Women’s History Month

March is Women’s History Month! Declared by Congress in 1987, Women’s History Month is meant to highlight and celebrate the often unrecognized contributions that women have made to American society throughout history. The Voice has written about eleven remarkable women from American history to give you a head start on learning “herstory” this Women’s History Month. 

Susan B. Anthony (1820–1906)

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Susan B. Anthony was an American social reformer, a women’s rights activist and an integral part of the women’s suffrage movement. Committed to social justice at a young age, Anthony collected anti-slavery petitions at 17 years old and later became a state agent for the American Anti-Slavery Society. In 1851, Anthony met Elizabeth Cady Stanton and together they founded the New York Women’s State Temperance Society. They later formed multiple associations, both for women’s rights and anti-slavery, and continued petitioning and protesting. Anthony gave 75-100 speeches per year, worked on many state campaigns, and played an important role in creating the International Council for Women, which is still active over a century later. Anthony was arrested in 1872 for voting, a violation of laws that only permitted men to vote, and was convicted but refused to pay the fine. Six years later, Anthony and Stanton organized a presentation for Congress: an amendment giving women the right to vote. Although the 19th amendment was not ratified until after her death, it became known as the “Susan B. Anthony Amendment,” a recognition of Anthony’s lifelong fight for women’s rights. 

Harriet Tubman (1822–1913)

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Harriet Tubman was an American abolitionist, social activist, and spy for the Union Army during the Civil War. Born into slavery, Tubman escaped and rescued approximately 70 enslaved people, using the network of activists and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad. During the Civil War, Tubman was an armed scout and spy for the Union Army, where she also served as a nurse. She later became an active participant in the suffragette movement, traveling to give speeches and working alongside Susan B. Anthony. She was a keynote speaker at the first meeting of the National Federation of Afro-American women and was featured in the newspaper The Woman’s Era, as one of their “Eminent Women.” The U.S. Treasury will be releasing $20 bills featuring Tubman’s face by 2030. 

Eleanor Roosevelt (1884–1962)

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Anne Eleanor Roosevelt was an American diplomat, humanitarian and political leader. She served as First Lady of the United States alongside her husband, President Franklin D. Roosevelt. She was a controversial First Lady, mainly due to her commitment to civil rights issues, her public disagreements with her husband and her romantic relationship with Associated Press reporter Lorena Hitchcock. She was the first First Lady to hold press conferences and speak at a national party convention. She held 348 press conferences across her 12 years as First Lady and placed a ban on male reporters, which forced newspapers to hire female reporters. Roosevelt later served as the United States Delegate to the United Nations General Assembly, where she chaired the committee that drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, an international document that enshrines the rights and freedoms of all human beings. 

Amelia Earhart (1897–1939)

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Amelia Earhart was an American aviator, writer and the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean by herself. She first crossed the Atlantic Ocean as a passenger in 1928 and piloted a solo trip four years later. She continued to set records for altitude and speed and in 1935, she became the first person to fly solo from Honolulu, Hawaii to Oakland, Calif. Earhart was also a women’s rights activist; she was a member of the National Women’s Party, served as a career counselor to women in aviation during World War II and helped form The Ninety-Nines, an organization for female pilots. When she attempted to fly around the world in 1937, her plane disappeared somewhere over the Pacific Ocean and she was never seen again. 

Rosa Parks (1913–2005)

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Rosa Parks was an American activist in the civil rights movement, best known for her integral role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Parks became a member of the NAACP in 1943, serving as secretary until 1957. In her role as secretary, she investigated crimes against Black people and organized protests in support of the victims. On December 1, 1955, Parks boarded a bus in Montgomery, Ala. and sat in the “colored” section. After the white section filled up, the bus driver demanded that Parks and three other Black individuals give up their seats for the white passengers. While the other three Black passengers complied with the bus driver’s demands, Parks refused. She was arrested and charged with violating the city’s segregation law. This sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which lasted for 381 days and ended when the city’s bus segregation law was repealed. 

Betty Friedan (1921–2006)

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Betty Friedan was an American feminist, activist and writer, whose 1963 book, “The Feminine Mystique,” is credited with igniting the second wave of feminism in the United States. In “The Feminine Mystique,” Friedan argues that American women are facing a fulfillment and identity crisis, as they are pressured by societal expectations to find meaning and purpose solely through their roles as wives and mothers. She calls for women to break free from these constraints and seek fulfillment on their own through education, career and personal growth. Friedan co-founded the National Organization for Women (NOW) in 1966, which is now one of the largest and most influential feminist organizations in the United States. 

Maya Angelou (1928–2014)

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Maya Angelou was an American poet, author and civil rights activist, widely regarded as one of the most influential voices of her generation. She wrote seven autobiographical books, including “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” a commentary on race, gender and identity in America. Angelou was also a poet, playwright and screenwriter; her work often explored themes of resilience, overcoming adversity and the human condition. In addition to her writing, she was a prominent civil rights activist and worked closely with leaders such as Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. She was the first African American woman to have a screenplay produced as a feature film, the first African American woman to work as a streetcar conductor in San Francisco, and the second person ever to read a poem at a presidential inauguration. 

Sandra Day O’Connor (1930–2023)

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Sandra Day O’Connor was a retired American jurist and the first woman to serve as a Justice of the United States Supreme Court. After graduating third in her class at Stanford Law School, she worked as a deputy county attorney in California and an assistant attorney general in Arizona. O’Connor was appointed to the Arizona State Senate in 1965, becoming the first woman to hold a legislative leadership role in the United States. She also became the first woman to hold a statewide elected office in Arizona, when she was appointed to the Arizona State Court of Appeals in 1969. President Reagan nominated O’Connor to the Supreme Court in 1981; she was confirmed by the Senate with a vote of 99-0, becoming the first female Justice of the Supreme Court. O’Connor retired in 2006 and remained active in public life, advocating for the improvement of civics education and working to promote judicial independence, until her death in 2023.

Ruth Bader Ginsberg (1933–2020)

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Ruth Bader Ginsburg was an American lawyer, jurist and Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1993 until her death in 2020. Throughout her career, she worked to advance women’s rights and gender equality, arguing several landmark cases before the Supreme Court. Ginsburg wrote the majority opinion in the case that struck down the Virginia Military Institute’s male-only policy, joined the majority opinion in the case that guaranteed same-sex couples an equal right to marriage and wrote a powerful dissent in the case regarding the Affordable Care Act’s requirement for employers to provide contraception coverage for their employees.

Sally Ride (1951–2012)

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Sally Ride was an American astronaut and physicist. Ride attended Stanford, where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in physics, a Bachelor of Arts degree in English literature, a Master of Science degree in physics and a Doctor of Philosophy in physics. She joined NASA in 1978 and in June 1983 became the first American woman to go to space. She flew twice, totaling more than 343 hours in space, before leaving NASA in 1987. After NASA, Ride worked for Stanford University and University of California, San Diego as a researcher, later becoming a professor. Ride died of pancreatic cancer in 2012. After her death, her girlfriend of 27 years revealed their relationship to the public, making Sally Ride the first-known lesbian astronaut.

Kamala Harris (1964–)

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Kamala Harris is an American politician, attorney, the first woman, first Black woman and first Asian American woman to serve as Vice President of the United States. She graduated from Howard University in 1986 with a degree in political science and economics and later earned her law degree from the University of California, Hastings College of Law. After graduating, she worked as a prosecutor in the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office and later became the first Black woman to serve as Attorney General of California. Harris was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2017, becoming the second Black woman and first South Asian American woman to serve in the Senate. While in the Senate, Harris focused on issues related to criminal justice reform, immigration, healthcare and LGBT rights. Harris ran alongside president Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election and was inaugurated as Vice President on January 20, 2021. 

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