Women have played a critical role in American history, and since 1981 the month of March has been set aside to honor those contributions.
The 2020 theme of Women’s History Month is “Valiant Women of the Vote.” The theme honors “the brave women who fought to win suffrage rights for women, and for the women who continue to fight for the voting rights of others.”
According to history.com, the women’s suffrage movement was a “decades-long fight to win the right to vote for women in the United States. It took activists and reformers nearly 100 years to win that right, and the campaign was not easy: Disagreements over strategy threatened to cripple the movement more than once. But on August 18, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was finally ratified, enfranchising all American women and declaring for the first time that they, like men, deserve all the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.”
Throughout history, there have been women who made great advancements to society, but they’re often forgotten or go unacknowledged for years. Everyone remembers the men in history. The Napoleons, George Washingtons, Henry VIII,s Einsteins and Teslas – but women, too, have done amazing things worthy of immortalization.
Cleopatra, the last pharaoh of Ptolemaic Kingdom Egypt, is a well-known historical figure, but she was not the only female pharaoh to preside over the desert. Coming before Cleopatra were Sobeknefru and Hatshepsut. Following her reign, Hatshepsut’s stepson tried to erase her from the annals of history but failed.
“Knowing that her power grab was highly controversial, Hatshepsut fought to defend its legitimacy, pointing to her royal lineage and claiming that her father had appointed her his successor,” said History.com. “She sought to reinvent her image, and in statues and paintings of that time, she ordered that she be portrayed as a male pharaoh, with a beard and large muscles. In other images, however, she appeared in traditional female regalia.”
Other famous queens have ruled throughout history, including Mary, Queen of Scots, her cousin Queen Elizabeth I and the current, longest-presiding British Monarch in history Queen Elizabeth II. But though women may have been in power a spattering of times throughout history, outside of the throne, most were still treated as second-class citizens — enter the suffragettes.
“I know that women, once convinced that they are doing what is right, that their rebellion is just, will go on, no matter what the difficulties, no matter what the dangers, so long as there is a woman alive to hold up the flag of rebellion. I would rather be a rebel than a slave,” said well-known American suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst.
Mary Wollstonecraft penned her book “A Vindication of the Rights of Women” in 1792 — one of the earliest writings regarding equality of men and women. A century later, Susan B. Anthony fought for female equality across the sea in the United States of America.
Today, many women still fight for equality — nationally, women are paid an average of 20 percent less than their male counterparts doing the same job. In countries throughout the world, women like Malala Yousafzai — who was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman for attending school and defending women’s and girls’ rights to education — are fighting just to earn an education.
Other women of color have stood up to sexism and racism over the years and still fight for equality to this day. Historical Black heroines include Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman, who were both born into slavery but escaped and became an advocate for the freedom of their fellow enslaved men, women and children. Then there was Rosa Parks, who refused to give up her seat and move to the back of the bus so that a white man could sit down.
Women have also led the way in literary and scientific endeavors over the years. Take, for example, the creator of the science fiction genre — the daughter of the aforementioned Wollstonecraft. Mary Shelley originally published her groundbreaking novel “Frankenstein” 200 years ago without her name attached for fear she would lose her children.
“It was considered such a masculine novel that when published anonymously (as was common for works written by women), many people attributed it to her husband,” wrote Harriet Hall in a 2018 article for Independent.
Then there were the women scientists, often unsung throughout history.
Rosalind Franklin discovered the double helix of DNA — though Francis Crick and James Watson were ultimately awarded credit and a Nobel Prize for the discovery. Franklin was not included in the award for her contribution because the Nobel Committee does not grant prizes posthumously. A scientist who did win, not one, but two Nobel Prizes was Marie Curie.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg became the second female justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Born in 1933 in Brooklyn, New York, Bader taught at Rutgers University Law School and then at Columbia University, where she became its first female tenured professor. She served as the director of the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union during the 1970s, and was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in 1980. She was named to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1993 by President Bill Clinton.
This is just a handful of the many women who have done great things to make the world a better place. Throughout history and into the future, women have been and will continue to be, leaders and achievers.