McHenry High School's student-written and -edited newspaper

The McHenry Messenger

McHenry High School's student-written and -edited newspaper

The McHenry Messenger

McHenry High School's student-written and -edited newspaper

The McHenry Messenger

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History through her eyes 

Women’s history month reminds us all of the many powerful women that got us to where we are today 
Rose Wenckebach
March is Women’s History Month! Purple is the color that represents Women’s History Month, symbolizing justice, honor, dignity, and power.

As March rolls in, people all over the country celebrate being a woman. The United States is the only country to celebrate women’s history for a whole month, so here are some of the important women from our history. 

In 1980, Jimmy Carter became the first president to declare Women’s History Week to align with International Women’s Day on Mar 8. A year later, Congress federally recognized Women’s History Week with a Joint Resolution, Public Law 97-28. Then, in 1987, Congress passed Public Law 100-9 to extend the celebration to the whole month of March and requested all U.S. presidents make an annual declaration. These declarations to celebrate Women’s History Month have occurred every year since 1995.

“Women’s History Month is important because it honors the contributions and achievements of an historically underappreciated and underrepresented group in the United States,” said social science teacher, Jennifer Lech. “It honors all of those who paved the way for women today and struggled for equality in the hopes that women today would not have to fight as hard.”

The first big step for women happened at the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848, where Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a women’s rights and anti-slavery activist, led women and men in a discussion of the problem of women’s rights. Here is where Stanton issued “The Declaration of Sentiments” which expanded on the Declaration of Independence by adding the word “women” throughout. Stanton eventually worked with activist Susan B. Anthony to fund the National Woman’s Suffrage Association (NWSA). Anthony was later arrested for voting in 1872 and had to pay a fine, which helped gain awareness for women’s rights. Then, in 1888, she merged the two largest suffrage associations to form the National American Women’s Suffrage Association. 

Women took to the skies when Amelia Airheart became the first female to cross the Atlantic solo  by plane in 1932. She not only helped improve the acceptance of aviation in general, but she was also responsible for paving the way for women in flight all over the world. She became a symbol to young women of what they could become and how high they can go. She then taught at Purdue University where she helped the next generation of female pilots reach new heights. 

Rosie the Riveter is a cultural icon that any American should be able to recognize. She represented the women entering the workforce during World War II, while the men went off to fight in the war. Rosie the riveter in the picture of women’s power and patriotism. While not a real person, she embodies the many housewife turned working women who looked at the infamous poster, after it was published in 1943, and went to work. Which, in turns, will start a movement of women wanting to work, even after the war is over. For the first time ever, the U.S. workforce was dominated by women.

Just as women have been involved in many different things throughout U.S. history, the civil rights movement is no different. One of the most well known female civil rights activists is Rosa Parks, who pioneered the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955 by refusing to give up her seat to a white male. But, a lesser known face in the civil rights movement is Claudette Colvin. Colvin was only fifteen years old when she was arrested for refusing to give up her seat just ten months prior to Rosa Parks. Both women helped lead to the Supreme Court case that desegregated public transportation, and brought the U.S. one step closer to equal rights. 

As for women’s reproductive rights, the fight has been a long one and continues to rage on. Margaret Sanger led the birth control movement in the United States beginning in 1914 that advocated for women’s rights and availability of contraceptives. She was also responsible for opening the first birth control clinic, later known as Planned Parenthood, which has helped many people understand reproductive health and receive help. Then, in 1969, Norma McCorvey, or “Jane Roe”, was denied an abortion because her life was not at risk. During the landslide Roe v. Wade hearing, McCorvey and her lawyers argued their case in front of an all male supreme court, saying that the 14th Amendment in the Constitution protects the right to choose to end a pregnancy prior to viability. This case protected the reproductive rights of women for almost 50 years before it was overturned in 2021.  

In politics, there has been a long list of women to be the first, a long list of women to make history, and a long list of women that are great role models. While women did not have any real roles in the government until 1917, that did not stop women from trying. Victoria Woodhull made history when she became the first woman to run for president in 1872, while she was under the 35 year age requirement and her campaign was not taken seriously, she sent a clear message about women’s rights. Jeanette Rankins became the first woman elected to Congress in 1917, Sandra Day O’Connor was the first woman to serve as a Supreme Court Justice in 1981, and in 2016 Hillary Clinton became the first woman to represent a major party in a presidential election. Most recently, in 2020, Kamala Harris became the first female and first African-American vice president of the United States. 

While these names are just the tip of the iceberg in the ocean that is women’s history, they portray female presence in every corner of U.S. and world history. While there is still a fight for equality happening, the month of March is dedicated to how far women have come and to show the importance of every woman that has fought to make a difference, past, present, and future.

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