Women’s History Month March is Women’s History Month in the United States and a number of countries around the world. It has been commemorated each year in the US since 1987. Every March a different theme is celebrated. This year the theme is – Visionary Women: Champions of Peace and Non Violence. The overall purpose of Women’s History Month is to “Highlight the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society”.
All of us know of women in history that have made lasting and transformative changes in the world. The list itself is long – I will mention just a few – Mary, Mother of Jesus – revered by billions of Christians around the globe. Catherine the Great – Empress of the Russian Empire. Joan of Arc – leader of victorious French armies and a Catholic Saint. Elizabeth the First – Queen of England. Sojourner Truth – African American, former slave, women’s rights leader, and abolitionist. Marie Curie – Polish/French physicist, chemist, and Nobel Prize winner. Helen Keller – overcame blindness and deafness to become an inspirational influence in American society. Eleanor Roosevelt – first lady of the United States and unflagging supporter of women and the underprivileged. Mildred Faye Jefferson – American physician and political activist, first black woman to graduate from Harvard, and president of the national right to life committee. Sandra Day O’Connor – first woman Supreme Court Justice. This is only a small list – there are countless other women that can be added. Women in history, and in contemporary times, have made invaluable contributions to human society. Certainly as much, or more, than men.
Massachusetts has been blessed with a wealth of notable “native-born” women in history. Here are just a few Abigail Adams – Born in Weymouth, Ma, first lady of the United States, wife of President John Adams, and his intellectual equal. John and Abigail’s letters to each other – numbering over a thousand, show their love, respect, and dedication to one another. They also show the high-value John held of Abigail’s advice, opinions, and influence, regarding the government and politics of the new country.
Clara Barton – Born in North Oxford, Ma, a nurse during the Civil War, she witnessed the horror of battle first hand. A natural leader, she went on to found the American Red Cross, and became an activist for civil rights. To this day, the Red Cross provides invaluable assistance in disaster relief. The Red Cross has now grown to 236 chapters and 166,000 volunteers.
Emily Dickenson – Born in Amherst, Ma, one of the finest poets in American literature. She wrote over 1800 poems in her lifetime. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica she “commanded a singular brilliance of style and integrity of vision”. In a class of her own – her poems are studied and appreciated to this day
Susan B Anthony – Born in Adams, Ma, social reformer, equal rights activist, and leader of the women’s suffrage movement. Anthony, strong in character and integrity, was a force in the social equality, temperance, and anti-slavery movements of the nineteenth century. Her tireless efforts ultimately lead to the ratification of the 19th amendment to the Constitution in 1920, guaranteeing the universal right of women to vote. She is the first woman to appear on US coinage – the 1979 Susan B Anthony dollar.
Bette Davis – Born in Lowell, Ma, two time academy award winning actress. Nominated for an Oscar 10 times. Ranked 2nd by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as the greatest actress of all time (behind Katherine Hepburn). Davis’ intelligence, personal force, and talent permeated every role she played – and her breadth as an actress was limitless, playing Queens, sultry gangster molls, demented tyrants, and everything in between. Her brilliance showed through regardless of the material she worked with.
Christa McAuliffe – Born in Boston, Ma, graduate of Framingham State College, ME at Bowie State University, High School Social Studies teacher, and NASA astronaut. McAuliffe was chosen from 11,000 applicants to be NASA’s first civilian in space as part of the 1986 Challenger Space Shuttle mission. She was to perform a number of experiments in space, as well as teach 2 classes from the Challenger to High School students. The space shuttle exploded just 73 seconds after lift-off. Killing all 7 of the crew. Christa is remembered as a civilian pioneer in the US space program.
Women do not need to make “world- history” in order to be vital parts of our everyday lives. All of us owe a considerable debt to the women around us; whether they be our mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, cousins, aunts, grandmothers, nieces, friends, or co-workers. Women make history in our lives each day. Caring for us, guiding us, nurturing us, teaching us, and fighting for us. They are our role models of strength, character, intelligence, and integrity; making inestimable contributions in every area of life and society. The world would not be a tolerable place without the leadership, love, toughness, perseverance, and wisdom, of the women who make up such an essential part of it.
Quote of the month: “We ask justice, we ask equality, we ask that all the civil and political rights that belong to citizens of the United States, be guaranteed to us and our daughters forever.” Susan B. Anthony
Steve Nickerson is a Mansfield resident, former US Marine, and is the Vice Chairman of the Mansfield Republican Town Committee – www.mansfieldgop.com. The opinions he expresses are his own.