Wednesday, March 26, 2014

In Celebration of Women's History Month...

by Nancy McCammon-Hansen and some of her friends

This month we’ve been highlighting some of the women who made history in Allen County. Unfortunately, we can’t feature all of them, in large part because too many of them never had their lives and deeds documented for posterity. After all, they were JUST women.

As someone who has lived as being “just a woman” for far too many years—not that I’m old, I’m just tired of that archaic attitude—I thought it would be interesting to see what other women think about women’s history. So I turned to a group of women I have met, worked with and befriended since moving to Fort Wayne. Their observations on why we should celebrate Women’s History….or as Harriett Miller refers to it….Herstory…are wonderful. Enjoy!

Why a Month Dedicated to Women?

The Transcendentalist would ask, "Why not?"

The Academic could say, "Because women's contributions go unnoticed and unreported in modern society."

The Humanist may reply, "Women are the strength and the glue of the family."

The Politician might say, "Women voters bring a unique perspective and are a presence to be acknowledged."

Each of these are real reasons to dedicate a month to women.  However, I say women are more than mothers, sisters, care-givers, nurturers, scientists, moral compasses or voters.  We are the roots of the trees, the flowing water of the streams, the warm sun shining on the spring seedling.  We are the earth.  We prepare, we teach, we love, we share, we understand the pain of separation.  Our ideas are offered gently.  Our hands are firm but smooth.  Our hearts are strong but tender.  Our bodies are small but never weak.

We are an enigma. 

Why have a month dedicated to women? 

Because we are worthy.

Laura  Nagy, Miami Woman

More than a decade ago, when I was an adjunct professor in history at IPFW, I would see students in my American history survey course put their pencils down and stop taking notes when I discussed women (it wouldn’t be on the exam, right?).  One student made this comment on the end-of-semester course evaluation:  “She’s a pretty good history prof, but she spends too much time talking about blacks and women.  She should stick to real history.” 

And that, right there, is why we need Women’s History Month. 

Women’s history is “real” history; women are and always have been historical actors—makers of history.  Women’s History Month celebrates and reminds us of that reality.  I like to think that public recognition of women’s history as “real” history has increased since I left the classroom for the library, but I know that dead white guys still dominate our understanding of our past.  One month each year may not be enough to right the balance, but it’s a start….water on a stone.

Jane E. Gastineau, Lincoln Librarian with the Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection at Allen County Public Library

It is important to mark Women's History Month because historically women have not been part of the traditional power structure, which is often what is studied and taught in schools and universities. Women have not led troops into war. Women have not been at the helm of major corporations. Women have not held top elected positions in government. While we work toward changing this for future generations, the fact remains that women's power and influence have been much less public than their male counterparts. By devoting a month to women's history, men and women can recognize the role women have played in history, directly and indirectly. These 31 days focus attention on how women have shaped the world in which we live today.

Rachel Blakeman, compliance officer for the City of Fort Wayne

First and foremost, I am a mother of three awesome children who keep me laughing and centered on what is important in my life each and every day. My belief in God and his plan for my life also help keep me focused on the important. My day gig is as Executive Vice-President of Finance & Administration for Indiana Tech, where we “prepare students for lives of significance and worth”. Women’s History Month is important to me because women do make a difference. Over the years, women have had to prove themselves and fight for equality in order that those of us who follow, do not have to fight as hard. The efforts of women before me are paying off. That effort and those achieved milestones need to be exposed and celebrated. Because we have made so much progress, I don’t think about this on a daily basis, but every once in a while, I hear a story of the past or come to learn an older woman’s story and I am amazed at the things that have been endured and overcome. We need to celebrate those stories and those women!  Women’s History month gives us a vehicle to do so.

Judy K. Roy
EVP-Finance & Administration at Indiana Tech

Each day we women live, we make history. It is just that we are so busy, we don’t realize it. It is nice for one month to be forced to remember from where we came, how we got here, where we are going and how far we still have to go. I was reared by a strong cadre of multi-generational women who kept a 40 acre farm going, supported my father’s career aspirations, became politically active, pursued advanced degrees, ran the PTA, ironed shirts, canned fruit and worried about the war. We celebrated women all year long! They made it possible for me to go to college, become a teacher, a wife and a mother who has freedoms, choices, dreams and expectations far beyond those of my mother, grandmother and great aunties.  I consider myself blessed to have come from such a strong foundation and am constantly reminded of those days of struggle as I dust the antiques that are now in my care. My main hope is that my granddaughters June and Hadley will reach high above the shoulders of their amazing mothers to seek new answers to poverty, violence, racism, peace, and justice. They will certainly need the help and history of all of us women who came before them.

Becky Hill
FWCS School Board Trustee, District 3
Crime Victim Care Board member
Retired executive director of the YWCA

Recently the question was posed to me on why we should have a women's history month. For the sake of discussion, I offer the option of doing away with WHM completely.

Would that mean never, ever celebrating the Suffragettes, Clara Barton, Madame Curie or Tacumwah? Their efforts and accomplishments have to be taken off the shelves and dusted every year the way it is.

What about the thousands of women we call mother, who quietly build the foundations of generations to come. They get one day. Really? Let's just take the day away from them too. In fact, let's do a whole year without recognizing the effect women have on equality, medicine and compassionate care (to only scratch the surface).

What about a whole year without any women anywhere? Do we have to go to that extent to be recognized and valued?

I am proud to say my ancestors thrived within a matriarchal society, where women were valued everyday for their input to the community. Why devote one month a year to that which should be recognized daily?

The good old boys of our patriarchal society have 'come a long way baby' only because women have led the way! We'll take the month to re-tell our tales, knowing we're worth so much more.

Julia Rhoades is a mother, grandmother, sister, daughter, and registered nurse of Myaamia Native American descent who knows if we forget where we come from, we do not know where we are going.

Happy Women’s History Month!

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