Celebrate Women’s History Month With the Strongest of All Time
Posted byBethany Johnson
March is Women’s History Month, and it is the time of year to whoop it up for the inspirational women who have gone before. From the right to vote to the discovery of DNA, every influential woman in global history has left her mark. Here are just a few of the brightest stars who have shined a light upon all who followed in their footsteps.
While most pop culture enthusiasts r-e-s-p-e-c-t Aretha Franklin for her music, few people know that in 1987 she was the first woman ever to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Twenty-seven years later, the Queen of Soul became the first ever woman to earn a 100th song on Billboard’s Hot R&B Chart. Perhaps most important, though, is the countless women she’s empowered and inspired along the way with both philanthropic outreaches and charitable contributions. The best part? She says she’s the one privileged to inspire, not the other way around. “It really is an honor if I can be inspirational to a younger singer or person. It means I’ve done my job.”
Madame C.J. Walker
As a single parent in tough post-Civil War circumstances, Sarah Breedlove was inspired by Booker T. Washington’s message of self-motivated hope. She learned from another female entrepreneur how to produce and sell beauty products, and built a successful company on the belief that how you feel about yourself depends on how well you care for your hair and skin. Instead of enjoying a modest business endeavor, Breedlove took classes in public speaking to nurture her brand and eventually, erected an empire.1 She changed her name to Madame C.J. Walker to reflect the change in status, and her voice encourages other business owners to work for their fellow (wo)man: “… your first duty is to humanity. I want others to look at us and see that we care not just about ourselves but about others.”
The first black woman to ever win an Academy Award for Best Actress was in 2002, believe it or not. Self-made Halle Berry. Her humble beginnings included a stay in a Chicago homeless shelter before finding Hollywood success as one of the highest-paid actresses of all time. The quotable fashion icon is outspoken on many topics, but her thoughts on love are always spot-on. “You think you know what love is,” she’s said. “Until you have a child and discover that unconditional mother love.”
Baroness Raymonde de la Roche
If engineering seems supersaturated with men today, imagine the field in 1909, when Baroness Raymonde de la Roche endeavored to take her engineering chops to new heights. At the suggestion of aviation visionary Charles Voisin, de la Roche studied for and aced her pilot’s test, achieving the status of first-ever woman to be awarded a pilot’s license.2 De la Roche died in an airplane crash while attempting to break even more records as a woman. Both her life and death prove that if you push expectations, you can fly — no matter your gender.
Regina Jonas was the first ever female to be ordained as a Jewish rabbi, a remarkable fact dramatized even further by the political climate of her time. It was 1935. “God planted in our heart skills and a vocation without asking about gender,” she wrote. Her subversive determination to care for and counsel others continued in memory after her 1944 death in Auschwitz.3
Americans often have trouble grasping the concept of truly ancient history, since our country (and its badass women) is only a few hundred years old. Japanese culture, on the other hand, enjoys thousands of years of heroic women. Lady Murasaki Shikibu is recognized as the first female novelist of her country, but more than that, she has been heralded as the first person anywhere to ever pen a novel: her famous The Tale of the Genji.4
There are so many women who deserve to be on this list. Think Marie Curie. Malala Yousafzai. Anne Frank. Rosa Parks. Margaret Thatcher. Janet Song. Saint Theresa. Maya Angelou. Wangari Maathai. Florence Nightingale. Helen Keller. The women who raised you. You.
Let’s make history.
1“Sarah Breedlove Walker.” PBS. Accessed February 03, 2017. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/theymadeamerica/whomade/walker_hi.html.
2Cochrane, D., and P. Ramirez. “Women in Aviation and Space History – Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.” Women in Aviation and Space History – Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Accessed February 03, 2017. https://airandspace.si.edu/explore-and-learn/topics/women-in-aviation/roche.cfm.
3“Sharing Stories Inspiring Change.” Regina Jonas | Jewish Women’s Archive. Accessed February 03, 2017. https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/jonas-regina.
4“Murasaki Shikibu.” Female Hero: Murasaki Shikibu (Women in World History Curriculum). Accessed February 03, 2017. http://www.womeninworldhistory.com/heroine9.html.
- Posted by Bethany Johnson
- On March 6, 2017