A look at some of the history behind Women’s History Month

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Published 03/31/2022
Janice Amos, MA, history adjunct faculty and instructional co-coordinator of history and political science departments

Janice Amos, MA, history adjunct faculty and instructional co-coordinator of history and political science departments


Women have been making significant contributions to society ever since people lived in caves. Unfortunately, it is not until much later in recorded history that even a small number of them are recognized, and not always for good deeds. For example, in the mid-1600s, Anne Hutchinson was a woman living in Massachusetts Bay Colony who felt she could meet with other women and discuss the sermons they had attended each week. She fell under the scrutiny of the male Puritan officials, who decided she was spreading false information about the church. Her main ‘crime’ was speaking out and having an opinion, which to the male-dominated society at the time was sacrilege. In 1638, she was excommunicated from the church, and she and her family were banished from the colony. They immigrated to Rhode Island and joined Roger Williams in founding a more tolerant colony (1Gomes). Later, she and five of her 15 children were killed by natives. In her time, she was held accountable for breaching societal norms when she simply used her voice and ideas to interpret the sermons she heard each week. In 1945, the Massachusetts Legislature revoked her exile (2Anne Hutchison banished).

As women, we’ve fought long and hard to achieve the right to vote and obtain equality at the polls. When Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton originally had that idea and formed the National Woman Suffrage Association in 1869. They had no idea that it would take 51 years to obtain their goals. The 19th Amendment finally passed in 1920, securing the right for women to vote legally in all elections across the country. In 2020, we celebrated 100 years of the right to vote (3Harlen). It is difficult to understand how women must have felt during this multidecade struggle, as we take the right to go to the polling booth for granted. Little by little, women have gained recognition and importance over hundreds of years.   

Today, we can see and learn about women engaged in every field and provide excellent examples as role models for us all. Just to name a few careers where they are making a difference: politics, medicine, visual arts, government positions, space, science, sports, law, the military, business, journalism, not-for-profit enterprises, and much more! Women in these fields have proven we need no longer need to fear that we do not have enough to give and that our gender can hold us back, but we can speak out about things that matter and be successful at anything.

As we celebrate Women’s History Month, let us take time to reflect on how far we have come and continue to work on issues that still need to be addressed, such as renewing efforts to achieve more leadership roles in executive positions and equal pay for women in all jobs and careers.

-Janice Amos, MA, history adjunct faculty and instructional co-coordinator of history and political science departments.

References:

1. Gomes, P. G., (2002 November- December) Anne Hutchinson Brief life of Harvard’s “midwife”: 1595 – 1643 Harvard Magazine https://www.harvardmagazine.com/2002/11/anne-hutchinson.html

2. March 22, 1638 Anne Hutchison banished MassMovements https://www.massmoments.org/moment-details/anne-hutchinson-banished.html

3. Harlen, J. (2020 Aug 20) Suffrage at 100 A visual history The New York Times https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/08/17/us/suffrage-movement-photos-history.html