It was a celebration to pay homage to not only the talents and skills of Wilson County women, but also to salute their courage, intellect, strength, support and collective sisterhood.
The Wilson Post with University Medical Center honored 49 Wilson County women Wednesday at the inaugural Woman of Wilson luncheon. The event took place at Chop House on the Green at Lebanon Golf and Country Club and was inspired by Staff Writer Sabrina Garrett's popular Woman of Wilson columns that each week explore the lives and professions of women in the county.
"We were so excited when Sabrina came to us with the idea of spotlighting a special woman each week in the Post," said Ellen Gould, who with her husband Dave have owned Main Street Media of Tennessee for two years. "In her position as a reporter, Sabrina talks to countless people and hears their stories. She knew all the wonderful women, doing wonderful things throughout the county every day, and she thought it would be good to develop a way to share those stories with our readers. So, Woman of Wilson was born and it has taken off from there."
Gould said one of Main Street's missions is to "celebrate the communities where we operate."
"What better examples are there of interesting, talented and hard-working people in Wilson County than its women?" she said. "Each of you is a wonderful example of how to make a busy life meaningful and inspirational to others. I have read your stories and have been moved and amazed."
Garrett then addressed the roomful of women she has gotten to know personally during her interviews, and subsequent columns, which while laude their various accolades and accomplishments, but also dig a little deeper to reveal hopes, dreams and uniqueness.
Garrett thanked the Goulds, who, she said, "don't question ideas, but support them."
She told the women her column was inspired by her mother.
"Growing up my mom was a super mom," she said, with mom Pamela Garrett in the audience with Garrett's son J.R. Nacarato III. "She made everything seem effortless. When I came back to work from maternity leave I was curious how women manage to have it all - family, or career, or both. And how they achieved things and juggle all the hats."
She said her first interview was with Maggie Lea, who was also a new mother. Garrett said people suggest interviewees all the time.
"It's a collection of women in the community, recognized by the community," she said. "Sometimes we can be self critical, but someone else saw your strength and the beauty in you."
The women in the room represented a myriad of talents. Realtor, teacher, commissioner, radio host, professional baker, attorney, gym owner, criminal defense lawyer and principal are just some of their titles.
Trial lawyer E. Marie Farley said she was honored and thrilled to be there.
"To be counted among these women is amazing," she said.
There was a short video played that featured the name and picture of each of the 49 women. A part of the celebration was honoring one of the women who got the most votes on a recent online poll to showcase the "top" Woman of Wilson interviewed. Garrett joked and said while Kim Kardashian "broke" the Internet recently with her nearly nude photo, "You all broke wilsonpost.com!"
She explained the system could not handle the voting traffic and kept crashing. Maci Archer Phillips, owner of The Pink Cactus, was given a bouquet of flowers from Watertown Flower Shop because she was the leading lady before the crash. Each of the nominees were asked to vote the old fashioned way and were given ballots that were tallied to reveal Pat Bryant was selected by her peers as the women's choice for the top title.
"I was floored," Bryant said after the ceremony. "To be in this room with all these young women with their wonderful careers. I feel so blessed they are my friends."
Morgan's charismatic personality showed in keynote
Beside much camaraderie, and, as some joked, the "intoxicating estrogen" wafting through the air, the highlight of the luncheon was guest speaker country music legend Lorrie Morgan. She had the women laughing, commiserating and at times emotional as she talked about the strength and power of women, at times in a self-deprecating way and other times with an almost palpable confidence in womanhood.
"You all are lovely, strong and powerful women," she told them as she stood next her husband Randy White who attended.
She talked about how she was raised in Nashville as daughter to George Morgan and would go to the Grand Ole Opry and "dreamed I would be up on the stage singing my songs."
"This past June was the 30th anniversary of my being a member of the Opry," Morgan said, who was the youngest member inducted into the Grand Ole Opry.
She spoke about how women have evolved in the country music industry and there was a time women could not host the Grand Ole Opry and were referred to as "gal sangers."
"That's right, 'sangers,'" she said. "We were sort of on our own for some time."
Morgan was blunt and said, "if a woman has power, sometimes they are considered a b*#*#."
"That's unfortunate, because being strong doesn't make you that," she said. "We cannot be afraid to go and succeed. We have to be successful. We wear so many hats. We are mommies, daughters and best friends."
Morgan related stories about her tour with fellow singer Pam Tillis and a song she wrote called "I am Woman," which was subsequently played for the women.
She also spoke about how all people sometimes might get a little full of themselves and a "big head."
She said she was "pulled down to where I should be," when a woman who was line to get Tillis' autograph said to her, "Lord God honey, I thought you were dead."
Morgan read some quotes from the book "I Am A Woman... hope.beauty.inspiration," which has her latest CD attached. They were from people like Rosa Parks and Elizabeth Taylor.
Time to celebrate all women
After the much humbled and surprised Bryant was awarded top "Woman of Wilson," Garrett was surprised herself when The Wilson Post and Wilson Living Magazine's co-founder Becky Andrews introduced honoree Lisa Tomlinson who said lifetimes of words may be forgotten, "but never the way some people make us feel."
She said Garrett needed to be celebrated as well and Garrett was given an Excellence in Journalism plaque.
"I was overwhelmed," Garrett said later. "These women let me share their stories, and to honor me on the day designed to honor them shows their heart and character."
Lookers Hair Salon owner Angelic Gardner said it was "empowering," to be celebrated in such a way.
"Look at all these ladies," she said. "It brings to light we bring things to the table and are 'busting' through the glass ceiling."
Sam Houston Elementary School Principal Julie Beasley agreed.
"It's an honor for me," she said. "I work with over 70 women at the school and I see everything they do for the children. These women are the same. This is a great opportunity to recognize their accomplishments. It's humbling."
Women were given goodie bags with items from UMC, Kate Spade, Walker Creek Toffee, The Frist Center, The Pink Cactus and Chick-fil-A , TriStar Summit and Re/Max Exceptional Properties from The Wilson Post. They were given mason jars filled with flowers by fellow honoree Delaine Smith and were encouraged to give them to another woman to make them feel as special as Garrett made them feel through her Woman of Wilson columns.
Morgan was also given a Music City Bling necklace designed for the event by Tina Brady and Doll Face Makeup Application donated by Niki Green. Bryant was presented with a $100 gift card to The Southern restaurant in Nashville, donated by Nacarato Volvo, and also a gift certificate for Doll Face Makeup Application, donated by Green.
Writer Laurie Everett may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.