National Women’s History Month – March 2018

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National Women’s History Month – March 2018

Dayna Maloney, Maddy Divino, Ghadeer Lamah, & Rachel Lin, Co-Editor, Co-Editor, Director of Expansion, & Director of Photrography

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In 1987, the National Women’s History Project requested that the month of March be designated as “Women’s History Month.” Soon enough, Congress settled in favor of Pub. L. 100-9, making it official. In later years, Presidents proclaimed Women’s History Month as an annual occurrence, rather than a one-time monthly celebration in 1987. As tribute to the women’s movement and to all those who have contributed to it, we have composed a list honoring empowered women of both the past and the present. The following are inspirations to all and are role models for young girls who wish to chase their dreams and to defy social standards.

Happy National Women’s Month!

  • Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962)
    • Eleanor Roosevelt was a humanitarian, equal rights activist, and influential first lady (married to Franklin Roosevelt) in American history. She completely changed the role of the first lady; she took on a much more active role than any other first lady ever did. For example, she gave press conferences to advocate for children’s and women’s rights. Some notable achievements include her own newspaper column, “My Day,” and her appointment by President Truman after FDR died to be a delegate to the United Nations General Assembly.
  • Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906)
    • Susan B. Anthony was a women’s rights activist who played a key role in the women’s suffrage movement. Along with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, she founded the National Woman Suffrage Association and worked tirelessly throughout her life by giving speeches in support of women’s rights. In 1872, she even illegally voted in the presidential election, which led to her arrest. Though the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote was passed 14 years after her death, her resiliency and dedication to her cause no doubt advanced the suffrage movement in extraordinary ways.
  • Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902)
    • Elizabeth Cady Stanton was another suffragist and civil rights activist in the 1800s. She was one of the leaders of the Seneca Falls Convention, which was the world’s first women’s rights convention. She is known for her powerful address that demanded political equality for women and her reading of the reworded Declaration of Independence, “The Declaration of Sentiments,” at the meeting. She also worked with Susan B. Anthony to create the National Women’s Loyal League in support of the abolition movement.
  • Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910)
    • Elizabeth Blackwell was a British physician who, after graduating first in her Geneva Medical College class, became the first woman to receive a medical degree in the United States. In 1857, she created the well-regarded New York Infirmary for Indigent Women and Children and moved on to create a medical school for other aspiring women doctors several years later. Finally, Blackwell returned to England, where she set up her own successful private practice. There is no doubt that Blackwell’s persistence and success in the medical field paved the way for future women doctors.
  • Gloria Steinem (1934 – present)
    • Gloria Steinem is an American feminist, activist, and author, who was in the forefront of the feminist movement in the U.S. in the late 1960s and early 1970s. She started her career by becoming a freelance writer in the sixties for various magazines, who published many of her political pieces. In 1971, Steinem collaborated with other prominent feminists to establish the National Women’s Political Caucus. Steinem went on to launch her own feminist magazine, Ms, which discusses issues ranging from the patriarchy to domestic violence. Today, Steinem continues to travel the world to speak out and write about feminist issues and her personal life.
  • Wangari Maathai (1940 – 2011)
    • Wangari Maathai was a world-renowned Kenyan environmental activist, who broke many glass ceilings as a black woman. Maathai was the first African woman to receive a PhD, as well as a Nobel Peace Prize for her work environmental and political work. In 1976, Maathai strongly advocated for increased tree planting to improve the environmental conditions in Kenya at a UN Conference. This lead to the creation of the Green Belt Movement, an organization that exists today to promote conservation and tree planting in Africa. In the early 90s, she became heavily involved with pro-democracy protests in Kenya and worked to promote peace and stability in the government.
  • Maya Angelou (1928 – 2014)
    • Maya Angelou was a woman of many talents, being an American civil rights activist, author, poet, singer, dancer, director, composer, and feminist. But Angelous is most famous for her memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. She has published numerous collections of essays, poems, autobiographies, and even plays. Growing up as African American and a woman in the South, Angelou faced a lot of hardships, such as rape and discrimination, that helped inspire her to find her voice as a writer. In the 1960s, Angelou also traveled overseas to Ghana and Egypt, where she met Malcolm X and became involved in political activism, helping to establish the Organization of Afro-American Unity. Angelou has won numerous awards for her films, non-fiction pieces, and cookbooks. Though she passed only four years ago, her activism and literature has left a lasting impact on America and the world.
  • Frida Kahlo (1907 – 1954)
    • Frida Kahlo is Mexican painter, known for her famous self-portraits, as well as a feminist icon. In 1925, Kahlo was involved in a horrific bus accident, in which a handrail impaled her through the hip, leaving her immobile with spinal and pelvic fractures. Despite this, she continued to paint through her recovery. Four years after her accident, Kahlo met Diego Rivera, a fellow Mexican, communist artist, whom she had a very long, yet unstable, marriage with. Kahlo had various health issues that could have prevented her from becoming a successful painter, but through these hardships, Kahlo continued her art and gained popularity, receiving her first solo exhibition in Mexico in 1953. She also supported political movements through her health problems, becoming an active member of the Mexican Communist Party. After her death in 1954 when the feminist movement began to pick up momentum, Kahlo was regarded by many as an empowering female creative icon.
  • Sojourner Truth (1797-1883)
    • As a women’s rights and civil rights activist, Sojourner Truth never fell short of doing all that she could to leave a mark on America’s history. Truth was born into slavery in 1797, but after being sold multiple times and working on multiple plantations, she finally escaped with her own daughter years later. From that moment on, Sojourner Truth devoted herself to the cause of civil rights and abolition. Shortly after her escape from slavery, she heard that her son was sold illegally to a plantation in Alabama. Sojourner Truth then became one of the first black women to successfully challenge a white man in court. Her influence on the role of women in American society was also notable, best exemplified in her speech “Ain’t I A Woman?” given at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention.
  • Rosa Parks (1913-2005)
    • Born in Alabama in 1914, Rosa Parks faced discrimination growing up. She attended a segregated school where she faced heavy harassment from her white peers; her early experiences are what stirred her passion for reaching racial equality. She became a member of the NAACP in 1943, making it her mission to progress society for civil rights. Her most famous form of protest was in 1955, when she refused to give up her seat to a white man in a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama. She was arrested for her peaceful refusal, and this sparked what became known as the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which persisted for about a year. Rosa Parks later explained that she wasn’t refusing to move her seat because she was tired physically, but that she became tired mentally from always having to give in to discrimination she was surrounded with.
  • Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896)
    • As a young girl, Harriet had always been influenced by the abolitionist sentiment of her father and siblings. Although she wasn’t black, Harriet strongly believed that slavery and the treatment of African Americans was unacceptable, regardless of race. Her passion toward this cause is what led to her writing the famous novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Here, Harriet Beecher Stowe portrayed emotionally, as she focused on families and children, the hardships that slaves in the South had to face. This book moved people all over the nation and was a major instrument in the abolitionist movement. Even after the Civil War, Harriet Beecher Stowe remained passionate and reform minded.
  • Margaret Thatcher (1925-2013)
    • As the first female Prime Minister of Britain, Margaret Thatcher served as an example of the power and determination that women are capable of. Margaret attended Oxford College where she studied chemistry while always being very active and passionate in politics. After graduating college, Margaret took time to study law. Thus, after proving herself to be both dedicated and determined, Margaret Thatcher eventually received a seat in the House of Commons, which kick-started her political career. She continued to climb the political ladder, receiving many more positions, however she became increasingly frustrated because she felt a lack of true power to make change as a woman. In a television appearance in 1973, Margaret Thatcher states that she doesn’t “think there will be a woman prime minister in [her] lifetime”. Ironically, she proved herself wrong in 1979, when she won the title herself.
  • Michelle Obama (1964-present)
    • Wife of former president Barack Obama, Michelle Obama had been the first African American “First Lady” in America. All while maintaining her job as a lawyer, Michelle, though initially reluctant to expose her family to the White House – lifestyle, advocated for several causes to help the American people. She launched the “Let’s Move!” initiative to encourage healthy eating and increased physical activity, as well as the “Reach Higher” organization to push America’s youth toward better education and career opportunities. Michelle Obama is an inspiration to all, serving as a role model to young women and showing the effectiveness of hard work and determination.
  • Oprah (1954-present)
    • We have all heard the name “Oprah Winfrey” one way or another. As a talk show host, actress, philanthropist and producer, Oprah has achieved success in numerous areas. Beginning her broadcasting career in high school at WVOL radio in Nashville, she soon became the youngest person and the first African American woman to anchor the news on Nashville’s WTVF TV. Later, she hosted the number one local talk show – AM Chicago – only to go on to earn her very own show titled The Oprah Winfrey Show. In addition to her television program, billionaire and media-giant Oprah Winfrey began her own national Book Club, created a magazine, and even produced and starred in several Hollywood films. In 2013, Oprah was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest and most honorable civilian award. Quite evidently, her contributions to society place Oprah at the head of the “inspirational-women club,” as her achievements prove that big dreams really can come true.
  • Amelia Earhart (1897-1937)
    • In 1917 at an aviation expo, Amelia Earhart watched in awe as a plane swooshed by her. Soon after, Earhart admitted the following: “I believe that little red airplane said something to me as it swished by.” Captivated by the flight of “that little red airplane,” that december day changed Amelia Earhart’s life forever. Later on, in 1928, she received an offer to become the first woman to fly across the Atlantic – though as co-pilot. Beyond this, Earhart set a world altitude record at 18,415 feet, and became the president of the women’s aviation organization, the Ninety-Nines. Unfortunately, Earhart’s final flight ended in fatal disaster, as she attempted to become the first woman to fly around the world. Her plane crashed and disappeared, and her last communication was at 8:43 am on June 1, 1937. Despite this, Amelia Earhart’s dedication to her profession and determination to exceed stereotypical restraints placed on women has made her an inspiration to all.
  • Joan of Arc (1412-1431)
    • Joan of Arc, known as “The Maid of Orleans,” became a heroine of France as a result of her contributions to the Hundred Years’ War. Later declared a martyr and named a Roman Catholic Saint, Joan of Arc was first considered a criminal before her war efforts were accepted and praised. Soon enough, her image was featured in numerous works of literature and art, as well as film, television, video games, and music later on. Joan of Arc had defied standards and fought bravely despite her gender and the disapproval of the time period. For this, she is a role model to all women who wish to soar beyond expectations.

The world would not be the same that is is today if not for the contributions from these amazing women and the countless others that were not mentioned in this article. We owe endless thank you’s to these women, and to the many other special women in each of our lives. Happy National Women’s Month everyone!

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