Famous firsts who shattered glass ceiling
March is Women’s History month and this year celebrates the 100 year anniversary since suffragists marched on Washington. In March of 1913, 5000 women paraded down Pennsylvania Avenue demanding the right to vote.
Women from across the country and around the world participated in the elaborate parade. These suffragists faced a rough road to equality because even women were opposed to giving women the right to vote. Women’s suffrage was in the news for weeks partially because a riot nearly broke out threatening to ruin the parade.
Women suffragists used to be blamed for starting a “National Policy of Nagging.” This hard fought fight took over 70 years of activism to change the cultural climate and allow women this right.
Women’s History Month is a celebration of women’s contributions to history, culture and society. It grew out of an essay contest about real women and a celebration of women in a small school which included a parade in Santa Rosa in 1978.
Women throughout history have faced tough odds and still managed to rise to the top. Famous firsts began shattering the glass ceiling back during the Civil War.
In 1851 former slave Sojourner Truth delivered a famous speech, “Ain’t I a Woman?” Her eloquent speeches and growing fame eventually earned her an invitation to meet with President Lincoln.
Though Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony both championed the cause of women’s suffrage their whole life, they died before the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote in 1920.
Anthony voted in the presidential election in 1872, but was arrested. American women numbering eight million voted in a presidential election for the first time in 1920. All women who can now legally vote owe a debt of gratitude to her.
Marie Curie paved the way for women scientists when she discovered that some elements give off energy called radiation. This led to new medical treatments for curing cancer earning her the Nobel Prize in physics in 1903 and in chemistry in 1911.
Jane Addams helped the poor by starting shelters and offering services for those in need becoming one of the first social workers. In 1931, she was the first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
In 1968, Shirley Chisholm became the first African American woman elected to Congress. Rachel Carson, an environmentalist famous in the 1960s, wrote the book “Silent Spring,” which helped alert us to the dangers of pollution, especially how chemical pesticides harmed humans and marine life.
In 1983, Sally Ride was the first American woman in space thus changing what it looked like to be an astronaut. In 1981, Sandra Day O’Connor was the first woman to sit on the Supreme Court bench.
Women’s history milestones continue to be made. The list of distinctive firsts continues with athletes, political leaders and entertainers who have distinguished themselves.
A progress report on the status of women done by the White House a couple years ago showed that more young women held college degrees now than their male peers and that almost an equal number of men and women were in the work force. This was a far cry from World War II when the government used Rosie the Riveter ads to get women out of their homes and into the work place.
In a war zone 10 percent of all military personnel are women. This year the Pentagon signed an order stating they could serve in combat positions. Previously they only served in support roles, such as doctors, police, clerical positions and mechanics. Now that women will be able to fight on the front lines, they can qualify for higher ranking offices.
Women leaders and activists have struggled to achieve greatness thus changing our world. Join me in applauding their efforts by thanking a woman who’s made a difference in your life.
Kristi McCracken, author of two children’s books and a long time teacher in the South Valley, can be reached at email@example.com.