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International Women's Day draws inspirational flower project to Washington Square Park

After struggling to find a public event to attend for International Women's Day, Noelle Lauren Contey decided to create her own.

For International Women's Day on Friday, Noelle Lauren

For International Women's Day on Friday, Noelle Lauren Contey, left, handed out flowers with inspiring quotes on them in Washington Square Park. Photo Credit: Corey Sipkin

A flower, a quote and a simple question — that’s all it can take to make an impact.

Noelle Lauren Contey found this out firsthand last year on her commute home to Brooklyn after handing out over 100 flowers with inspiring quotes to women in Union Square Park.

“When I was traveling home on the train, some girl was crying and she had one of my flowers, and I didn’t interview her so I thought she must have gotten it from someone else,” she recalled. “She said, ‘Oh my God, I really needed this today.’ … It gave me chills.”

The date was March 8 — International Women’s Day — and Contey said she had wanted to do something unique to mark the occasion. After struggling to find a public event to attend, she decided to create her own.

Contey teamed up with a woman-run florist, Belle De Fleur, which donated flowers. She printed over 100 quotes from historical women and attached one each to an individual flower. With the help of a couple volunteers, she headed to Union Square to ask women a simple question: “Who inspires you?”

“I would say 75 percent of the women I spoke with didn’t even know it was International Women’s Day, which I thought was crazy because it’s celebrated all around the world,” said Contey, who founded the wellness company Healing in the City. “Because of the feedback from it, I said I definitely want to do this again next year.”

A year later, Contey has organized a reprise of what she dubbed Flowers for Empowerment. On Friday, she and several volunteers handed out donated flowers from Belle De Fleur in Washington Square Park near the Giuseppe Garibaldi statue. Afterward, Contey hosted a sold-out International Women’s Day event at Energi, an event space near the park.

“Everyone who [was] involved is a woman,” she said.

Contey described the gathering as an intimate space for women-led businesses to connect. It featured a panel of inspiring speakers who discussed topics ranging from activism and body positivity to sustainability and mental health.

“I just want it to be a space where women from all over the city can come together,” she added.

Looking to the future, Contey said she sees Flowers for Empowerment blossoming into a larger organization aimed providing year-round programming for women in the city.


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