March 23, 2017

Blazing trails: In celebration of Women’s History Month

A picture showed up on my Facebook feed a few days ago. It was the cover of American Spirit magazine, a publication of the National Daughters of the American Revolution. To celebrate Women’s History Month, AS featured a woman’s silhouette filled with pictures of women of distinction — honored by the NDAR for their contributions to American history through music, politics, science, education and more. My face stared back at me. Next to me are pictures of faces, many of them unknown to me, and being curious about how I landed here among them, I decided to research a few.

Originally published in American Spirit, the magazine of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Copyright 2017.

Julia Ward Howe – American poet and author, best known for penning “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” She was also an advocate for social justice, abolitionism and the suffrage movement.

Sarah Kemble Knight – Teacher and businesswoman best known for her diary recounting her personal journey from Boston to Connecticut, providing one of the few firsthand accounts of travel conditions in the early 1700s. Unique not only because of her revelations about life on the road, but also because women rarely took these types of journeys alone.  

Sarah Franklin Bache – Daughter of Benjamin Franklin, Sarah (Sally) was a leader in relief work during the American Revolution. Sarah would also act as political hostess for her father when her mother passed away in 1774.

Social justice advocate. Independent thinker. Patriot. And me? I like these ladies and the roles they played in our history. But I also think about countless others, some well-known and others more ordinary, that have shaped my thinking, strengthened my resolve and influenced my actions over the course of my life.

Included in this list are women, who like Julia Howe, have fought for social justice for all: Eleanor Roosevelt, Ruth Bader-Ginsburg and Maya Angelou. Others who have offered tremendous leadership in the face of tragedy, such as June Scobee-Rogers, wife of space shuttle captain Dick Scobee, of the ill-fated Challenger Shuttle. 

Trailblazing women who have distinguished themselves in their respective careers have created opportunities for countless young girls and women where seemingly no chance appeared for equality. Featured recently in the movie “Hidden Figures,” NASA engineers Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson played a pivotal role in space exploration that heretofore went unnoticed. I saw an interview recently where it seemed the feat escaped their consciousness. For them, they were simply going to work and doing what needed to be done. Coco Chanel and Diane Von Furstenberg display dramatically different styles for women, but embody the same spirit of independence and celebration that allow us to express our femininity in our own ways.

While I could write on and on about these women and others, I instead encourage you to look them up and think about the contributions they have made to our history. I have found that I have been influenced by women much closer to my life. I think of past teachers, principals and businesswomen who have encouraged me to not only find my voice, but to tell my story. I think of my closest friends and colleagues that listen to rantings, challenge assumptions and then celebrate our victories. And finally, I think of the one woman who made all the difference in my life. My mother. She taught me to think about the needs of others, to embrace who I am and stand tall, and to this day remains my biggest cheerleader and supporter.

I salute Women’s History Month and all of the ladies who have come before me and those that I hope to inspire now and in the future. We have come a long way — and we’ll go even further. 

Champions of the unexpected.