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National Women's History Month
by Kim Green-Spangler
The month of March is significant to the plight of women in history. Back in 1857 a group of women protested unfair working conditions and wages. They were stopped by policemen, but went on to form their own union. In 1987 congress voted to designate March as the month to honor the accomplishments of women throughout history.
In 2006, women often still suffer unequal treatment due to gender. Lower salaries ($.77 compared to every $1 earned by men), lower standards of living for female-headed single parent households (many falling to or below the poverty level after divorce/death of spouse), and penalties for time off for family illness/emergencies (as those responsibilities typically fall upon mothers), etc. Not that you'd probably know it, but according to the U.S. Census Bureau women make up the majority of the population and not the minority; with 149.1 million women to 144.5 million men! However, due to centuries of inequity the numerous contributions made by women are often overlooked. With women representing the majority of the population, our foremothers should be recognized for their achievements, contributions and sacrifices for the next generation of women, as a reminder that women can achieve and pioneer just as capably as men.
Women could not always wear pants in public, vote in a presidential election, or own their own land. But did you know that it wasn't until 1826 that public high schools for females opened their doors, and that it was 1838 before the first female college opened? It was 1872 when the first woman ran for president. In 1910 Blanche Scott was the first female to fly a plane. Just ten years later, Florence Allen became the first female judge. In 1935 Pearl S. Buck won a Nobel Prize for literature, while in 1939 Hattie McDaniel became the first African-American male or female, to win an Academy award.
Due to the late start that women received in making their mark, there are still many more frontiers yet to conquer. In the new millennium alone we have seen the first ever First Lady elected to the U.S. Senate, the first African American woman win an Oscar for a leading role, and the first African American women to be appointed Secretary of State.
Despite all of the current issues that women face, it's still much more improved than the conditions and prejudice faced by our nation's foremothers. Take the time this month to remember their perseverance and sacrifices. Remind others of these important often overlooked pioneers, and help continue their work. Women are no longer the minority in numbers. It's time to make our foremothers proud, and insure that it's not all about the numbers, but our action to further their vision.