Recognition of women’s contributions to the past and the present began in 1978 as Women’s History Week in Sonoma County, Calif. The week including March 8, International Women’s Day, was selected. In 1981, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Rep. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) co-sponsored a joint Congressional resolution proclaiming a national Women’s History Week. In 1987, Congress expanded the celebration to a month, and March was declared Women’s History Month. After more than 200 years of American history and eons of world history, it was about time.
In the early ‘90s, when I was an associate editor at the Las Vegas Optic, in celebration of Women’s History Month I wrote a series of articles about area women. The list included a doctor, banker, forester, writer, educator and public servant. Each had quite a unique story to tell and I enjoyed the interviews tremendously.
What I most enjoyed about writing the articles was gaining a better insight into the passion these women had for whatever they did, and leaning how much they had contributed to the community. They were – and continue to be – heroes. Prior to the ‘60s women occupied a stereotypical role in society, at least on the surface, but I grew up around a mother who believed she could do anything, and did. She had her challenges, a special needs daughter among them, but she understood at gut level that the only true obstacles were the ones she created for herself.
She worked in a nurturing field, around people much like my sister, constrained in life by ailments or mental deficiencies beyond their control. She also worked with clients who had committed a crime, who were incarcerated in the state mental facility rather than in prison. Their cases warranted a second look at their ability to know right from wrong and whether they were mentally stable enough to stand trial.
Mom was a fireplug of a woman, short and fiesty, who never hesitated to stand toe-to-toe with men twice her size. She faced them down and lifted them up. Many of her clients kept in touch with her after they left the facility. As a counselor she gave them a sense of their own worth. She helped them see they were more than their circumstances.
Mom did the same for her children, encouraging us to see outside the box long before the phrase became a cliché. She was and is my hero and my role model. She died years ago, but her legacy remains. She will never be written up in a history book but her history with our family shaped who we are today, and I thank her for it.