Women in history
April 18, 2018
The month of March is over, which means Women’s History Month has also come and gone, but the stamp women have left on history will continue to be prominent for years to come. Since the mid-1600s women have made great contributions to society.
Dated back to 1645, Lady Deborah Moody, who was one of the first women activists, was granted land in what is now known as South Brooklyn. Moody, who noticed a lack of a diverse educational system and religious beliefs, used this land to start a new school and establish a church in Gravesend (a town she then founded).
Alongside Moody was Elizabeth Cady Stanton, an American suffragist, social activist, abolitionist, and leading figure of the early women’s rights movement. Unlike many of those involved in the early stages of the women’s rights movement, Stanton addressed various issues relating to women beyond voting rights. The issues she addressed included women’s parental and custody rights, property rights, employment and income rights, divorce, the economic health of the family, and birth control. Stanton was also president of the National Woman Suffrage Association until 1900.
Next to these women stand many people who have had great impacts on society, but also, millions of others that fight for the rights of all individuals everyday.
Truth was born to the name Isabella Baumfree in 1797. She escaped slavery in Ulster County, N.Y., in 1826, with her infant daughter. From her termolious past Truth became a passionate member of the abolishment movement, and was a women’s rights advocate. She is known for recruiting black troops for the union army during the Civil War, her speech “Ain’t I a Woman?” in 1851 at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention, and many other great feats for a black woman in her time. She even won a legal argument in court against a white man to reclaim her son who was sold into slavery. Truth passed on Nov. 26, 1883, but her wise words, “Truth is powerful, and it prevails” live on (refinery.com).
Dorothea Dix, born in Hampden, Maine, 1802, is best known for raising awareness and helping people with mental illnesses receive better help and living conditions. Dix grew up with a fascination for education, and eventually became a teacher. At one point in her career, she took a job as an educator for a prison in Boston Massachusetts. There, she was appalled to find the state the prison was in, finding hostile inmates being keep with the non-threatening, mistreatment from prison guards, and absolutely filthy living quarters. Dix visited other local prisons to find them having similar conditions. She wrote her findings in detail, and took them to the legislature of Massachusetts, demanding something be done.
Her research began a movement to help those imprisoned and affected by mental illness. She traveled around the country, revealing more and more prisons had similar issues. From her work, many new psychiatric hospitals were built, first in honor of her grandfather, and then in honor of Dix, and standards were raised.
Dix also played a role in the Civil War, as she was appointed by the north to organize and outfit the Union Army hospitals and to oversee the vast nursing staff that the war would require (history.com). She oversaw many female nurses, which was a high position for a woman at the time. After the war she continued to work for those affected by mental illness. In 1887, she died at the age of 85 in a hospital created in her honor (history.com).
Born May 12, 1820 in Florence, Italy, Florence Nightingale is the woman who defied expectations and sparked the worldwide reform of health care. During the Crimean War, which resulted from the pressures of Russia on Turkey, Nightingale and a team of nurses worked in a British base hospital, improving the unsanitary conditions of the hospital and working to heavily reduce the death count of admitted soldiers.
During these times, Nightingale wrote down methods she used, and what she was doing to improve the sanitation of the hospital base. These writings are what initiated the worldwide reform of healthcare, and led to the eventual establishment of the St. Thomas’ Hospital and the Nightingale Training School for Nurses in 1860.
Before Nightingale’s previous contributions, she volunteered at Middlesex Hospital, working to end the outbreak of cholera, which was the beginning of her decision to improve hygiene practices (biography.com).
Harriet Tubman, born in 1820, in Dorchester County, Maryland, was a civil rights activist, American abolitionist, humanitarian, and worked as an armed spy for the United States Army during the American Civil War.
Tubman was born into slavery, but was able to free herself in 1849, along with many others. After Tubman escaped, she returned over 19 times to help free more than 300 slaves. Tubman has since been known as a top figure for leading the abolitionist movement to end slavery (refinery.com).
Margaret Sanger dedicated her life to fighting for women’s rights to birth control (a term she coined). Born in Corning, New York, Sep. 14, 1879, Sanger was not afraid to push buttons, and she worked hard to educate women on many different forms of birth control. She was even charged by the federal government in 1914 for using “obscene” language detailing birth control in her writings/columns.
To avoid jail time she fled to England where she would continue to learn more about reproductive rights and educated women. She returned to the U.S in 1915, and the following year created the first birth control clinic in America in Brooklyn, New York. This was no simple feat, as she was arrested 10 days after opening plainly for having such a organization.
Despite this setback, her clinic would be the foundation for the now widely recognized Planned Parenthood. Without her selfless work, it is hard to say whether women would have access to medications and tools they do today (refinery.com).
Polish nurse, social worker, and humanitarian, Irena Sendler, was born on Feb.15, 1910, in Otwock, Poland. Sendler served in the polish underground, which was a secret resistance group, and was assisted by two dozen other Żegota members (members of a Polish group working to aid Jews).
They were able to free around 2,500 Jewish children out of the Warsaw Ghetto. Sendler then provided these children with false identity documents, and places to live outside of the Ghetto.
To this day, Sendler and the Żegota members are still known to have saved the most Jewish children threatened by the Holocaust (biography.com).
Civil rights activist Rosa Parks, best known for her refusal to surrender her bus seat to a white man, was born Feb.4, 1913, in Tuskegee, Alabama. Parks’ fearless actions were what ignited the 381-day Montgomery Bus Boycott that helped commence the efforts put in place to end segregation in communal facilities.
After the boycott, Montgomery lifted the law allowing segregation on public buses.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) then awarded Parks with their highest award, the Spingarn Medal, in 1979 (refinery.com).
Born Feb.4, 1921 in Peoria, Illinois. American writer, activist, and feminist, Betty Friedan was a leading figure in the women’s movement. In 1963, Friedan came out with her book, ”The Feminine Mystique,” and three years later, co-founded and was elected the first president of the National Organization for Women (NOW).
On August 26, 1970, Friedan organized the nationwide Women’s Strike for Equality, marking the 50th anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution granting women the right to vote.
Along with joining and leading many other organizations and marches, supporting equal rights, Friedan is known for sparking the feminist movement, and creating the change for years to come (refinery.com).
Born Feb.18, 1931 in Lorain, Ohio. Novelist, editor, and professor Toni Morrison is known for being the first African-American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Morrison earned the honor for her work in literature and book “Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and Literary Imagination” (1992).
Her books discuss that hardships of being a black woman in America. When she earned her Nobel Prize in 1993, the Nobel organization stated that Morrison “gave the African-American people their history back.”
Morrison was awarded many other accolades, such as the Pulitzer prize for her book “Beloved” in 1988, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012 (refinery.com).
Lois Jenson was born in 1948 in northern Minnesota, where she grew up in a family of miners. In 1975, Jenson, along with three others became the first women to be employed by Eveleth Mines, a iron mining company in Minnesota. For nine years, Jenson was sexually harassed and abused by the men who worked in the mines. Her male co-workers got away with groping her, threatening her, and stalking her because she needed the benefits and income her job provided. Many of her male counterparts believed that women didn’t belong in the industry of mining, and they made it a very hostile work environment in effect. When Jenson was finally fed up with the mistreatment, she filed a complaint to the state that would end up becoming a 14 year legal battle. In 1991, Jenson v. Eveleth Taconite Co. was dubbed the first class-action sexual harassment lawsuit in the country. In 1998, the company settled with the women affected for millions of dollars. Jenson had won her case, but she still struggled with depression and PTSD caused by her experience working in the Eveleth Mines. Despite, her story inspired women across the country, and caused positive change for working women in all industries (biography.com).
Philanthropist Oprah Winfrey, born in Kosciusko, Mississippi on January 29, 1954, is most known for her popular talk shows, and television network, OWN. Winfrey moved to Baltimore, MD in 1976, where she hosted television chat, “People Are Talking.” This led to a recruitment from a Chicago television station for Winfrey to host her own morning show, later named, “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”
According to Biography.com, “Oprah’s Angel Network has raised more than $50 million for charitable programs, including girls’ education in South Africa and relief to the victims of Hurricane Katrina.”
Winfrey also proposed a bill in 1994 that was put into action to create a nationwide database of convicted child abusers.
In November 2013, Winfrey received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, presented by Barack Obama. Following this, in 2018, Winfrey gave a speech at the Golden Globes from the #MeToo movement and Female Empowerment. She also matched a $500,000 donation for the March for Our Lives rally after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting (biography.com).
Actress and humanitarian Angelina Jolie was born in Los Angeles, California, on June 4, 1975. Jolie has adopted three foreign orphans and has had three children of her own. Jolie was made a Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Refugee Agency in 2001, and in 2005, received the Global Humanitarian Action Award from the UN for her activism on behalf of refugee rights (biography.com)
Jolie’s humanitarian work began after seeing poverty and the effects of war in Cambodia, while filming for Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (biography.com).
Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani activist for female education, youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, and author of “I am Malala,” was born July 12, 1997, in Mingora, Pakistan.
On October 9, 2012, Yousafzai was on her way home from school. During this time, the bus she was on was stopped by the Taliban. After the group entered the bus, Yousafzai was shot in the head for being an advocate of girls rights to education, along with a few of her friends. Yousafzai was then flown to a hospital where she was treated and survived.
Yousafzai continues to be an advocate for girls rights to education (biography.com).
Yolanda Renee King
Yolanda Renee King, eldest granddaughter of Martin Luther King Jr., was born May 25, 2008, in Atlanta Georgia. At only nine years old, Yolanda is already following in her grandfather’s footsteps by becoming politically active and rallying for change. Recently, King spoke at the historical March for Our Lives movement, March 24 in Washington D.C.. Yolanda lost her grandfather to gun violence, so she has a personal connection to the topic. The speech she gave was one reminiscent of the infamous “I Have a Dream” speech her grandfather gave in 1963 in the same city. “My grandfather had a dream that his four little children would not be judged by the color of their skin but but by the content of their character. I have a dream that enough is enough!” King’s words caused a roar of cheers from the crowd, and left other young activists inspired (Seventeen magazine).