Honoring Carolyn Goodman on International Women’s Day

In both her personal and professional life, Carolyn Goodman (1915-2007) was an activist long before The Andrew Goodman Foundation was created. When she wasn’t working as a child psychologist, she and her husband, Robert W. Goodman (1915-1969), were fighting against McCarthyism and instilling the importance of equality, justice, and morality in their sons. After her second son, Andrew Goodman (1943-1964), was murdered by the Ku Klux Klan while he was in Mississippi for the Freedom Summer, Carolyn and her husband founded The Andrew Goodman Foundation. She spent the remainder of her life fighting for social justice causes such as the Civil Rights Movement, as well as women and children’s rights. This Women’s History Month, we celebrate her life and her work by highlighting some of her most important and inspiring words.

“We might despair at times and feel frustrated  in our efforts to combat the fear and hatred which leads to debasement and violence, but we must never turn our backs. Unless we are prepared to confront evil and destroy it, we will be destroyed by it. Unless we are uncompromising in our purpose we become infected by the disease we would eradicate from society.” – Carolyn Goodman speaking at Queen’s College

“We have not reached the promised land where men and women of all races and creeds will embrace in glorious harmony, but we are moving, we keep walking, and we have not been halted by the doubters and the naysayers.” – Carolyn Goodman for The Torchbearers 1964-1994, Standing on the Shoulder of Giants, October 23, 1994

“We are frequently asked if our sons died in vain. My answer to that question is a resounding NO. Since 1964 we have witnessed the rise of liberation movements throughout the world. A South African student told me that their movement was sparked by the dedication and courage of our sons. The movement for the liberation of women in this country, in Asia, Africa, and in Europe has grown and become strong in the past quarter century. Ethnic, religious and political minorities, the physically and mentally disabled, who are part of a large constituency who had been treated as second class citizens, have found their voices, mobilized their resources, and taken heart from the determination and resolve they witnessed in 1964.” – Queens College Dedication of the Chaney Goodman Schwerner Rosenthal Library Tower, May 10, 1989

Through her political activism, Carolyn Goodman prioritized perseverance even in the face of familiar adversaries: fear, frustration, and apathy. Especially now, when the news might seem overwhelming and the social injustices too heavy to bear, Carolyn urges us to “never turn our backs.” Instead, we must take a deep breath, and face the evils of our society head-on. We cannot let our fear or frustration overwhelm us. We must continue on in our missions, whatever they may be, whatever we feel called to do, otherwise, we will surely perish. We have to persevere, even in the face of evil. It is easy to do nothing, to play the passive part in this chapter that will one day be history. It is difficult to stand up, take action, to do what we feel is the right thing — but that is why we must do it. It is scary because it is what is right.

Today’s world might not be the “promised land” that Carolyn speaks of, but she urges us to “[keep] moving…keep walking” towards that future. We may not even find that promised land in our lifetime. But we do not push for change expecting that change to happen in our lifetime. We know, as Carolyn knew, that some of us might leave the fight before it was over. But that does not mean that what is right is not worth fighting for. Instead, we must keep reaching for that future that will, one day, be someone’s present. We work today so that we might inspire the generations that will come long after all of our tomorrows are spent, the way that Andrew Goodman’s life and work inspired students in South Africa. We should all aim to leave this world a little kinder, a little braver, and a little more accepting, than we found it. Carolyn Goodman certainly did, and this is why we honor her this Women’s History Month.

 About the Author

Hayley van Hoek is the Communications and Development Intern at The Andrew Goodman Foundation. She graduated from Ramapo College of New Jersey with a Bachelor’s in Literature and a concentration in Creative Writing.