By Amanda Moses
For centuries, women have faced gender barriers and obstacles that denied them basic human rights and equal opportunities. It wasn’t until the turn of the 20th century when women started to make headway. The likes of Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Candy Stanton and Lucy Stone had advocated for equal treatment and voting rights, leading to the federal women suffrage amendment, which was introduced to Congress in 1878, passed by the House of Representatives and Senate, and then in 1919 sent to the states for ratification. Finally in 1920, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was signed into law.
Today, almost a hundred years later, we have the suffragettes, trail blazers and innovators to thank for breaking many of the gender and social barriers. These women did not take “no” for an answer. They were criminalized, discriminated, devalued, mistreated and often ignored. But they did not give up on their dreams. Their steadfast temperament has helped shaped America’s history and paves way for a brighter future. In 1978, women were recognized for their contributions during “Women’s History Week.” Congress expanded the weeklong celebration and declared March as National Women’s History Month.
In honor of their collective influence, the Spring Creek Sun salutes these, gender barrier breakers and champions of women’s rights during National Women’s History Month (March 1st to March 31st).
Gertrude Ederle was the first woman to swim across the English Channel in 1926. She was winner of three Olympic medals for swimming. In 1926, she swam across the English Channel from Cape Gris-Nez on the French coast to Kingsdown, England. She wore a two piece bathing suit, goggles, swim cap, and was coated in lanolin to protect from jelly fish stings and the cold water temperature. After 14 hours and 31 minutes, beating male channel swimmer records, she completed the 21-mile swim.
Amelia Earhart was an aviation pioneer who became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic. On May 20, 1932, her 15- hour journey began at Harbour Grace, Newfoundland and ended in Londonderry, Northern Ireland. As the first woman to take on such a feat, she won the Gold Medal from the National Geographic Society presented by President Hoover, the Distinguished Flying Cross from the U.S. Congress, and the Cross of the Knight of the Legion of Honor from the French government.
Jacqueline Cochran was the first woman to break the sound barrier by flying at the speed of 652.337 on an F-86 over Roger’s Dry Lake, California in 1953. The pioneering pilot was an aviator in WWII and led the training program, Women’s Air Force Pilots. She was also involved in the Mercury 13 astronauts program to test the ability for women to be a part of space expeditions. Cochran still holds the international speed, distance and altitude record.
Sandra Day O’Connor was the first woman to be appointed to the Supreme Court. Considered a stern, but fair judge, her career began with many struggles. Just to get ahead in the legal field she worked without pay for the county attorney of San Mateo, California upon receiving her law degree. After years of working as a lawyer, she won the position of judge at Maricope County Superior Court, and then in 1979 she was elected to serve on the state’s court of appeals. In 1981, President Reagan appointed O’Connor as a Supreme Court Justice.
Dr. Patricia Bath, an ophthalmologist and inventor, who dedicated her life to treating and preventing visual impairments. In 1986, Bath invented a specialized tool called the Laserphaco Probe, which allows for a more precise procedure when removing cataracts (a disorder that occurs when the lens inside of the eye is clouded decreasing a person’s vision and may result in blindness). She is the first African American woman to receive a patent for medical purpose, to serve as a resident at ophthalmology in New York University and to serve as a staff surgeon at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).
Dr. Antonia Novello is the first woman, and first Hispanic, to be appointed as the United States (US) Surgeon General. Throughout her years of schooling, she studied medicine and became deputy director with the National Institutes of Health. Then in 1990, she broke gender and race barriers when President George H.W. Bush appointed her as US Surgeon General.
Mae Jemison became the first African-American female astronaut when she flew into space in 1992 on the spaceship Endeavour. On the voyage, her title was that of a science mission specialist, which required that she conduct crew-related scientific experiments, such as the effect of zero gravity on the body and motion sickness.
Toni Morrison is a novelist, editor and university/college professor known for her abstract characters, poetic writing and vital role in furthering black literature. Her Pulitzer Prize winning novel, Beloved, is based on the true story of Margaret Garner, an African-American slave whose attempt to escape slavery failed. Morrison’s novel is continuously commemorated and discussed because it has helped to reengage the conversation of the psychological impact of slavery, specifically the effect of living with the perpetual fear of being separated from family members and abused.