As we celebrate the final days of Women’s History Month 2014, erectile I want to take a moment and remember a few of the great women: activists, writers, scientists, artists, educators, politicians, athletes and citizens that have greatly influenced my life and the lives of many others, especially women. Some of these women you may know and others perhaps not. However, it is important that you learn who these women are and how they have indeed had an effect on your life. Do it for yourself, and if not, then do it to honor the contributions these women and many others like them have made to our lives, our culture and our country.
When looking up “famous women in history” the top 100 names appeared and among those names there were only four women of African descent. This was extremely disappointing. Although there were a couple of Asian women, no Latinas or Chicanas, and only one Native Indian woman listed. One guess who that one was? Yes! Pocahontas. Most of the top 100 women in history were white women. There was however, the Black Rushmore present on the list. These are the black names that always appear on “lists” that want to attempt inclusivity and/or some type of equity when looking at the contributions women of color have made throughout history in the U.S. or globally. The African American women you always hear named; the “ones” we teach in our American History classes and during Black History Month every year, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Phyllis Wheatley and Rosa Parks. All of these are great women who unequivocally made tremendous and historic contributions to life, culture and social justice. The problem is that these become the only black women who get mentioned over and over again much like the Black Rushmore of African American men we see celebrated on every Black History Month. Again, all with immense and historic contributions but are only a few of the scores of men and women that go unknown and unmentioned.
I want to remember thirty-five women whose work, lives, courage and conviction have made it possible for me to be who I am and to live the life I live as a woman of African descent in the U.S. as an artist, educator, scholar, activist, mother and wife. They have inspired and educated, provoked and led, sacrificed and demonstrated through passion, power and conviction what is possible even in the face of absolutely impossible odds. They are my SHEROES. I share them with you in honor of Women’s History Month and because you too should know them and the gift that each one of them has been to ALL of us.
Marian Anderson, Maya Angelou, Pearl Bailey, Josephine Baker, Mary McLeod Bethune, Gwendolyn Brooks, Shirley Chisholm, Angela Davis, Ruby Dee, Marian Wright Edelman, Myrlie Evers, Althea Gibson, Lorraine Hansberry, Billie Holiday, bell hooks, Zora Neale Hurston, Mae Jemison, Barbara Jordan, Audre Lorde, Toni Morrison, Dorothy Height, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Odetta, Leontyne Price, Wilma Rudolph, Ntozake Shange, Nina Simone, Mary Church Terrell, Cicely Tyson, Madam CJ Walker, Alice Walker, Ida B Wells, Faye Wattleton, Oprah Winfrey, and my most incredible mother, M. Marjorie Phillips.
Who are your 35? Name them, honor them and share them with others in honor of Women’s History Month.
Tawnya Pettiford-Wates, Ph.D.
Founder and Artistic Director
The Conciliation Project and
Virginia Commonwealth University
Up Next Week: Are we moving forward or regressing?