Celebrate Women’s History Month

Sunday, March 8th was International Women’s Day. Perhaps you noticed articles in the news about women (and men!) in countries all over the world who staged marches, protests, celebration and, in the case of Mexico, a gender strike. In Springfield, the home of UIS, there was a rally at the state capitol accompanied by speeches from several women activists and political figures and recitations by local poets decrying global gender inequities. The turnout was impressive for a Sunday afternoon – around 300. Around the world, this scene was replicated in cultural and political specifics. 

International Women’s Day started in 1909 and was originally organized by the Socialist Party of America. In 1910, at the international Socialist Women’s Conference, it was proposed that it be organized annually.  Following on the heels of the women’s suffrage in Russia in 1917, March 8th became the officially designated date and, to this day, it is a national holiday in Russia. In 1967, the feminist movement adopted it and the United Nations began celebrating it in 1977. 

This year is particularly notable for U.S. women as we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment to the Constitution, which gave women the right to vote.

Amendment XIX

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

The Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. has curated an exhibit to commemorate this historic event called Shall Not Be Denied: Women Fight for the Vote, which will be running through September 2020.  If you cannot make it to D.C., you can explore aspects of the exhibit online.

In tandem with this, the National Portrait Gallery (Smithsonian, Washington, D.C.) has a extensive exhibit which includes hundreds of objects as well as manuscripts. It is entitled Votes for Women. The exhibit is impressive for its breadth and depth and would be well worth your time if you are in the nation’s capital. But if you are unable to see it in person you can explore aspects of it online, here at this link.

In addition to the exhibit, the National Portrait Gallery published a companion book – Votes for Women: A Portrait of Persistence, which you can find in the new books section at Brookens Library (Call #: KF4895 .L46 2019). 

Notably, the Suffragettes pioneered picketing the White House for political causes as they were the first group of people ever to do so. 

Women suffragists picketing in front of the White house. The first picket line – College day in the picket line line, 1917

Brookens Library has many books and video resources for exploring this important historic event.  Here are a couple to get you started:

Select Books:

Votes for Women!: A Portrait of Persistence by Kate Lemay, Susan Goodier Clarke, Martha S. Jones, and Lisa Tetrault. Call # KF4895 .L46 2019 (located in New Books section).

Marking the centenary of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920, Votes for Women celebrates past efforts while looking toward what actions we might take in the future to further support women’s equality. – Taken from the Introduction.

And Yet They Persisted: How American Women Won the Right to Vote by Johanna Neuman. Call # JK1896 .N48 2020 (located in New Books section)

And Yet They Persisted traces agitation for the vote over two centuries, from the revolutionary era to the civil rights era, excavating one of the greatest struggles for social change in this country and restoring African American women and other women of color to its telling. Author Johanna Neuman demonstrates that American women defeated the male patriarchy only after they convinced men that it was in their interests to share political power. Reintegrating the long struggle for women’s suffrage into the metanarrative of U.S. history, Dr. Neuman sheds new light on such questions as why it took so long to achieve equal voting rights for women, how victories in state suffrage campaigns pressured Congress to act, why African American women had to fight again for their rights in 1965, and how the struggle by eight generations of female activists finally succeeded. – Taken from book cover

Feature Film:

Iron Jawed Angels, starring Hilary Swank as Alice Paul. Located in the Feature Films Collection (Level 2).

This film is the dramatized story of Alice Paul and Lucy Burns, leaders of the suffragist women who fought for the passage of the 19th Amendment. They broke from the mainstream women’s rights movement to create a more activist wing, daring to push the boundaries to secure women’s voting rights in 1920.

Online Primary Sources:

If you are a history buff and want to do more extensive research on your own using primary source materials, here are a couple of specialized database resources to get you rolling.

Gerritsen Collection: The Gerritsen Collection was begun by Aletta Jacobs Gerritsen in the late 1800s. By the time her successors finished their work in 1945, the Gerritsen Collection was the greatest single source for the study of women’s history in the world, with materials spanning four centuries and 15 languages. The primary source materials date from 1543 to 1945 focusing on the U.S., Europe, the United Kingdom, Canada and New Zealand. 

Women and Social Movements in the United States: The focus of this resource is on women’s activism and spans four centuries from 1600-2000.  There are over 125 document projects and archives, approximately 4,700 publications, a chronology of women’s history, teaching tools, book and web site reviews, archival news regarding primary sources in U.S. Women’s History, a digital archive with a focus on federal, state, and local commissions on the Status of Women between 1961 and 2005. It also includes a dictionary of social movements and organization along with an online edition of the five-volume biographical dictionary, Notable American Women (1971-2004). 

Celebrate Women’s History Month

This past year has been the advent of so many milestones for women in the U.S.  There are currently 131 women in both chambers of the 116th Congress, up by 130 from the sole congresswoman elected to federal office in 1917 in Montana.  And for women of color, the outcome is unprecedented. In “the 116th U.S. Congress 47 of the 127 women serving or 37.0%, are women of color; in addition, a Black woman, a Latina, an Asian Pacific Islander, and a Caribbean American woman serve as Delegates to the House from Washington, DC, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and the Virgin Islands, respectively. Women of color constitute 8.8% of the total 535 members of Congress,” (CAWP).  Surely this is the year of the woman.   

As we celebrate the current victories of women making political waves, let us remember some of the pioneers who paved the way for the successes of today.  The Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) at Rutgers University provides fact sheets and timelines highlighting historic firsts for women: who have run for the Presidency (the first was Victoria Woodhull who ran on the Equal Rights Party ticket in 1872), elected to Senate (the first woman elected to the Senate was Hattie Wyatt Caraway (AR) in 1931), elected to the House (Jeannette Rankin was the first elected in 1917 and the only lawmaker to vote against U.S. entry into both world wars!), and of color (Soledad Chacon was elected Secretary of State in New Mexico in 1923.  She was the first Latina and woman of color to hold a statewide elected executive office, Cora Belle Reynolds Anderson was the first Native American elected to a state legislature in 1924 (Michigan) and Minnie Buckingham Harper was the first Black woman in a state legislature).  Illinois can boast Carole Mosely Braun as the first female African-American Senator (1993-1999) and Michelle Obama as the first African-American first lady of the U.S.  But we still have a long way to go.  Visit the CAWP website to see a historic timeline highlighting other significant firsts and the progression of successes leading up to recent achievements and statistics at all levels of government. 

For access to more resources on women and the law visit Brookens’ LibGuide Women & Gender Studies – Law as well as the Legal Studies LibGuide.    

A couple of specialized databases for accessing historic primary source material on or by women are the following:   

Gerritsen Collection: The Gerritsen Collection was begun by Aletta Jacobs Gerritsen in the late 1800s. By the time their successors finished their work in 1945, the Gerritsen Collection was the greatest single source for the study of women’s history in the world, with materials spanning four centuries and 15 languages.  The primary source materials date from 1543 to 1945 focusing on Europe, the U.S., the United Kingdom, Canada and New Zealand.   

Women and Social Movements in the United States:  The focus of this resource is on women’s activism and spans four centuries from 1600-2000.  There are over 125 document projects and archives, approximately 4,700 publications, a chronology of women’s history, teaching tools, book and web site reviews, archival news regarding primary sources in U.S. Women’s History, a digital archive with a focus on federal, state, and local commissions on the Status of Women between 1961 and 2005.   It also includes a dictionary of social movements and organization along with an online edition of the five-volume biographical dictionary, Notable American Women (1971-2004).   

March is Women’s History Month

March in National Women’s History Month and we are participating by highlighting a variety of resources from our collection. The National Women’s History Project designates a theme each year for Women’s History Month and for 2014 they have chosen the theme of: Celebrating Women of Character, Courage and Commitment.

We will have a series of 3 blog posts dedicated to to the theme. The first post in the series will feature items from withing our collection based on “Character”, the second will focus on “Courage” and the third will highlight “Commitment”.

The following are the National Women’s History Project’s 2014 Honorees.

Chipeta (1843 – 1924)
Indian Rights Advocate and Diplomat
Chipeta was a wise and contrary advisor to her husband, a Ute Indian leader. Born into the Kiowa Apache tribe in the 1840s, Chipeta was raised by the Uncompahgre Ute tribe in what is now western Colorado. In her teens she wedded Ouray, who became a powerful Ute chief during the often violent and brutal times of western settlement.  Chipeta was a peacemaker who did not consider all settlers to be the enemy, often giving food to starving white families. Chipeta lived 45 years on a reservation in Utah, lauded as a wise elder and advisor to other Indian chiefs and an honored guest in the homes of settler families.
Anna Julia Haywood Cooper (1858 – 1964)
African American Educator and Author
Anna J. Cooper was an author, educator, speaker, and among the leading intellectuals of her time. Born into enslavement, she wrote “A Voice from the South,” widely considered one of the first articulations of Black feminism. Throughout her long life, Anna worked for the betterment of African American women’s lives, which she saw as the foundation for a more just society for everyone. Cooper worked at Washington D.C.’s M Street — now Dunham High School for nearly 40 years, focusing the all black high school on preparing students for higher education, successfully sending many students to prestigious universities.
Agatha Tiegel Hanson (1873 – 1959)
Educator, Author, and Advocate for Deaf Community
Agatha Tiegel Hanson was a teacher, poet, and advocate for the deaf community. Unable to hear and blind in one eye from a childhood illness, she never allowed her disabilities to hold her back. She came of age at a time when most deaf people were denied access to education, and deaf women especially had few educational options.  She was admitted to Gallaudet University, which is still the only college in America dedicated to the education of deaf and hard of hearing students.  Graduating first in her class, her valedictorian speech argued for the recognition of the intellect of women, a cause she advocated throughout her life.
Katharine Ryan Gibbs (1863 – 1934)
Women’s Employment Pioneer
Katharine Ryan Gibbs founded Katharine Gibbs School in 1911 to provide women with high-level secretarial training and the opportunity to earn their own incomes.  Gibbs was a mother and housewife for much of her life, until she was widowed at 48 and left with no means to support herself or her two sons.  Teaming up with her sister, Mary Ryan, they purchased a failing Providence, Rhode Island secretarial school in 1911.  Her school quickly expanded, opening branches near many ivy-league universities. At a time when educated women were generally expected to become teachers or nurses, Katharine Gibbs School offered women an exceptional secretarial education and new opportunities, which made skilled office work a realistic career for women.
Frances Oldham Kelsey (1914 – Present)
Pharmacologist and
Public Health Activist  
Frances Oldham Kelsey as the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) pharmacologist refused to approve thalidomide, a drug that was later proved to cause severe birth defects.  Kelsey required scientific rigor for all her clinical trials as well as ongoing oversight of drug testing at the FDA.   In addition, her research led Congress to pass the 1938 Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act greatly strengthening drug regulations by the FDA.  Dr. Kelsey continued her work at the FDA until her retirement in 2005 at age 91. In 2010 the FDA established the Frances Kelsey Award, an annual award given to a staff member for their commitment to scientific rigor
Roxcy O’Neal Bolton (1926 – Present) 
20th Century Women’s Rights Pioneer
Roxcy O’Neal Bolton is a lifelong advocate for women’s rights. She is the founder of Florida’s first battered women’s shelter and the nation’s first hospital-based Rape Treatment Center.  Her  extensive work also includes convincing National Airlines to offer maternity leave to (instead of firing) pregnant flight attendants; lobbying for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA); and persuading the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to name hurricanes after both women and men.  Bolton led the effort to create the Women’s Park in Miami, which opened in 1992 as the first outdoor space in the nation– honoring past and present women leaders.
Arden Eversmeyer (1931 – Present)
The Old Lesbian Oral Herstory Project Founder
Arden Eversmeyer founded the Old Lesbian Oral Herstory Project (1999), to ensure that the stories of lesbians born in the first part of the 20th century, who were labeled “mentally ill”, fired from their jobs, rejected by their families, and even raped and murdered with impunity, are recorded in history.  Project volunteers have documented over 320 diverse life stories recording the sacrifices and obstacles faced by lesbians of that era. The collection is now archived, and continues to grow, as part of the prestigious Sophia Smith Collection at Smith College.  Today Eversmeyer is proud to live in a time when she can be her true self with acquaintances, friends, family, medical professionals, and everyone
Carmen Delgado Votaw (1935 – Present)
International Women’s Rights Activist
Carmen Delgado Votaw is a leading advocate for women’s rights both nationally and internationally. She served on the International Women’s Year Commission, collaborated with all United Nations Conferences on Women, and significantly influenced the advancement of women in Latin America.  Born and raised in Puerto Rico and inspired to fight for social justice by Martin Luther King Jr. and the 1963 March on Washington, she has worked for over 50 years for the betterment of women, children, Latinos, and other minorities throughout the world.  In 1996, she wrote “Puerto Rican Women,” a bilingual women’s history book. She received the Veteran Feminists of America Medal of Honor in 1999.
Ann Lewis (1937- Present)
Women’s Rights Organizer and Women’s History Advocate
Ann Lewis is a leader of progressive political reform focusing on the importance of personal engagement, social justice and women’s rights. She served as a White House Communications Director, is a national commentator on public policy, and champions the recognition of women’s history. Ann Frank Lewis grew up in a Jewish family who witnessed the Holocaust and its aftermath. Growing up with the name Ann Frank, she says “my parents, who talked often about current events, taught me how fortunate we were to live in a democracy, where we could choose our leaders. I would never take our political rights for granted.”
Jaida Im (1961- Present)
Advocate for Survivors of Human Trafficking
Jaida Im founded Freedom House, the first residential shelter for adult female survivors of human trafficking, in Northern California in 2010.  Im left her 20-year career as a health care professional to found the non-profit organization.  Under her direction, the program offers holistic case management, counseling, educational resources, and job training for victims of abduction and enslavement. In fall 2013, Freedom House opened The Nest to serve girls ages 12-17.  This new shelter provides a space to help girls to recapture their interrupted youth in a loving family setting.
Tammy Duckworth (1968 – Present)
Member of Congress and Iraq War Veteran
Tammy Duckworth, U.S. Representative from Illinois, is an Iraq War veteran and former Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs.  In 2014, she became the first disabled woman elected to serve in the House of Representatives.  Duckworth has a strong record advocating and implementing improvements to veteran’s services. In 2004, she was deployed to Iraq as a Blackhawk helicopter pilot.  She was one of the first Army women to fly combat missions during Operation Iraqi Freedom until her helicopter was hit by an RPG on November 12 2004. She lost her legs and partial use of her right arm in the explosion and was subsequently awarded a Purple Heart for her combat injuries.
Lisa Taylor (1974 – Present)
Civil Rights Attorney
Lisa Taylor is a leading civil rights trial attorney who has worked for over twelve years to ensure that civil rights laws are enforced around the country. While working with the Department of Justice, Taylor focuses primarily on educational and disability law and shows an unwavering commitment to ending discrimination and promoting equality and justice. Lisa was in Naval ROTC as a student and served as an officer aboard the USS Tarawa, where she developed the ship’s first program to address sexual harassment.  Taylor became a lawyer out of a strong desire to serve those who could not serve themselves.

Women’s History Month Reading List

March is Women’s History Month!!  Brookens has put together a book list featuring resources from our collection about Military Women! Throughout the month of March we will also have a bulletin board display featuring Women in the Military, specifically WASPs (Women’s Airforce Service Pilots). We hope you enjoy both the display and the items from our collection we are featuring!