I was sitting in 8th grade social studies wearing my white peasant blouse, low waisted bell bottom jeans, brightly woven cloth belt and huge hoop earrings. I had a serious crush on a boy as most of us did. Mine had freckles, carrot red hair and a shiny silver front tooth to replace one knocked out in a hockey game. I thought that tooth was the coolest thing ever. That day we were asked what we wanted to be when we grew up. Every girl said she wanted to be married, I’m sure most of them thought it would be to their current jr. high school crush. I was the only girl in that class that said I want a career.
My minor was in Women’s Studies at the University of Minnesota. The U of M was first in the nation to offer a major in women’s studies starting in 1973. Taking women’s studies classes was life changing for me. I realized I wasn’t crazy. Other people felt the same way I did about women’s rights. I learned of many important women and minorities who were left out of the history books.
Women’s History Month began as a week long local celebration in Santa Rosa, California. The week of March 8 was chosen to correspond with International Women’s Day. A consortium of women’s groups and historians successfully lobbied for national recognition. In February 1980, President Jimmy Carter issued the first Presidential Proclamation declaring the Week of March 8th 1980 as National Women’s History Week. It was later expanded to a month.
Last year I read a book about Amelia Earhart’s extraordinary life. It was East to the Dawn by Susan Butler. Earhart was more than just a pilot, she was an educator, a social worker, a businesswoman, and a writer. She was a great champion of women and career counselor to women at Purdue University. She was glossed over in my school history classes. So was Harriet Tubman who helped many slaves escape. I became fascinated with her life story. A commercial movie Harriet was finally made about her in 2019. So many women are now being recognized for their contributions.
Covid has impacted employment for women more than men as December 2020 statistics show. Women lost 156,000 jobs overall during the month. Men gained 16,000 jobs, according to the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC). Women have more service jobs. For those over 20 years old, the unemployment rates for Black women was 8.4% and Latina women 9.1%. Compared to the adult white male unemployment rate of 5.8%, according to the NWLC. The overall U.S. unemployment rate was 6.7% in December.
As we come up to March 8th I celebrate the accomplishments of women all over the world. Celebrate yourself if you are a woman and support other women. Also I celebrate all the men who respect and encourage women. The first for me was my Dad who told me I could be anything I wanted. I worked in Information Technology, a mainly male field when I started. I worked with a man who deliberately tried to make women cry in meetings. However, I also had so many male managers that completely supported my career.
Here are three inventors you may not know were women. Josephine Cochran’s design in 1872 was the first dishwasher that used water pressure rather than scrubbers to remove debris. After receiving a patent in 1903, Mary Anderson tried to sell her new windshield cleaning device to a manufacturer, who refused. It was stated that her invention lacked practical value. Her patent expired and it would be 10 years before a similar device became standard on cars. In 1952 a computer scientist who had helped design Harvard’s Mark I Computer, Grace Murray Hopper also invented a compiler. She developed validation software for COBOL and its compiler as part of a COBOL standardization program for the entire Navy!
FROM A POEM BY MAYA ANGELOU
Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman