Women's History Month 2021
This month, CAP-HC will recognize and celebrate the contributions women have made to American history.
Do you know about Laura Cornelius Kellogg*? How about Maggie Lena Walker^ or Emilia Casanova de Villaverde**? Today is the last day of Women’s History Month 2021, but there is always more to learn about the women who have shaped the U.S. through their contributions to science, art, policy, and more. Explore dozens of exhibits and collections curated by The Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institute, and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum on WomensHistoryMonth.gov. And remember to stay curious.
* She was an Oneida activist, author, orator and policy reformer, and she was one of the founding members of the Society of American Indians (SAI) in 1911.
^ She played an important role in making Richmond the cradle of Black capitalism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. She is best known as the first Black woman bank president in the United States.
** Lived most of her life in New York City. An ardent abolitionist and activist leader, she supported Cuba’s independence from Spain during the last half of the 19th century.
Dr. Chien-Shiung Wu was born in Liuhe, China in 1912. After graduating at the top of her class at Nanjing University, she made her way to University of California Berkeley to earn her PhD in physics. In 1944, Wu joined the Manhattan Project, which was working toward the creation of the atomic bomb. Wu’s work was not acknowledged until later in her career when she was awarded the National Medal of Science and the Wolf Prize in Physics, among others. She was known as one of the top experimental physicists of her time, and her work even crossed over to biology and medicine. Wu was the first woman elected as president of the American Physical Society, and tirelessly promoted the cause of women in science.
Photo: Smithsonian Institution @ Flickr Commons
In 1797, Sojourner Truth was born into slavery as Isabella Baumfree in Swartekill, Ulster County, New York. In 1826, after her slave-holding master, John Dumont, broke his promise to grant her freedom, she escaped along with the youngest of her five children. Baumfree became a devout Christian, and gave herself the name Sojourner Truth in 1843, believing the Holy Spirit had called her to become a traveling preacher. Truth would go on to give rousing, unscripted speeches* fighting for abolishing slavery, fighting for women’s right to vote, and challenging segregation after the Civil War.
*The famous “Ain’t I a Woman” speech attributed to Sojourner Truth was likely a re-write of the original that didn’t include the phrase. Compare the two speeches here: https://www.thesojournertruthproject.com/compare-the-speeches.
Photo: Sojourner Truth, albumen silver print, circa 1870 from the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.
On July 12, 1997, Malala Yousafzai was born in Mingora, the largest city in the Swat Valley in what is now the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province of Pakistan. Ziauddin Yousafzai, Malala’s father and a passionate education advocate, ran a girls’ school. Malala developed a thirst for knowledge at a very young age, but when she was 10 years old, the Taliban began to control the Swat Valley. As they became the dominant socio-political force in much of the region, girls were banned from attending school. Find out more about how Malala fought for her right to return to school, won the Nobel Peace Prize at the age of 17, and now advocates for the education of every child, especially girls, through the Malala Fund.
Photo: United Nations via Flickr/Creative Commons
Born in Missoula, Montana in 1880, Jeannette Rankin spent her life as a women’s rights activist, politician, and pacifist. Rankin made history in 1916 when she was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, the first woman to do so by winning an election rather than serving the remainder of a dead husband’s term. She championed a resolution that would go on to become the 19th Amendment, which effectively gave women the right to vote across the nation. After losing the 1918 election, Rankin split her time between pacifist and social welfare causes. Then in 1940, she ran for office again and began her second term. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, she famously cast the only vote against entering World War II saying, “As a woman, I can’t go to war, and I refuse to send anyone else.”
Learn more about Jeannette Rankin’s life and legacy.
Photo: George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress)
The first gathering for International Women's Day was held in 1911 in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. Since then, International Women's Day (IWD) has become a global day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. Marked annually on March 8th, the United Nations first began giving IWD a theme in 1996. The theme for 2021 is "Choose to Challenge". A challenged world is an alert world. And from challenge comes change. Learn more about IWD and its 2021 theme, browse the #ChooseToChallenge gallery, and more.
Photo: Poster for Votes for Women by Hilda Dallas (1909), Public Domain
Women’s History Month began as a national celebration in March 1982 with “Women’s History Week.” Five years later in 1987, after being petitioned by the National Women’s History Project, Congress designated the month of March as “Women’s History Month.” Since then, Congress and presidents have passed additional resolutions requesting and proclamations authorizing March of each year as Women’s History Month. This month, CAP-HC will recognize and celebrate the contributions women have made to American history, starting with the resources provided by The Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum on WomensHistoryMonth.gov. Find a list of online events and browse virtual exhibits centered around women throughout U.S. history.
Photo by Christina Morillo from Pexels