March is Women’s History Month, a month to celebrate women in our society who have contributed to the advancement of the world.
Established in 1978 by the Education Task Force of Sonoma County Commission in California, the “Women’s History Week” celebration takes place around the week of March 8, International Women’s Day. When other communities learned of the success of the Sonoma celebration, similar celebrations quickly spread around the nation. In a presidential message in 1980, President Jimmy Carter designated March 2 to 8 National Women’s History Week.
“From the first settlers who came to our shores, from the first American Indian families who befriended them, men and women have worked together to build this nation.” Carter said. “Too often the women were unsung and sometimes their contributions went unnoticed. But the achievements, leadership, courage, strength and love of the women who built America was as vital as that of the men whose names we know so well.”
In 1986, there was a state-by-state action to change the week to a month; in March of 1987, Congress declared March as National Women’s History Month.
Here is a list of first ladies, inventors, and leaders of the Women’s Rights Movement. This list is small in comparison to all of the women who have made contributions. These women can inspire future generations to keep reaching for their dreams and to keep improving rights for all women. These women who came before us made great sacrifices to get us where we are today.
First ladies –
•Eleanor Roosevelt (1884 – 1962) Women’s and Civil Rights, Diplomat, Author, Columnist, and U.S. First Lady. Active in politics, she changed the role of the first lady. She was one of the first public officials to publicize issues through mass media, and also married to 32nd President Franklin D. Roosevelt.“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face …You must do the thing you think you cannot do,” Roosevelt said.
•Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (1929 – 1994) Journalist, publisher, and U.S. First Lady. Known as “Jackie” she is noted for bringing style and elegance to the White House. In her earlier years, she was a columnist for the Washington Times – Herald. Married to 35th U.S. President John F. Kennedy, she transformed the White House into a museum of American history to inspire public service and patriotism. After the assassination of her husband President Kennedy, grief-stricken, she showed incredible strength by standing beside Johnson as he was sworn in to office while still wearing her pink blood-stained dress. She became senior editor at Doubleday Publishing after the death of her second husband Aristotle Onassis.
•Pat Nixon (1912-1993) Children’s Activist, U.S. First Lady. Took up the cause of volunteerism. Married to 37th U.S. President Richard Nixon. As First Lady, she opened the White House to be more accessible.
•Hillary Clinton (1947 -) Women’s Rights Activist, Government Official, Senator, U.S. Secretary of State, and U.S. First Lady. She worked several decades for children and women’s rights in America, and also ran as a presidential candidate in 2016. She is married to 42nd President Bill Clinton.“Yes, there are still ceilings to break for women and men – for all of us. But don’t let anyone tell you that great things can’t happen in America. Barriers can come down. Justice and equality can win. Our history has moved in that direction. Thanks to generations of Americans who refuse to give up or back down,” she said.
Women’s Rights –
•Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906) Women’s Rights Activist, Civil Rights Activist, Teacher, Journalist, Editor and Publisher. Anthony worked for the abolitionist movement to end slavery. After the Civil War, Anthony and Elizabeth Stanton focused on women’s rights and created the National American Woman Suffrage Association. “It was we, the people, not we, the white male citizens, nor yet we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed this Union,” Anthony said.
•Margaret Sanger (1879-1966) was a women’s rights activist who worked toward the legalization of birth control and educated women about sex. “No woman can call herself free until she can choose consciously whether she will or will not be a mother,” Sanger said.
•Margaret Knight (1838-1914) Came up with a safety device for textile looms after seeing a faulty piece of equipment injured a fellow worker. She gaind her first patent in 1871, a machine that cut and glued the bottom paper in shopping bags. Before the invention, workers would have to do it by hand. In her lifetime, she received 27 patents.
•Melitta Bentz (1873-1950) Created the coffee filter system, Bentz, which received a patent in 1908. The business is still running today.
•Katharine Burr Blodgett (1898-1979) was a scientist, inventor and the first woman to receive a Ph. D in physics at Cambridge University. She was the first woman to be hired by General Electric. She contributed to military needs for gas masks, smoke screens and a new technique to de-ice airplane wings. She also came up with the glass that is used for lenses in cameras and movie projectors. It is also essential for eyeglasses, car windshields and computer screens.