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National Women’s History Month should be renamed

Cross-posted at Heidi Li’s Potpourri and 51 Percent.

With an increasing number of groups using the month of March not only to teach about women who have contributed to the historical development of the United States but also to our country’s current and future development, National Women’s History Month has really become National Women’s Recognition Month (h/t to a commenter who mentioned this phrase on The Confluence). If we lived in a fully equitable and fair country, we would not have the need to set aside a single month in which to note women’s contributions – noting women’s contributions would be as commonplace as noting men’s. We don’t live in that society yet. So, as with all contemporary social justice and civil rights movements it is essential that we each and all use National Women’s Month as an opportunity to remind ourselves and others that the fight for the full recognition of women as equal citizens continues.

Womentalking For 2009, The National Women’s History Project has honored many women who will be remembered by history but who are working now in myriad ways that deserve recognition. Learn about the honorees here.  The 2009 theme is Women Taking the Lead to Save Our Planet, and I personally was pleased to see that once again Hillary Rodham Clinton’s name appears among a long list of other women:

“Hillary Rodham Clinton
b. 1947
Secretary of State

New York USA
While serving in the United States Senate, Senator Clinton worked to secure federal legislation to protect the environment both on the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee and as the senior Democrat on the Fisheries, Wildlife and Water subcommittee. She co-sponsored the Petroleum Consumer Price Gouging Protection Act and Close the Enron Loophole Act to enable the President to declare an energy emergency and trigger federal gouging protections. http://www.ontheissues.org/hillary_clinton.htm#Environment

But as pleasing as it is to me to see Secretary of State Clinton recognized for actions she took serving in the Senate, the entire list of women honored and their respective accomplishments make me proud.

I have repeatedly stated that my desire to see Hillary Rodham Clinton elected president was not rooted in the fact that she is a woman; but that the way she and her supporters were treated because she is a woman has galvanized me to do whatever I can to see that women’s emancipation becomes a reality. Whenever I read the lists of what women have accomplished, I realize how important it is that we create a world in which the deck is not stacked against women – imagine how much more might get accomplished.

22 Responses

  1. Have you seen that Lifetime is currently running a “Salute to Hillary Clinton” in honor of Women’s History Month? Makes me happy especially because they show a picture of Hillary in her early days, young and pretty and headband-wearing.

  2. Fabulous!

  3. Absolutely!! And what a great idea Heidi. Thank you!!

  4. Great post, Heidi. All the talk about last year being the “year of women” makes me sad that we actually have to have a “year.” What about all the time? We exist and do great thing all the time so it stands to reason that every month and every year should be our time.

  5. Wonderful post, Heidi Li! Thank you for keeping us up to date on Women’s History/Recognition month.

    A woman Professor at MIT, Barbara Liskov has just won the Turing Award for her work on programming languages. The award is known as the “Nobel Prize for computing.” Prof. Liskov was the first woman in the U.S. to receive a Ph.D. (in Engineering) from a computer science department (Stanford).

    “In the early days of computing, programs were written as long strings of numbers and characters known as code, sometimes broken up by chunks. Liskov’s work helped pioneer what is known as object-oriented programming, now the most common approach to software development. She is credited for laying the groundwork for development of sophisticated programs tailored to financial, medical, and other consumer and business applications.

    Those innovations have since been widely embraced by code writers throughout the field. “People may not know where it came from, but the way programs are built today is based on these concepts,” Liskov said yesterday.”

    • I second that, I’ve really been enjoying reading about these women and their profiles in courage 🙂

    • Very nice post, Heidi. The list of honorees is inspiring. We’ve got a school project coming up on Women’s Month and that list gave me some good ideas — along with bostonboomer’s comment about Liskov. I am not a science/math person, but I find it heartening to see so many female achievements in those areas.

  6. I’m always looking for young reader level biographies of accomplished women for my daughter to read, and I must say that I’ve enjoyed learning about these women along with my daughter. For some reason, the standard HIStory books often fail to mention these women.

    This is a somewhat off topic, yet does tie into creating a world in which the deck is not stacked against women. In reading about Obama’s willingness to work with the Taliban, I have some concerns about how young girls and women may be treated in Afghanistan going forward. There really don’t seem to be easy answers for many of the situations we currently find ourselves involved in.


    “Right there is the danger Obama runs. The Taliban are bad. They kill their opposition. They are hideous to women and when they were in control of Afghanistan, they sheltered al-Qaeda. In Vietnam, it was always possible to insist that the communists were really agrarian reformers — or some such mindless formulation — and so when the U.S. capitulated, the resulting horror came as a surprise to some. No one, though, can be surprised by what the Taliban will do. In the very recent past, they have already done it.”

  7. This is exactly the point, Heidi, that Hillary’s superior qualifications were belittled and her integrity attacked with misogynic ammunition *because* she is a woman. Imagine what she could have acomplished in this dire situation, she would have spoiled the boyz game thoroughly.

  8. way off topic but this is your mid afternoon Fuzzybear chuckle:

  9. A woman in Kenya has worked hard to save her country and in doing so she is helping save the world she has planted over 30 million trees and has changed the climate in her beloved Kenya…Barren land is now abundantly productive and villages have been saved…here is her story along with another woman hero….

    she talks about the this woman and several others who have made a difference…

    I love Isabel Allende….

  10. Bravo Heidi Bravo!

    You are a ‘SHERO’ !

  11. We should not forget Admrial Grace Hopper USN she developed the COBOL computer language and was an early computer pioneer for the Department of Defence. Admrial Hopper is attributed with coing the term “debug” as in debugging a computer program.

    We should not forget Admrial Grace Hopper USN she developed the COBOL computer language and was an early computer pioneer for the Department of Defence. Admrial Hopper is attributed with coing the term “debug” as in debugging a computer program.

    In 1947, Grace Murray Hopper was working on the Harvard University Mark II Aiken Relay Calculator (a primitive computer).

    On the 9th of September, 1947, when the machine was experiencing problems, an investigation showed that there was a moth trapped between the points of Relay #70, in Panel F.

    The operators removed the moth and affixed it to the log. The entry reads: “First actual case of bug being found.”

    The word went out that they had “debugged” the machine and the term “debugging a computer program” was born.

    Although Grace Hopper was always careful to admit that she was not there when it actually happened, it was one of her favorite stories.

    In 1943, Hopper obtained a leave of absence from Vassar and was sworn in to the United States Navy Reserve, one of many women to volunteer to serve in the WAVES. She reported in December and trained at the Naval Reserve Midshipmen’s School at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. Hopper graduated first in her class in 1944, and was assigned to the Bureau of Ships Computation Project at Harvard University as a Lieutenant, junior grade. She served on the Mark I computer programming staff headed by Howard H. Aiken. Hopper and Aiken coauthored three papers on the Mark I, also known as the Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator. Hopper’s request to transfer to the regular Navy at the end of the war was declined due to her age (38). She continued to serve in the United States Navy Reserve. Hopper remained at the Harvard Computation Lab until 1949, turning down a full professorship at Vassar in favor of working as a research fellow under a Navy contract at Harvard.[7]

    Hopper retired from the Naval Reserve with the rank of Commander at the end of 1966. She was recalled to active duty in August 1967 for a six-month period that turned into an indefinite assignment. She again retired in 1971 but was asked to return to active duty again in 1972. She was promoted to Captain in 1973 by Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr..

    After Rep. Philip Crane saw her on a March 1983 segment of 60 Minutes, he championed H.J.RES.341 a joint resolution in the House of Representatives which led to her promotion to Commodore by special Presidential appointment.[8] In 1985, the rank of Commodore was renamed Rear Admiral, Lower Half. She retired (involuntarily) from the Navy on August 14, 1986. At a celebration held in Boston on the USS Constitution to celebrate her retirement, Hopper was awarded the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the highest non-combat award possible by the Department of Defense. At the moment of her retirement, she was the oldest officer in the United States Navy, and aboard the oldest ship in the United States Navy.[9]

    She was then hired as a senior consultant to Digital Equipment Corporation, a position she retained until her death in 1992, aged 85.

    Her primary activity in this capacity was as a Goodwill Ambassador, lecturing widely on the early days of computers, her career, and on efforts that computer vendors could take to make life easier for their users. She visited a large fraction of Digital’s engineering facilities where she generally received a standing ovation at the conclusion of her remarks. She always wore her Navy full dress uniform to these lectures.

    She was laid to rest with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery; Section 59, grave 973.[10]

  12. My friend Marlene fought to save one part of the planet, the Carrizo Plain National Monument, and the Bush admin gave orders for her to be “gotten rid of.” So her boss bullied her to the point of suicide. http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/JusticeforMarleneBraun
    Now he’s the BLM National Science Cooridnator and his boss is being appointed by the Obama admin to acting national director of BLM. The stewards of the environment are the women who are being persecuted out of their jobs.

  13. It is sad that more than half of the population, the very foundation of our society, requires a set-aside time to be recognized for its monumental contributions to our nation and world. I agree, however, that until we break the barriers keeping us from equality, we have to take every opportunity to recognize those great women who have almost been forgotten (often deliberately) by history and our many magnificent sisters in today’s world.

    What you are doing, Heidi, is very refreshing and helpful.

    One of our traits as women, unfortunately, often has been that of modesty. We were trained to be modest, not to seek credit for ourselves, and sometimes lambasted if people thought we were putting ourselves forward. We were taught by implication that we were to be the woman behind the man. We hid our talents — or were forced to hide them — in so many, many ways. Yet the work product of our talents was expected to be delivered efficiently and quietly both at home and at our outside jobs — but we were not to be “stars.” In fact, I was once told exactly that, although I had no idea why my boss said that. (It likely was because I was being elected to high offices in a professional organization and that he did not want me to become a national president. It think he thought it would cause jealousy or something among my co-workers. )

    I once was also told by a close friend of my husband’s that I should not be outshining him (not something I even sought or thought about). All my life I had routinely been an “achiever” at school, although most of the time I was surprised when I was selected for certain “honors,” even when I was named Valedictorian. He always was the kind of guy who was very easy going. In other words, after marriage, each of us continued doing what we always had done. Somehow, however, I was supposed to suppress my entire being. That, I believe, is what has happened to many, many women. Often, for example, the volunteer work of my mother, mother-in-law, and grandmothers was dismissed because it was restricted to “clubs.” I am still in awe today at the talents those women had, but history has forgotten their likes.

    And look how hard it has been to get women like Alice Paul duly recognized in our society. We are still getting “there, there” pats on our heads when we ask Congress to recognize her.

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