The roles played by women began to change in a compelling way during, and after, the second World War. A great many women volunteered to join the war effort. Even more took over the jobs in mills and factories left vacant by men who had been drafted, or had enlisted.
Suddenly, women had more power, a greater world view than ever before. The war transformed women in ways that could never be altered, and continues to evolve today. Women served as pilots, journalists, military personnel, and factory workers. Their contributions, as important facets of our history, are often overlooked.
The celebration of Women’s History Month began in 1981 when Congress requested the President to proclaim Women’s History Week beginning on 7th March 1982. Over the next few years resolutions were passed to proclaim March as a month of celebrations of Women’s History. Since 1995 Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama issued proclamations.
Without belittling such women as Jane Addams (1860-1935) and Carrie Chapman Catt (1859-1947), let’s look at just a few women who made contributions to our history, beginning in the twentieth century:
Mary Burnett Talbert (1866-1923) helped to found the Niagara Movement in 1905 and its successor, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Talbert worked tirelessly as an activist, fighting tirelessly for civil rights, women’s rights (including suffrage), protection of African-American children, and the teaching of African-American history. She challenged European and American imperialism and racism.
Amelia Earhart (1897-1937) opened the skies to women when she flew across the Atlantic Ocean. Her airplane disappeared in 1937 as she attempted to become the first person to fly around the world.
Grace Hopper (1906-1992) invented one of the first easy-to-use computer languages, accelerating the field of computer programming.
Helen Keller (1880-1968) was stricken blind, deaf, and mute by a childhood disease. After much struggling, she evolved as an expert author and lecturer in the cause of others living with similar disabilities.
Sandra Day O’Connor (1930- ) made way for women at every level of the legal profession when she was appointed the first woman Supreme Court Justice.
Rosa Parks (1913-2005 ) refused to relinquish her seat to a white person in a crowded city bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Her actions paved the way for the Montgomery Bus Boycott, a pillar of the Civil Rights Movement.
Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) championed human rights as she worked to improve the causes of women, African-Americans, poor people, and the unemployed.
These are but a few examples of American women who have helped to advance our way of life. Their efforts have improved the lot of women in this country, yes, but all our lives are better because of them.
You, Dear Reader, undoubtedly know women who have changed history simply by doing what they think is right every day. Let’s all take every opportunity this month and every day going forward to thank the women in our lives for all they do.
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