May is a good month for well-behaved women (and men).
A few years ago, historian Thatcher Ulrich observed, “Well-behaved women seldom make history.” You may have seen her observation printed on a T-shirt or a coffee mug.
It might cause a woman to think, “Exactly what is a well-behaved woman and what can I do to avoid becoming one?”
The news is good. We don’t necessarily have to be outrageous, outspoken, or obnoxious (though outrageous and outspoken can be fun). We can behave in ways that would make our mothers proud at the same time we change the world and make history.
Take the case of one woman, Edna Ruth Byler. In 1946, Edna witnessed extreme poverty in Puerto Rico and decided to take action. What she did would begin the global fair trade movement.
She believed that she could provide economic opportunities by creating a marketplace in the United States for goods that were handcrafted by the women she had met in Puerto Rico. She began purchasing needlework and then selling it out of the trunk of her car back in the United States. While she sold, she also educated her community about the lives of artisans around the world.
In 1987, in Billings, Montana, three local women, Barbara Bert, Betty Jean Young, and Anita Doyle, decided they wanted to help alleviate world poverty by helping people become self-sufficient. Our three heroes gathered funds from friends and local churches and started an independent, nonprofit organization – Global Village – with the idea that all people deserve to earn fair wages for their work, to be able to raise their children and build their communities with respect and dignity.
Edna Byler worked for more than 30 years helping to develop a nonprofit organization that is now a standard bearer for the principles and practices of Fair Trade. That organization, called Ten Thousand Villages, is a founding member of the Fair Trade Federation.
Ten Thousand Villages was named one of the “World’s Most Ethical Companies” by the Ethisphere Institute and Forbes Magazine. It is now one of the world’s largest fair trade organizations, working with low income artisans in 38 countries.
Meanwhile, Global Village continues to pursue its mission of providing opportunity to low-income artisans and farmers around the world. Operating a Fair Trade store is the main tool Global Village employs in that mission, but it also sponsors educational activities that promote the values of Fair Trade, tolerance, and cultural appreciation.
Global Village has been a member of The Fair Trade Federation for the past 20 years. More than 40 volunteers, mostly women, staff the store, serve as board members, and help with education and outreach activities.
The Fair Trade business model promotes operating principles of fair wages, environmental stewardship, safe working conditions, the rights of children, financial transparency, respect for cultural identity, and helping local people improve their communities and the lives of the people who live there.
Today, U.S. fair trade sales exceed $1 billion annually; worldwide sales are more than $2.6 billion.
As we learn more about fair trade, we gain an understanding of its ethical as well as practical importance. We know that we must treat our neighbors as we would like to be treated. This means an end to slavery, no matter where it exists. This means an end to exploitation of people and the planet. This means standing by our convictions, speaking out, and working hard to build a truly just world. And it requires that, in the end, we are “well behaved.”
The international Fair Trade community celebrates World Fair Trade Day each year with events in more than 80 countries. This year, in the U.S. and Canada, more than 100,000 people will be attending events between May 3-19.
Here in Billings, Global Village will celebrate World Fair Trade Day on May 9-10 with a coffee-tasting at 2720 Third Ave. N. Montana Women’s Run runners are invited to bring in their bibs that Saturday for a 20 percent discount.
Global Village is also holding its annual fundraiser on Saturday, May 17 (5:30-7:30 p.m.), at the Valley Federal Credit Union downtown. Tickets are $30 and are available at the Global Village store.
This year’s theme is “A Party in the Orient,” with a silent auction, hors d’oeuvres by Abby’s Catering, and no-host beer and wine from Angry Hank’s and the Good Earth Market.
You can learn more about Global Village and Fair Trade at:
www.globalvillagebillings.org or www.fairtraderesource.org or www.fairtradefederation.org.