Speaker: Mary Pipher

Women Navigating Life's Currents and Flourishing As We Age

When Mary Pipher, a New York Times best-selling author, told her friends she was next writing a book on older women “like us,” they immediately protested, “I am not old.” What they meant, she says in a recent New York Times opinion piece, was that “they didn’t act or feel like the cultural stereotypes of women their age. Old meant bossy, useless, unhappy and in the way. Our country’s ideas about old women are so toxic that almost no one, no matter her age, will admit she is old.”

Mary Pipher’s work is far from “old” or “useless.”  She continues to discern the needs of the times and her writing presciently strikes a chord in the zeitgeist.  Her most recent book, Women Rowing North: Navigating Life's Currents and Flourishing As We Age (January 2019), happens to coincide with the news of older women ascending our mainstream institutions and culture. But while men’s value has long been perceived as rising with age, women’s has often fallen in popular perception.

“In America, ageism is a bigger problem for women than aging,” Mary writes. “Our bodies and our sexuality are devalued, … and we’re rendered invisible in the media. Yet, most of the women I know describe themselves as being in a vibrant and happy life stage. We are resilient and know how to thrive in the margins. Our happiness comes from self-knowledge, emotional intelligence and empathy for others.”

Mary’s self-knowledge, emotional intelligence, and empathy have been decades in the making.  A clinical psychologist in private practice in Lincoln, Nebraska, Mary is author of the #1 New York Times’ bestseller, Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls, in addition to 9 other books (three of her books have been New York Times bestsellers). Mary has written extensively on developmental issues facing young women and girls, as well as the struggles of modern families – and now, of the joys and challenges of women aging.

Mary is a community organizer and activist for many causes. In her book Seeking Peace, Mary speaks about her own struggles that emerged as a result of her professional success, and how self-care, self-exploration, and Buddhist practices helped her regain a sense of inner peace and meaningful engagement. In her most well-known work, Reviving Ophelia, she reflects on the struggles faced by young girls, such as depression, eating disorders, and suicide, as they navigate adolescence and try to find their true selves.

Mary has both the independence and hardiness of a well-lived life on the prairie.  She was born in the Ozarks and grew up in rural Nebraska. As a child, she enjoyed reading, writing, swimming, spending time outdoors, and being around her friends and family, all of which she enjoys today. Mary went on to study cultural anthropology and graduated from the University of California at Berkeley in 1969 before earning her Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska in Clinical Psychology in 1977. She was a Rockefeller Scholar in Residence at Bellagio and has received two American Psychological Association Presidential Citations, one of which she returned to protest psychologists' involvement in enhanced interrogations at Guantánomo and other sites.

Mary specializes in how American culture affects people's health and has appeared on Today, 20/20, The Charlie Rose Show, PBS Newshour with Jim Lehrer, and National Public Radio's Fresh Air. She speaks across the country to families, mental health professionals, and educators, and is particularly passionate about the importance of community and development of healthy relationships between children and adults. "There's been a shift in how people are grouping in this country," she says. "In the '90s we put all our 8-year-olds in one place, our 14-year-olds in another, our 80-year-olds someplace else. There's a certain kind of toxicity from age segregation."

Mary lives in Nebraska with her husband Jim and is an adjunct clinical professor at the University of Nebraska.

Join us in conversation with this wise and spirited writer and activist!

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