With March being Women’s History Month, it would be easy to consider and celebrate those women that we already know, such as Rosa Parks, Amelia Earhart or Marie Curie. While those women should continue to be celebrated, there are other notable women who should also be honored during this month.
Emmeline Pankhurst was a British activist for women’s rights in the early 1900s. She headed the movement to win the right for women to vote. Pankhurst founded the Women’s Franchise League and later helped found the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), whose members were later dubbed the “suffragettes.” Members of the WSPU were known for their aggressive forms of protest through arson, damage of property and hunger strikes. Both the Women’s Franchise League and the WSPU, along with Pankhurst’s work, helped British women gain their right to vote in 1928.
Filomena Nunes is the current theory alliance managing director for the Faculty for Rare Isotope Beams on Michigan State University’s campus. In addition, she is a professor in physics and astronomy who recently received the 2017 Inspirational Woman of the Year Award from the MSU Center for Gender in Global Context in the Professional Achievement category. Nunes has a doctorate in theoretical physics and is currently studying direct nuclear reactions and structure models.
Mary Mayo wished for her daughter to be able to attend the Michigan Agricultural College (now Michigan State University), but at the time neither a women’s program nor a women’s dormitory existed at MAC. In an attempt to help create change, Mayo became very active in the The Grange, an organization where women were admitted as equals to men. Through The Grange, Mayo began to advocate for more opportunities for women at MAC. Mayo’s efforts led to the creation of a women’s program and the building of the first women’s dormitory, Morrill Hall, in 1896. Mary Mayo Hall now stands in West Circle at MSU.
Wangari Maathai was the founder of the Green Belt Movement that preserves and attempts to revive public lands and forests as well as helps reduce the environmental impact humans have on the planet. Maathai was not only the first woman in East and Central Africa to earn a doctorate, but she was also the first woman in the region to become chair of the Department of Veterinary Anatomy and an associate professor. In 2004 she became the first African woman to earn the Nobel Peace Prize.
Sarojini Naidu was the first woman to be the president of the Indian National Congress as well as the first woman to be an Indian state governor. Along with these accomplishments, Naidu also helped found the Women’s Indian Association, an organization originally created to liberate women that later fought against illiteracy, child marriage and other social issues.
Fanny Blankers-Koen was a 30-year-old, Dutch housewife turned athlete. She was constantly mocked by critics and told she was too old for track and field and should be home with her children. The press even nicknamed Blankers-Koen “the flying housewife” in an attempt to belittle her. Despite this, she entered the 1948 Olympics. When she arrived in London she looked to her fiercest critic and simply said, “I’ll show you.” Blankers-Koen won gold medals in the 100-meter dash, the 80-meter hurdles, the 200-meter and the 4×100-meter relay.
While many people accomplish great things in their lifetimes, take the time this March to look into the accomplishment of some of these women who reached their goals despite the limitations of their time and place and how they’ve shaped many modern women.