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Ladon Thames-Brumfield: Girls Rule! Old-Fashioned Etiquette Prepares Girls for Modern Success

Ladon Thames-Brumfield
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Gone are the days when ladies put on gloves for an outing, dress up to run errands, or wear a slip under a skirt. More people today view etiquette—letting seniors or pregnant women sit on public transportation or holding doors open—as a dying practice. Yet, others argue that the more etiquette is disregarded, the more conflict will arise. Ladon Thames-Brumfield thinks a return to etiquette instruction could revive the art of civility and manners.

Seven years ago, the former corporate manager began teaching the social skills required in the professional world to a group of 10 girls. Thames-Brumfield is now CEO and Executive Director of Girls Rule!, a social enterprise that serves some 1800 clients a year.

The Etiquette Imperative Institute that Thames-Brumfield founded in Chicago
works with girls and young women aged 7 to 23. The organization addresses developmental issues such as self esteem, communication skills and social manners. The profits from the etiquette program and Me2Be workshops are used to fund scholarships for girls and pay for other community project needs. Thames-Brumfield is convinced her investment helps to develop polished, confident girls. She cites Harvard University, Carnegie Foundation and the Stanford Research Institute studies as proof of the correlation between self image and professional advancement. The research states that job success depends 85% on people skills and only 15 on technical skill.

"Daily, girls are bombarded with subtle societal messages about their value and potential. When we allow others to provide an estimation of our worth, we are subject to their changing whims and even their preconceived notions about who we are and what we can achieve," says Thames-Brumfield.

She was taught to dress appropriately for various events and activities and knows it made a difference in her life. "Proper social skills including courtesy, civility, and respect prove be the bottom line in determining a profitable and successful future."

The girls, 90 percent of them minorities, work on social and dining situations in the etiquette programs. They are responsible for mastering 101 skills by the time they reach the ninth grade. Some of what they learn includes knowing how to "disagree without being disagreeable," "hem a skirt/pants," "speak proper English," "calculate the proper tip on a $25 bill," or "set a table for a family or holiday gathering."

Girls Rule! now serves girls and young women in some 20 communities, schools and organizations in Chicago as well as new clients in Lagos, Nigeria. The girls are also given the opportunity to set goals, promote literacy, take field trips or learn how to be entrepreneurs and leaders.

"Etiquette and social skills mastery provides one with a passport that allows them to access opportunities that sometimes even the best education cannot," says Thames-Brumfield.

As she sees it, manners and social skills "...improve our lives by helping us to deal with conflict in ways that honor ourselves and those around us." The Girls Rule! CEO believes the respect, manners and social skills taught in her programs are the bases for cultivating rewarding relationships, teaching others how we want to be treated and learning to work together to accomplish common goals.

Similar skills are discussed in Jenyne M. Raines' 2003 book, "Beautylicious! The Black Girl's Guide to the Fabulous Life." In the "Twelve Earmarks of Being a Lady" section, Raines gives tips about using "Please," "Thank You" and "Excuse Me" in daily our daily interactions with others. She also suggests "Being a Lady" means you do not chew gum in public, and you know how to maintain proper posture while gliding into a seat.

There are numerous books and websites available that teach the rules of etiquette. For instance, elegantwoman.org explains the difference between etiquette and manners. The former is doing a task in an orderly fashion while the latter means completing an assignment kindly.

Both matter to Thames-Brumfield in her holistic approach to preparing girls and young women to take on a challenging world with grace, assurance and skill.


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