Peechaya Burroughs for TIME
May 8, 2016 9:01 AM EDT

I have to admit, the idea for my book, What I Told My Daughter: Lessons from Leaders in Raising the Next Generation of Empowered Women, had selfish motives. When my daughter, Alice, was roughly 13 years old, our relationship was drastically changing. My role had shifted from providing healthy snacks, hand sanitizer and lunch money to something I had never experienced before. She needed advice, boundaries, more freedom/less freedom, lectures, different role models, and I…needed help!

I have worked in the media/content business my entire life. The destructive and confusing messages bombarding young women today thanks to my industry left me guilty and terrified. How could I provide my daughter with the essential tools to decode these messages and allow her to grow into an empowered young woman?

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In compiling essays from 54 different mothers—from Madeleine Albright to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, from Whoopi Goldberg to Pat Benatar, from Geena Davis to Cecile Richards, from Mia Hamm to Chirlane McCray—the themes could not have been more diverse yet simultaneously unifying. I would have to say the prevailing and overriding message has been in support of gender equality; subthemes have been freedom of choice and fairness.

Two essays that embody these subthemes came to us from U.S. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and former University president Juliet Garcia. Nancy’s essay lands firmly on the national urgency to once and for all provide gender equality.

Juliet Garcia, who became the first Latina to lead a college or university in the U.S. when she was named president of Texas Southmost College in 1986, highlights a story of personal courage in her essay. Her daughter chose to passionately support her mother in a very public and uncomfortable confrontation with Homeland Security because they wanted to divide the campus of Texas Southmost College with a fence. This theme of courage, taking risks and factoring in failure as a component of success also resonate throughout the book.

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As I previously stated, I did have selfish motives in collecting these essays; but ultimately, I have realized what these incredible mothers have provided is a treasure trove of feminist wisdom and advice to share with my daughter and daughters everywhere as they journey into womanhood.

“Get a Life” by Nancy Pelosi, minority leader of the U.S. House of Representatives

Today, women have endless opportunities, but there is still a missing link in our evolution in society and in the economy. The evolution of women is not complete until we complete that missing link, which is child care and reproductive rights.

Many young women haven’t the faintest idea how at risk issues are like a women’s right to choose, which is a central issue to women’s future. Some of us still have to watch over that. We are at a place where we have to be optimistic and confident but we have to be vigilant and operational to get more done.

Why should it be a question that women don’t make as much as men? How could it be? It’s not your boss’s business what kind of contraception you use. Why are we even having a conversation about what a health plan should and should not cover?

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It will be great when we get to a place where we talk about women and motherhood in the same way that we talk about men and fatherhood. Nobody ever talks about a “working dad.” Being a working mom does not define you as any less of a mom.

Change is coming. It is inevitable that women will take their rightful place because it’s right for us, it’s right for our families and it’s right for the country. We cannot succeed as a country unless we recognize this and make sure that every family has access to quality, affordable child care.

As I learned with Alexandra, our children are our great teachers. Our grandchildren are messengers to the future we’ll never see.

“The Wall” by Juliet Garcia, executive director of the University of Texas Institute of the Americas

My daughter, who is now a mother herself to two daughters, was faced with her own decision to make: whether to support her mother during this controversial period or to quietly steal away and hide until the issue was settled. She never hesitated for a moment. She took up the cause personally, had bumper stickers made opposing the border wall and made sure people displayed them prominently on their cars or at their businesses. My teenage granddaughters quickly joined her and distributed bumper stickers to their friends at school.

I’m sure no one wants to see their mother or their grandmother sued in federal court by the U.S. government. While I was blessed with receiving support from many, none meant more to me than the gift of unconditional support from my own daughter and granddaughters. I had had many occasions to be proud of them before, but during this most difficult time, my pride for them grew immensely.

When my daughter made the decision to support me in the very public and uncomfortable confrontation with the Department of Homeland Security, she also chose to run toward—not away from—the controversy and the important issues it represented.

There is always much to learn from these moments, but chief among them is that the toughest battles in our lives are those we learn from the most. They are the ones that make us surface our courage. My daughter and my granddaughters chose to run toward—not away from—the battle. They chose to surface their own courage.

Copyright © 2016 by Jerry Levine, Inc. from What I Told My Daughter by Nina Tassler with Cynthia Littleton published by Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

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