Oregon Woman

Oregon Women Talk Inspiration and Change

Millions of women are making a daily difference in our state. We talked to eight such women about who inspires them, and what change they'd most like to see.

Edited by Fiona McCann March 27, 2021 Published in the Spring 2021 issue of Portland Monthly

Not every Oregon woman makes headlines. But beyond every one of the extraordinary leaders in the previous pages are millions of women making a difference in our state. They are our friends, our neighbors, our mothers, our sisters, our daughters, and they are quietly holding us all up. We talked to eight such women about who inspires them and what change they’d most like to see for Oregon women this year.


Céshaun Hankins

I've been surrounded by amazing women throughout my life. The two women that come to mind are my grandmothers. My maternal grandmother was a Polish immigrant, survived World War II, raised her own children and also helped my mother raise me and my siblings. I didn't know my paternal grandmother but from stories and pictures I know her to have been a beloved matriarch called Ma'Dear. She was a Black woman from Tennessee and all that that identity fully holds.  These women are my ancestors now and I see them as two trees from which my own identity and existence grows—in ways knowing and unknowing. Interestingly enough, they had the same name, Mary, they were strong, they were resilient, they were hope, strength, a source of connection and home for many. I strive to honor their lives and to live as free as I can because they lived.

I also have to mention my Book Club! It's a group that I was invited to when I first moved to Portland and it's genuinely been a crucial part of my survival here. It started as a Black women/femme space but we've opened it to others who enrich it and maintain it as a safe space. This group of women took me in so lovingly and openly when I was new in town which helped me adapt and really begin to love it here. And during the pandemic the club became such a life-saving touchpoint. We share tips, rageful-fearful-inspired vents, refuge if needed, supplies, and even dropped off herb steam bundles during the fires. It's been community care in action for me. Plus our What's App chat is so live!

I'd love to see us at the forefront of growth and change. I'd love to see us back each other up and put aside performance and status grabbing and instead really think about our collective goals. I want to see those of us with more privileged identities use our privilege to make space, open doors, and make way for those most impacted. 
What's coming to mind right now is the Portland Monthly article on the rise and fall of the Portland Wall of Moms. It really could have been a cool thing but we have so many blindspots especially when it comes to anti-Blackness in this city—I'd wager in this state as well. There's a lot of work to be done here. I think women, and specifically white women of Oregon, need to not sit ashamed and distanced from the actions of their people (other white people) and instead accept that racism and anti-Blackness is present in all of us. Let's be open to exploring this and actively addressing it imperfectly but with intention and progress and without falling apart. There's no time or patience for all of that. People are literally dying. 
I'd love to see more Black women and femmes leading the way. If we're doing better then all women do better—the whole community does better ... And to step back and utilize critical consciousness when viewing what’s going on locally and nationally, to think about how we’d like to move forward as a state.” —Céshaun Hankins, social worker & mental health therapist

Sung Kokko

I have been very lucky to have amazing girlfriends in my life. They have inspired and continue to inspire me every day by showing me how to be strong and resilient, teaching me how to be a great parent and that we all have ups and downs, guiding me in my professional and personal life with wisdom and empathy and humor. So. Much. Humor.

Universal childcare is the first thing that comes to mind [as a change I want to see]. That is, child care for kids 0 to 12 years old. Childcare is definitely my biggest hurdle.” —Sung Kokko, photographer

Sheila Hallinan

My main influential role model was my mother Patricia Hallinan. She was one of my strongest, most supportive teachers at home. With five kids, she was always there for all of us, helping us, volunteering at school, on the PTA, attending all of our parent teacher conferences, events, plays, extracurricular, certainly at home with daily school life—always there to support education, always helping to study, prepare for tests, papers. [She was] a huge advocate.

As an educator, I want to have higher education accessible to all students, especially historically underserved students, women of color—not that it’s just accessible, but that we make it affordable and not have students go into substantial debt.” — Sheila Hallinan,  Portland Public Schools elementary teacher


Sarah Glathar

I have been lucky enough to have examples of women around me who were authentically curious about both their communities around them and science, technology, engineering, and math. This love for people and how the world worked 'gave me permission' to be nerdy, and warm, and curious, and confident, and goofy, and most importantly, to be whatever combination of those things made me 'me.' I think of my mom, my mom's friends who were engineers before it was cool to be a female engineer, a particular educator in college, my company's current leadership team, and a few of my professional colleagues.

Too often it’s still ‘remarkable’ that a woman is leading a company, or has children and organizes her community, or went to college in a STEM field. I want to build a community where women have agency in choosing their path, and to make it normal and expected that women would be significant players in their chosen roles.”—Sarah Glathar, environmental consultant


Heather Penfield

I have encircled my life with very special women who inspire me everyday. These friends and families of mine keep me motivated to not only appreciate life but to see how I can make a difference.

I want all the women of Oregon to have not only equal access to health care but to be supported to be able to utilize these services. Women are always taking care of someone else and left with nothing when it comes to themselves.” —Heather Penfield, registered nurse 

Alshawnda Martin

The women that inspire ie are all the women I watched growing up: aunts, sisters-in-law, principals, teachers, women who all pushed me to my highest potential even when I was too stubborn to accept it.

[I want Oregon women] to have the same opportunities as our male counterparts without having to be second choice, because despite what society says the woman is the one in control!” —Alshawnda Martin, PTA president at Boise-Eliot/Humboldt Elementary

Tamara Dayton 

[The women who inspire me] are my mom, Diane Hansen, for being strong enough to raise me alone; St. Vincent (Annie Clark) for being such a creative force and bending my ear in ways that inspire me; and Amita Moticka, best hairdresser I know, for her friendship and professional support/inspiration in an industry that never lets up on us ladies. 

I would like women to help Portland raise the bar creatively and professionally, and own their power and presence to help Portland heal.” —Tamara Dayton, hairstylist, owner of Oranj Studio

Evelyn Liu

[I was inspired by] Margaret Mead, an American anthropologist. Among her famous quotes: 'Never ever depend on governments or institutions to solve any major problems. All social change comes from the passion of individuals.' I discovered Margaret Mead’s writing in high school. Her theories on society and diversity of culture and gender roles were quite controversial at that time. As an Asian female with a very traditional Asian background, this was pretty outrageous to go against traditional thinking and voicing one’s opinion. [I'm also inspired by] Julia Child ... I loved her authenticity and ability to demystify the world of French cuisine. 

Locally, Phyllis Lee, a founding member of APANO (Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon. I met her while at Portland State University in the '70s. I did not realize it at that time, but she was a mentor for me.   Phyllis was so generous in sharing her, knowledge, wisdom, and lived experiences combined with her emotional intelligence and compassion with me. She was away ahead of her times.

[I want to see] women taking the lead focusing on integrating intentional, thoughtful, spiritual consciousness into management and leadership skills.” —Evelyn Liu, cochair of the New Portlanders Policy Commission

Show Comments