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by Melinda Thompson
With an election year upon us and the first woman running for President of the United States, former U. S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is making history and showing our daughters that anything is possible. With the distinction of being the former first lady and the only woman to ever win the Iowa Caucus, she is taking center stage as the Democratic front-runner in this election. 2016 may very well be the year we vote a woman into the White House.
Women have long been at the forefront of history, fighting and advocating for their rights and the rights of all women, since back in 1848 when the first women’s rights convention was held in Seneca Falls, New York. Elizabeth Cady Stanton believed that “all men and women are created equal” (The Declaration of Sentiments, 1848).
Seventy-two years after the women’s rights efforts began, the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, giving women many rights, but most importantly the right to vote. This was thanks to the efforts of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. Stanton is also credited with getting a law passed in New York to allow married women to control their own property and wages.
March is Women’s History Month, a celebration of women and their contributions to important history. March 8 is International Women’s Day, commemorating women’s rights and peace all around the world, and it’s important to celebrate the great women who have made a difference. This progress is something we as women need to embrace and share with our own daughters, millennial women who will be voting for the first time in this election.
Our world has been changed by strong women who have refused to back down, like Rosa Parks in 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama. Not giving up her seat to a white man on that bus sparked the beginning of the civil rights movement; a movement that changed our world. Harriett Tubman escaped slavery in 1849, then helped lead hundreds of slaves to freedom though the network known as the Underground Railroad.
Yes, women have made a difference in our world and sharing history with our children as they grow helps empower them. Teaching them to stand up for what they believe in, fight for a cause and make a difference in the world is important. Invoking change is never easy, yet taking a stand is the first step. Education is power and knowledge of our past helps us understand what it took to get us where we are today.
Did you know that kindergarten classes, mandatory school immunizations, hot-lunch programs, child labor laws and the juvenile justice system were all created by the National PTA (Parent Teachers Association)? This evolved because of two mothers who believed that advocating for children was important.
Founded by two women as the “National Congress of Mothers” in 1897 in Washington DC, Alice McLellan Birney and Phoebe Apperson Hearst built the foundation for what PTAs around the nation are today. With their primary focus on the health and education of children, they created a nationwide movement — during a time when women did not even have the right to vote!
That first meeting in 1897 was a huge risk, as they faced being ostracized for bucking social mores. They believed it was up to the mothers of this country to take action and help eliminate the threats that endangered children. Expecting only about 200 people at that meeting, they realized their impact when over 2,000 people attended, all of whom were committed to the well-being of children. Educators, laborers, legislators, mothers and fathers all laid the groundwork for identifying problems and devising strategies to resolve them.
“Remember the Ladies, 100 Great Women” by Cheryl Harness
“America: A Patriotic Primer” by Lynne Cheney
“Women Heroes of World War II: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue” by Kathryn J. Atwood
“Women Heroes of World War I: 16 Remarkable Resisters, Soldiers, Spies, and Medics” by Kathryn J. Atwood
“Rebel in a Dress: Adventurers” by Sylvia Branzei
“Rebel in a Dress: Cowgirls” by Sylvia Branzei
By 1922, “A PTA in Every School” became a national goal. Today there are over six million PTA members in schools all across the country, working and advocating on behalf of our children; children who need us to be their voice and speak for them. National PTA is the largest volunteer child advocacy organization in the United States.
Margaret Sanger opened the first birth-control clinic in Brooklyn, NY, in 1916. Although it was shut down 10 days later and she was arrested, she kept fighting and eventually won support through the courts, opening another clinic in New York in 1923.
Amelia Earhart was the first woman pilot; Amelia Bloomer, the first woman to edit her own newspaper in the 1800s; and Gloria Steinem, the icon for the modern feminist movement with her launching of Ms. Magazine in 1971.
Tenacity, determination and advocacy—theses are qualities that women have always had, qualities we must empower our daughters with today, reminding them that they are smart, strong and capable of achieving anything they set their mind to.
The month of March is dedicated to women and their accomplishments, and the list is long of women who have changed the fields of science, medicine, sports and politics.
What a legacy they have left behind. What an honor and a privilege to have the right to vote. Celebrate our daughters and the young millennial women who are voting for the first time. What will their legacy be? How will they make a difference and leave their mark on the world?
Anything is possible.
Melinda Thompson is a local freelance writer with a degree in speech communications and a coveted “Ducktorate” from the Walt Disney World Company.