March is all about women (isn’t every day?). For National Women’s History Month, we’re putting the spotlight on the strong, determined women who have changed the course of American history.
Women’s History Month began as a weeklong celebration in Santa Rosa starting in 1978. The organizers, the Education Task Force of the Sonoma County Commission on the Status of Women, selected the week of March 8th to correspond with International Women’s Day. The movement spread across the country and other communities began initiating their own Women’s History Week celebrations.
Just two years later, a consortium of women’s groups and historians lobbied for national recognition. In February 1980, President Jimmy Carter issued the first Presidential Proclamation declaring the week of March 8th as National Women’s History Week. In 1987, Congress passed a law designating March as “Women’s History Month.” Each president since then has issued annual proclamations to continue this more than 30-year tradition.
So get ready, because we’re diving into some of the magnificent ladies who’ve changed the face of our nation and state.
We’re starting off with a remarkable woman who saved so many lives, with no regard to her own. Harriet Tubman escaped from slavery in 1849 and became the leader of the Underground Railroad. She helped lead more than 300 slaves to freedom using a secret network of safe houses. Tubman also served as a scout, nurse, and laundress for the Union during the Civil War.
Rosa Parks was one of the MOST prominent women in the civil rights movement and was given the name “mother of the freedom movement.” In December 1955, Parks refused to give up her seat in a segregated bus and was charged with civil disobedience. She helped kick start the seminal Montgomery bus boycott, which influenced the future of the civil rights movement.
You’ve probably heard of the American Red Cross. It’s a humanitarian organization that provides emergency assistance and disaster relief in the United States. Clara Barton founded the organization and served as its first president. She was a nurse during the Civil War for the Union Army, and wanted a way to continue providing help to people in distress.
Making history! Amelia Earhart was the FIRST female pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. She received the U.S. Distinguished Flying Cross for her accomplishments. Earhart and her navigator disappeared over the central Pacific Ocean in 1937 while attempting to fly around the globe.
A woman who changed the written word. Maya Angelou was a poet, memoirist, and civil rights activist. She was known for her poetry, but also for her autobiographies like I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which tells the story of how she transformed from a victim of racism to a woman who stood up to prejudice. Her words carry on today even after her passing in 2014.
Sandra Day O’Connor
Sandra Day O’Connor will ALWAYS be remembered for making history as the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court. She was admitted into Stanford University at the age of 16 where she studied economics. Four years later, she began studying law and completed her education in two short years. O’Connor was elected to the Arizona State Senate and was nominated by President Ronald Reagan to the highest court of the land just after two years. She’s remembered for her dispassionate and meticulously researched opinions on the court. Since her retirement, O’Connor has advocated for educating today’s youth on how to be involved in civics and government.
One small step for man, one giant leap for womankind. Sally Ride, a California native, became the first American woman in space. On June 18, 1983, Ride was given the job of working the robotic arm on a space mission on the Challenger to help pull satellites into space. She beat out 1,000 applicants for the job after attending Stanford University. During her retirement, Ride started her own educational company to help inspire young girls and women to pursue careers in science and math.
These are just some of the many amazing women who have changed our nation’s history. We hope you give a shout out to the special ladies in your own life and enjoy Women’s History Month!