I've always had a fascination for the 60s, Flower Power, the Beatles, the Free Spirit and of course its music and the movement that led to some of the most amazing breakthroughs in human history. But when Ann Baker shared with me that she was organizing the first ever Women Over 50s Conference at Woodstock—that took my interest to a whole a new level.
What a brilliant idea! These are the same women who hold pivotal insights into the makings of our female psyche. They have seen it all, and what a way to get the mind share and brain power of some of the country's most influential consumers together. Little did I know that the founder was also a true feminist, which made it all the more exciting.
I flew down to LA to meet Ann Baker in person for the first time some months ago, as we had known each other only via phone and through conversations. Through working on projects together, we had developed a wonderful friendship. What I learned about Ann, her inspiration, travels and how this conference came about, was no doubt intriguing and worth the share.
Dhana: What has the past 50 years thought you about life?
Ann Baker: I both benefit from and struggle with the frequent changes that I’ve made during my life. I definitely tend to pursue that which interests and excites me, and so I love my work—but I do look around me at times and realize that, had I stayed on a straighter path throughout my life, I might have reached a higher level professionally in one area or another by now. For example, I started out as an attorney, a prosecutor for the federal EPA. My colleagues from the legal field are partners in private firms, DAs, judges. I left law long ago for time with my children, and then went on to publish two family magazines, then run a PR and marketing firm, and then become a specialist in social media marketing. I don’t regret my choices, but still I wonder “what if” at times.
Dhana: You have no doubt traveled quite extensively in your life. How has travel changed your mindset about living, people, planet and how has it impacted you as a person?
Ann Baker: Most of my travel has been in the U.S. When I was a child, my family traveled far by car and camped extensively. I’ve camped throughout the Western half of the U.S. As a young adult, I backpacked in the San Jacinto Mountains, and experienced solitude, peace and expansive vistas unmarred by a single human structure. As an adult, I took my children camping every year in the Adirondacks. I think that camping is a life-changing experience; living outdoors, in nature, is transforming, even if only for a weekend. Even my other travel has been linked to the natural experience: in my travels to Jamaica, St. Martin, the Virgin Islands, Hawaii—it’s always been about experiencing the beautiful landscape, the ocean, the animal and plant life.
Dhana: How does your work, experience and calling tie in with the upcoming "Women at Woodstock" conference?
Ann Baker: I’ve been a feminist all my life—even before I knew the word. My paternal grandmother was an attorney; I believe she was the first woman to sit for the then-new bar exam in California (admission used to be by apprenticeship to and recommendation by an already practicing attorney. My maternal grandmother had been a nurse, was widowed suddenly when her children were only four and seven years old, and she raised those children on her own. She would travel anywhere. It never occurred to me that women couldn’t or shouldn’t do whatever they wanted. I am especially interested in and excited about all the possibilities that open up in one’s life when you reach a “certain age,” and I want very much to gather with other women in the same life stage and experience to share our wisdom, support, and encouragement to be powerful and free to pursue our dreams.
Dhana: What wisdom and inspiration will be shared by speakers at the "Women at Woodstock" conference this October?
Ann Baker: How to find love after 50, writing and publishing, social media, health, fitness and nutrition, how to establish homes in more than one place without having to be wealthy, relationships, mastermind groups, how to start an acting career, relaxation techniques, and so much more…
Dhana:What is the "Celebration of Croning”? Why is it important to you and for others to be aware of this?
Ann Baker: It’s sort of funny—I don’t really know anything about a “real” croning. I just love the term—and the entire positive outlook of celebrating milestones and entry into new stages in life. That’s what Women At Woodstock is about. I used the term "croning" for the first time when I invited my women friends to celebrate my 50th birthday with me in a cabin in the woods for a glorious weekend together.
Dhana: What advice do you have for new graduates starting off their careers and people in their working lives?
Ann Baker: Make it a practice to GET AWAY at least once a year and really evaluate your life; what do you want to accomplish, what are you doing now, what’s good, what’s bad… Be conscious and be respectful of the precious life that you have and the precious love and friendships that you’ve gathered—and especially about your own right to happiness and fulfillment. Think about it all and make good choices for you first, others second.
Dhana: What are the five things that bring you joy in your life?
Ann Baker: The ocean breeze. I feel incredibly lucky to feel an ocean breeze on my face every day. My two daughters. I still feel surprised and so pleased every time that they call and want to talk with me—and they do, frequently. My husband, who is a source of peace and love, always, and whose positive outlook on life has taught me a lot. Technology. Does that sound strange? Humanity is so connected, as never before, thanks to technology. I find great hope for the future of the planet in that.