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Celebrating Women's History Month: Five of this year's honorees

Christine Illes
Assoc. Photo Editor

St. Patrick’s Day usually comes to mind when we think of the month of March, but March is also a month to celebrate the many contributions women have made throughout history. March 1st was the start of Women’s History Month, a national celebration beginning as “Women’s History Week” in March of 1982. It was in 1987 when “Women’s History Week” was renamed “Women’s History Month,” and it has been an annual March celebration since 1995. It is recognized by many in the U.S. and serves as the center of many educational curricula and events in public schools.

This year’s theme celebrates “Women of Character, Courage and Commitment.” Every year, the National Women’s History Project (NWHP) honors a few influential women for their contributions. There are hundreds of women that could be recognized for what they have done, making it difficult to narrow it down to just a few each year. This year’s honorees represent a wide-range of occupations and accomplishments, each woman holding equal importance for a different cause. To recognize these women, five of the twelve honorees are listed below from the NWHP’s website. To see the rest of the honorees and learn more about Women’s History Month, please visit www.NWHP.org and www.WomensHistoryMonth.gov.

Katharine Ryan Gibbs (1863-1934), Women’s Employment Innovator: A housewife most of her life, Gibbs was left widowed at age 48 with nothing to support her and her two sons. This inspired her to purchase a failing Rhode Island secretarial school with her sister, Mary Ryan, in 1911. The school became the Katharine Gibbs School and quickly expanded to add many branches, giving women the opportunity to access high-level secretarial training in order to establish incomes of their own.

Agatha Tigel Hanson (1873-1959), Teacher, Poet, and Advocate for the Deaf Community: Due to a childhood illness, Hanson grew up deaf and blind in one eye but never let her disabilities get the best of her. She grew up during a time where it was difficult for the deaf to receive access to education, especially for deaf women. She was admitted to Gallaudet University, which remains the only college in America dedicated to the education of deaf and hard of hearing students, and graduated first in her class. Her valedictorian speech centered on the recognition of the female intellect, a cause she advocated for throughout the rest of her life.

Frances Oldham Kelsey's scientific rigor and research led Congress to pass the 1938 Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, greatly strengthening drug regulations by the FDA.
Frances Oldham Kelsey’s scientific rigor and research led Congress to pass the 1938 Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, greatly strengthening drug regulations by the FDA.

Frances Oldham Kelsey (1914-present), Pharmacologist and Public Health Activist: Kelsey worked at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a pharmacologist until her retirement in 2005 at age 91. While working with the FDA, she refused to approve thalidomide, a drug that was later proven to cause severe birth defects. Her scientific rigor and research led Congress to pass the 1938 Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, greatly strengthening drug regulations by the FDA. Since 2010, the FDA has presented the Frances Kelsey Award to a staff member for their commitment to research and scientific rigor.

Arden Eversmeyer (1931 – Present), Founder of the Old Lesbian Oral Herstory Project: Eversmeyer founded the Old Lesbian Herstory Project in 1999 to record the stories of lesbians born in the early 20th century, who were labeled “mentally ill,” fired from their jobs, rejected by their families and friends and even raped and murdered because of their sexuality. The volunteers of the project have recorded over 320 life stories, recording the hindrances lesbians had to go through during that part of the century. The collection is archived at the prestigious Sophia Smith Collection at Smith College and is still growing today.

Im left her twenty-year career as a health-care professional to found Freedom House in Northern California, a non-profit organization and the first residential shelter for adult female survivors of human trafficking.
Im left her twenty-year career as a health-care professional to found Freedom House in Northern California, a non-profit organization and the first residential shelter for adult female survivors of human trafficking.

Jaida Im (1961-Present), Advocate for the Survivors of Human Trafficking: Im left her twenty-year career as a health-care professional to found Freedom House in Northern California, a non-profit organization and the first residential shelter for adult female survivors of human trafficking. The program offers case management, counseling, educational resources, and job training for the victims. In 2013, Freedom House opened the Nest, serving girls from ages 12-17. The shelter provides the girls with a loving, family-like environment, allowing them to recapture their interrupted youth.
Sources: http://www.nwhp.org/whm/honorees2012.php
http://womenshistorymonth.gov/index.html

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