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SIRS Discoverer Spotlight of the Month: Women’s History Month

The lives of women are very different now than they were centuries, even decades, ago. There was a time when women were not allowed to serve in the military. It was unlawful for a woman to vote or own property. Wives were once considered their husband’s property. Because of the work and dedication of strong women, those ideas have changed. Women have more rights than they had just fifty years ago, and women today strive for equality in every part of life. During Women’s History Month we salute the countless women who have furthered women’s rights by making important changes in the ways women live and work.

Sally Ride

U.S. Astronaut Sally Ride
U.S. National Archives and Records Administration [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

SIRS Discoverer’s March Spotlight of the Month focuses on Women’s History Month. We have valuable content on women who have contributed to science, government, and human rights. Your students can research about the women’s suffrage movement in the United States, meet African-American women who have changed history, read about early female politicians, follow women’s increasing role in the military, and celebrate women’s scientific achievements.

Elizabeth Blackwell–Born in England, she became the first female doctor in America.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton–An early champion of women’s rights, she became a central figure in the women’s suffrage movement.

Frances Perkins–President Franklin Delano Roosevelt appointed her as Secretary of Labor in 1932 making her the first woman to hold a U.S. Cabinet office.

Grace Hopper–As an admiral in the U.S. Navy and computer scientist, she pioneered “user-friendly” computer software and she also coined the computer term “bug.”

Juliette Gordon Low–She founded the Girl Guides which eventually became the Girl Scouts.

Marie Curie–She performed groundbreaking work in physics and was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize.

Sally Ride–Chosen by NASA to be the first American woman in space.

Sandra Day O’Connor–She is a retired judge and the first female U.S. Supreme court justice.

Shirley Chisholm–She was the first African-American woman elected to U.S. Congress.

Student Activity: To learn more about each of these women, have your students answer these questions:

  • When was she born?
  • What was her education?
  • Where did she live most of her life?
  • What is she most famous for accomplishing?
  • Why is she an important part of history?
  • What changes did she make in her field?

How are you celebrating Women’s History Month in your library, media center, or classroom?

Let us know in the comments or tweet us with #ProQuest.

96 Years After the 19th Amendment, the First Female Presidential Candidate

“When my mother was born, women did not have the right to vote, so we’ve come,
in really just a few generations, having to fight for the right to vote
to finally a potential woman head of state.”
–Democratic Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton

Women Marching in 1913 Suffragette Parade, Washington, DC [public domain] via National Archives and Records Administration

Women Marching in 1913 Suffragette Parade, Washington, DC
[public domain] via National Archives and Records Administration

The first efforts to achieve women’s suffrage began before the Civil War. In 1848, a group of over 300 men and women gathered in Seneca Falls, New York to hold the first women’s rights convention. It took more than 70 years for American women to eventually gain that right.

Passed by Congress on June 4, 1919, the 19th Amendment guarantees all American women the right to vote. Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the amendment on August 18, 1920. On August 26, it was formally adopted into the Constitution by proclamation of Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby.

Though women finally achieved the right to vote, their struggle for equal representation in government has continued, and today they are still largely underrepresented in elected offices all across the nation. It took almost a full century for the first woman to be nominated for the office of president by a major political party, when Hillary Rodham Clinton secured the Democratic party’s nomination this year.

Below are a few more firsts by American women in government and politics:

Rankin, Jeanette. Rep. from Montana, 1917-1919. Leaving White House [public domain] via Library of Congress

Rankin, Jeanette. Rep. from Montana, 1917-1919. Leaving White House
[public domain] via Library of Congress

1887: Susanna Medora Salter became the first woman elected mayor of an American town, in Argonia, Kansas.

1916: Montana Republican Jeannette Rankin carries the distinction of being the first woman elected to the U.S. Congress.

1924: Nellie Tayloe Ross of Wyoming became the Nation’s first female governor when she was elected to succeed her deceased husband, William Bradford Ross.

1932: Hattie Wyatt Caraway of Arkansas is the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate.

1933: Frances Perkins is appointed secretary of labor by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, making her the first woman to serve as a member of a U.S. presidential cabinet.

1964: Senator Margaret Chase Smith from Maine becomes the first woman formally nominated for president of the United States by a major political party, at the Republican National Convention in San Francisco.

Sandra Day O'Connor Being Sworn in As Supreme Court Justice by Chief Justice Warren Burger, Her Husband John O'Connor Looks On [public domain] via National Archives and Records Administration

Sandra Day O’Connor Being Sworn in As Supreme Court Justice by Chief Justice Warren Burger, Her Husband John O’Connor Looks On
[public domain] via National Archives and Records Administration

1981: Sandra Day O’Connor is appointed by President Ronald Reagan to the Supreme Court, making her its first woman justice.

1984: Democrat Geraldine Ferraro is the first woman nominated for vice-president on a major party ticket.

1993: Dr. Sheila E. Widnall was the first woman to head a branch of the U.S. military as Secretary of the Air Force. The first female U.S. attorney general, Janet Reno was confirmed 98-0 by the U.S. Senate.

1997: Madeleine Albright https://www.britannica.com/biography/Madeleine-Albright is sworn in as the first female U.S. secretary of state.

2007: Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is the first woman to be elected Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Hillary Rodham Clinton at 2016 Democratic National Convention By JefParker (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons

Hillary Rodham Clinton at 2016 Democratic National Convention
By JefParker (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons

According to the World Economic Forum, 63 of 142 countries in the world have had a female leader at some point in the past 50 years, but the United States has never had one in its 240-year history. Why has it taken so long? And will 2016 finally be the year? We’ll find out on November 8!

The New 10: Which Woman’s Face Will Grace the New Bill?

In June of last year, the Obama administration announced that, in the year 2020, a woman will grace the front of the $10 bill. The redesign and unveiling will be in celebration of the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote in the United States.

The question is…who will it be?

There are two requirements: the woman must be deceased, and she must exemplify the theme of “Democracy.”

There are many women who have deeply impacted this country and its history, and who fill the two above criteria. Selecting one woman to fill this extraordinarily symbolic role will be challenging. Which historic achievement will be highlighted, and which female innovator will be featured?

The Treasury Department has asked for help in the selection process. It launched a website, https://www.thenew10.treasury.gov/, that provides details of “the new 10” and has created a public discussion via the use of social media and #TheNew10 hashtag.

So let’s discuss. It is Women’s History Month, after all.

Susan B. Anthony (standing) consults with her long-time collaborator, Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Though the picture is obviously posed, it captures something of their mutual trust and respect over many decades.

Susan B. Anthony (standing) consults with her long-time collaborator, Elizabeth Cady Stanton. [Library of Congress, Public Domain], via SIRS Knowledge Source

Perhaps, because the new $10 bill will be revealed on the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, a woman who was integral to women’s suffrage will be chosen. Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were both prominent leaders of the movement, cofounding the National Woman Suffrage Organization and working tirelessly for a constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote. They contributed to the writing of The History of Woman Suffrage and were both passionate abolitionists. Anthony, however, has already appeared on U.S. currency: her portrait was featured on the $1 coin from 1979 to 1981.

Sacajawea already appears on the dollar coin (which is no longer in general circulation), but she deserves consideration. A Shoshone Native American, Sacajawea served as the interpreter for Meriwether Lewis and William Clark on their 8,000-mile journey into the American West and to the Pacific Ocean. She was integral to their travels, and thus to the information and research that the explorers shared with the world.

Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman [Library of Congress, Public Domain], via SIRS Discoverer

The era of slavery is a dark one in American history but gave rise to extraordinarily strong and brave African American men and women who helped transform this country. Harriet Tubman, known as “the Moses of her people,” escaped slavery and was determined to help others do the same. She travelled the Underground Railroad many times after her escape, leading more than 300 slaves to freedom. Sojourner Truth also escaped slavery. She became a strident abolitionist and was the first female African American orator to protest slavery. Her speeches inspired people throughout the Northern and Midwestern states.

What about First Ladies? Some have affected noble and lasting changes, both politically and socially. Two come to mind: Abigail Adams and Eleanor Roosevelt. Adams was the nation’s second First Lady, wife of President John Adams. She never held political office, but took an active role in politics and national matters (including the Revolutionary War), was an early supporter of women’s rights, and had great influence on her husband. Her letters to him are full of her insightful observations. More than a century later, Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of Franklin D. Roosevelt exerted tremendous political and cultural influence in her position as First Lady. She was an extremely vocal advocate for social causes, spreading her message by holding press conferences, hosting a radio show, and writing a daily newspaper column. Known as an activist for the rights of women, African Americans, and immigrants, she influenced her husband to embrace the civil rights agenda. Her humanitarian career continued after she left the White House: she served as a U.N. delegate for seven years and headed the U.N. Commission on Human Rights.

Rosa Parks with Dr. Martin Luther King

Rosa Parks with Dr. Martin Luther King jr. (ca. 1955) [USIA/National Archives and Records Administration Records of the U.S. Information Agency Record Group 306, Public Domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Civil Rights Movement of the 20th century gave rise to many female activists. One, in particular, changed the national conversation about civil rights by taking a stand and sitting on a bus. Rosa Parks made a transformative decision on December 1, 1955. She violated Alabama’s bus segregation laws and refused to give her seat to a white man and was arrested. Considered the mother of the Civil Rights Movement, her act of courage inspired the Montgomery bus boycott and roused activists to nonviolent action across the country.

What about Sally Ride, the first American female astronaut in space? Or Amelia Earhart, the first female aviator who successfully completed a transatlantic flight? Or Margaret Sanger, who crusaded for women’s reproductive rights? Or Clara Barton, who founded the American Red Cross?

So whose face will grace the new 10? Do you have an opinion? If so, make your voice heard–whether it be to the Treasury Department, in the classroom, in the lunchroom, or around the dinner table. Each inspirational woman mentioned above, and all who will be considered for this tribute of currency portraiture, had strong voices and opinions that changed the world.

Learn more about these women, and find out details of the new 10, on SIRS Knowledge Source and SIRS Discoverer. While you’re there, check out the March SKS Spotlight of the Month on Women’s History Month.

Welcome to Congress, Bella Abzug!

Bella Abzug Research Topic

Bella Abzug Research Topic via ProQuest eLibrary

On this date in 1970, Bella Abzug was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. And that was just one of many accomplishments of this icon of the Women’s Movement. Here are some of the highlights of her career.

First things first: The hats. Bella was nearly always seen wearing a hat: pic, pic, pic. This began when she was a young lawyer, as she wanted to ensure that she wouldn’t be mistaken for a secretary. It became her trademark.

Career as a lawyer: She was a successful lawyer at a time when there weren’t many women in the profession, and during her time in practice she defended people targeted during the McCarthyism era and also took on civil rights cases, most notably that of Willie McGee, a black man facing execution for the alleged rape of a white woman.

Activism: Bella was a vigorous activist for many causes, including women’s rights (she pushed for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment),  and peace (she was a co-founder of Women Strike for Peace and protested against the Vietnam War).

House of Representatives: Running on the campaign slogan “This woman’s place is in the house–the House of Representatives,” in 1970 Abzug won a seat in Congress (the first Jewish woman to do so), where she quickly became known for her outspokenness in support of her beliefs. On her first day she put forth a resolution to withdraw American soldiers from the Vietnam War and later was the first politician to call for President Richard Nixon’s impeachment. Among other activities, she broke new ground by introducing gay-rights legislation and called for an investigation of feared F.B.I. Director J. Edgar Hoover.

After Congress: After choosing not to run for a fourth term in 1976, Abzug made an unsuccessful run for Senate, then later also lost in bids for New York City mayor and in two efforts to get back to Congress. Despite her electoral failures, she remained very active politically, and continued her longtime crusade to bring awareness to women’s issues.

Bella Abzug fought breast cancer and heart disease and died in 1998, but “Battling Bella” will always be remembered for her trailblazing career and her unwavering fight to raise the status of American women.

Related Research Topics:

Women’s Rights

ProQuest Research Topic Guide: Women’s History

House of Representatives

SKS Spotlight of the Month: Women’s History Month

Each March in the United States, we celebrate Women’s History Month. We honor the many women who, throughout the centuries, dedicated their lives to furthering the cause of equality for women. We honor the women who made it possible for young girls of today to dream of becoming a scientist, a business owner, a military officer, a politician, or even the President of the United States.

The Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) supported USAID's sponsorship of the Arab Women's Forum in Cairo in May 2003. Attended by 25 women from 12 Arab countries, the forum developed an action plan for women's empowerment that focuses on legal, political, and economic issues. Specific proposals developed by the forum will be supported with MEPI funds. <br \> by U.S. State Department, via ProQuest SIRS Government Reporter [Public Domain]

The Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) supported USAID’s sponsorship of the Arab Women’s Forum in Cairo in May 2003. Attended by 25 women from 12 Arab countries, the forum developed an action plan for women’s empowerment that focuses on legal, political, and economic issues. Specific proposals developed by the forum will be supported with MEPI funds.
by U.S. State Department, via ProQuest SIRS Government Reporter [Public Domain]

In some parts of the world, however, women’s rights movements have not effected such dramatic change. In many countries, women are plagued by violence, horrid working conditions, virginity tests, and inequality in political representation and in the courts. However, beginning with the ambitious global effort dubbed the UN Decade for Women (1975-1985), the issue of women’s rights has slowly begun to shape myriad cultures around the world. Over the past decade, the international landscape of women’s rights has been peppered with bravery: the Yugoslavian Women’s Court Initiative, the European Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence, female workers in Sri Lanka staging a groundbreaking mass protest, gender equality voted into the Moroccan Constitution, and the education campaign of Pakistani teenage activist Malala Yousafza. Around the world, the emergence and evolution of the struggle women’s rights remains grounded in the slogan developed at the 1993 UN World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna: “women’s rights are human rights.”

Join this month’s SKS Spotlight of the Month in honoring Women’s History Month. Take pride in the awesome strides made by strong and dedicated women in the United States, and marvel at the brave and tireless women across the world struggling for each small step in women’s freedom and equality.

SKS Spotlight: Women’s History Month

Ever wonder how Women’s History Month came to be? Its origins can be traced back to the first National Women’s Day, celebrated in the United States in 1909. Two years later, an International Women’s Day was observed in several European countries, and in 1949, China celebrated its first Women’s Day. The United Nations first recognized International Women’s Day in 1977 by proclaiming March 8 as the UN Day for women’s rights and world peace. The following year, America celebrated its first Women’s History Week. Finally, in 1987, the U.S. Congress expanded the observation to the month of March. Since then, each March has been designated Women’s History Month.

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A WAC armorer repairs a 1903 Springfield rifle, Camp Campbell, Kentucky, 1944.
by National Archives, via ProQuest SIRS Government Reporter [Public Domain]

This month’s SKS Spotlight of the Month reflects on Title IX, women in the military, women’s education, and milestones in women’s history. Women, from Inuit artist Kenojuak Ashevak to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, are featured. Learn about the Women’s Army Corps of World War II and test your knowledge on Sally Ride, the nation’s first female astronaut in space. Join SKS in honoring women in the United States and around the world.