Ever since Eve stepped into the scene and helped Adam create a whole new world, women have been standing up, stepping in, and leading the way. Women’s History month is a great celebration and a reminder of what women have been doing either notably or simply for generations. You too, are a woman making history. You’ve changed the course of a lot of people’s lives and your fingerprint will remain on everything you’ve touched.
Today we’re used to the presence of a good woman in any arena, political, scientific, religious, or family, but it wasn’t always true. In fact, women have had to fight for the right to dream and to give back to the community and the nation.
The theme of Women’s History month for 2011 is “Our history is our strength.” The idea is that we act as role models for each other and those from past generations by sheer courage, wit, and determination carved a path for the rest of us today. The result of that is that both men and women live more fully in their strengths, giving the best of what they have to offer and leading the way for others. It’s an ongoing process and one to be proud of whether you’re male or female.
A few of those who left a legacy for us to build on are noted here. Some started movements, some forged the way into new occupations for women, and some simply stood up, or sat down in the case of Rosa Parks and reminded us that we needed to rethink our priorities.
In the fields of education and literature, we note Mary McLeod Bethune who founded a Bethune-Cookman College and was an advisor on minority affairs to Franklin D. Roosevelt. Toni Morrison was the first African-American woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature and Rita Dove became the first Poet Laureate of the United States.
Political leaders and advocates shine a light on Eleanor Roosevelt, and Alice Paul who in 1923 helped craft a version of the Equal Rights Amendment. Along with them, we are strengthened by the integrity of our first African-American congresswoman, Shirley Chisholm and Dolores Huerta who was the first vice president of the United Farm Workers.
In the field of medicine, we find Elizabeth Blackwell who was turned down by 29 medical schools and finally graduated at the top of her class to become the first licensed woman doctor in America. Chien-Shiung Wu was the first woman invited to speak at Princeton University to teach nuclear physics.
Women have been paving the way for centuries, shining a light where there was none, running the race with courage where few had run before, and causing us to think more carefully about what we too might want to leave behind. A legacy is not simply left by those in the spotlight, like Princess Diana or Jacqueline Kennedy, it is left by each woman who shares her heart and her mind and her courage with everyone she meets along life’s path.
As the notable woman, Clare Boothe Luce once remarked, “Because I am a woman, I must make unusual efforts to succeed. If I fail, no one will say, “She doesn’t have what it takes.” They will say, “Women don’t have what it takes.”
Thanks to all of you, the women who have what it takes to bring great strength, great love, and great honor to the world.