When my daughter was nine years old, I accompanied her on her fourth grade Indiana history field trip to the Statehouse. When we visited the Indiana Supreme Court, the tour guide asked if there were any questions. My daughter was the first to raise her hand! She asked why was there only one woman on the wall where pictures of every Justice who has served were lined around the room (this was before 2012 when Justice Loretta Rush became the second woman to serve on the Indiana Supreme Court).
I will always remember her question because it showed me she noticed – that all of our daughters notice – when women are absent. It is up to us to teach them that women throughout history have lit the way for us.
Today begins Women’s History Month. We cannot forget our history. It has only been 93 years since women fought and won the right to vote. Those Suffragettes were ridiculed, beaten, and thrown into jails and insane asylums. But, they did not falter. Through their tenacity and perseverance, they persuaded men with great fortitude and conviction to stand against the prevailing views of society and ratify the 19th Amendment.
But, women’s contributions to history did not begin in 1920 and it cannot be contained in one month during the year. Their stories are woven throughout every major point in history. There was Abigail Adams beseeching her husband, John, to “Remember the Ladies” as he and his compatriots drafted the Declaration of Independence. There was Deborah Sampson who fought in the Revolutionary War and received a pension from the State of Massachusetts until her death.
There was Maria Mitchell who discovered a comet in 1847 and became the first woman elected to the American Association for the Advancement of Science. There was Helen M. Gougar who became one of the first women to argue before the Indiana Supreme Court on her own behalf in a case appealing the denial of her right to vote in the 1894 election. And, there was Virginia Jenckes who became the first woman from Indiana to serve as a U.S. Representative in 1933.
These and other women have led the way for others by breaking down barriers to women’s participation. They have created legacies that serve as inspiration for all of us. Every year in March, we focus on celebrating their contributions. So, take the opportunity to learn about women’s history by visiting:
- Indiana Commission for Women Torchbearers
- National Women’s History Museum
- National Women’s History Project
- National Women’s Hall of Fame
- Women’s History Month
And, on March 6, 2013, come to the Indiana Government Center Auditorium! The Indiana Commission for Women will host the 2013 Torchbearer Awards. These Awards are our way to celebrate Indiana women’s history and recognize extraordinary contributions that women make to our communities, our state and our nation. We hope you join us to see who will take their place in history as 2013 Torchbearers!