

Look carefully at the years in the description; she was dedicated in 1886…and our women were here in Jersey City!  We had a presence in Jersey City before Lady Liberty herself!  Eight years prior to her arrival in the harbor, Saint Dominic Academy was established in Jersey City and had, for eight years, served the young women of Jersey City well.  Imagine the excitement in the school building when she arrived. The community of women at Saint Dominic Academy were here to welcome her and it must have been quite a welcome!  What a breathtaking sight she must have been to behold.

And again in 1986 (and this I remember from my childhood), when the centennial celebration was held, Saint Dominic Academy was present, vibrant and alive and joining in the celebration of Lady Liberty; she who welcomes “your tired, your hungry,  your poor…”, she who “lift(s) my lamps beside the golden door.”  One has to wonder in awe, how many young women, following the arc of light from her torch, followed a path from the Jersey City waterfront to Saint Dominic Academy?  How many lives did we shape, how many hearts did we touch, as the children of immigrants passed through Ellis Island and settled in this area?

Today, still within the daily presence of this monumental woman (literally), we at Saint Dominic Academy celebrate the generations that have gone before us and spread wide our doors to welcome those who are seeking an enlightened, enriching and empowered education for young women. Our tradition is a strong as her pedestal, our devotion to educating women as welcoming as her gilded torch and as our alumnae gather to celebrate this weekend, let us all, wherever we are join them in a toast to all who enrich the lives of Saint Dominic Academy each and every day!

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