Women’s History Month: Women’s Societal Contributions

March is here, and in this month, we celebrate women and the historical impact that empowering women have in society. We use this month to remind ourselves of the accomplishments of women throughout the years and how we can inspire the next generation of women to lead the way for change. Since 1987, the month of March has been observed to highlight women and those who trail blazed to exceptional heights. Taking into consideration the obstacles they had to overcome to succeed, we acknowledge their journey and contribution to the world. It is through their story that new generations of women can feel confident to go for their dreams, no matter how big. 



Women in Science 

Mae Jamison 

Spaceflight was a male-dominated field, especially when it came down to space travel. As a Chicago native, Mae Jamison had only one thing on her mind, and that was taking a ride on a rocket. Inspired by the fictional character on Star Trek, Lieutenant Uhura, Mae was able to see someone like her for the first time in space. After graduating high school at just 16 years old, she double-majored in chemical engineering and African American studies. Expanding her skillset for more, she applied to become an astronaut in 1985, where she trained for space shuttle Endeavor and made history as the first African American woman to travel into space in 1992. 

 

Marie Curie

As one of the most prominent scientists of all time, Marie was one of the first and only people in history to win two separate Noble prizes in two separate sciences. She pioneered radiation research, discovering two new elements, polonium, and radium. Throughout her incredible career, she didn't let the enormous amounts of sexism bother her, even when she was denied attendance at the French Academy of Sciences. Despite all the obstacles, she succeeded in her career and was recognized for her achievements in changing the understanding of radioactivity. 



Women in Sports 

Serena & Venus Williams 

While the sisters have been ruling the world of tennis for over two decades, they are unique among the most inspiring athletes of our time. Growing up in Compton, California, the younger siblings of five were naturally competitive at heart. With their powerful playing styles and strong discipline in the sport, they quickly earned top titles in their categories. Being coached by their father, Richard Williams, or famously known as King Richard, the two were greatly encouraged to focus on academics over their craft. It is believed that because of their strict dedication to school and hunger for tennis that they've been able to excel as top-ranking tennis players in the entire world. 

 

Babe Didrikson 

Known as the pioneer for women's sports, Babe Didrickson was a multi-sports legend who truly embodied the narrative that women can be just as great, if not better, than men in areas of athleticism. As a teenager in the 1930s, Babe was fearless in her talents and never shied away from something new. Whether it was basketball, track, baseball, hockey, or tennis, she dominated the game. After collecting two gold medals in the 1932 Olympics, she continued to set world records in various events. For a woman reaching unprecedented heights in sports, she was often scrutinized by the media, mostly men. The jealousy and ridicule didn't prevent Babe from creating an exceptional life for herself, later winning 14 consecutive awards in golf. 


Women in Entertainment  

Oprah Winfrey 

Often called one of the most powerful and influential women in the world, Oprah has made an impactful imprint on the world, especially for women. Although her Mississippi upbringing was tumultuous, Oprah always displayed incredible intelligence and speaking abilities, even as a young child. After studying Communications on her full scholarship, she worked in local news stations and later became the youngest and first black female news anchor. After co-hosting on AM Chicago, she took her talents to debut the Oprah Winfrey show and launch Harpo Productions. For 25 years, Oprah's ability to connect with the audience and pour out stories to her live audience each day became the 'Oprahfication' of television. She was able to do what no man has ever done in the history of broadcast. 


Diahann Carroll

Born in The Bronx, New York, Diahann Carroll had a special gift for the arts. She attended the Fame High School of Music and Arts, which allowed her to narrow in on her craft and make her way into the industry. While taking on small acting roles in the beginning, she later won a Tony Award for her leading role in the play No Strings. This big accomplishment would get her noticed by NBC Executives, who would give Diahann the chance to play the lead in the hit show, Julia. She made history as the first African American woman to star in her own television series. Being able to portray a young middle-class widower and mother who worked as a nurse made a significant impact on the black community. Diahann’s career soared throughout the decades and paved the way for many African American actresses who came into the scene. The pioneer of television worked for 62 years in the industry before losing her battle to cancer in 2019.  

 

Women have laid the foundation in many ways within society, and while women's history has often been ignored or even erased, we use the month of March to bring those stories to life. They've changed the shape of various industries by shaking up new and existing systems. They've raised the bar for acting accolades and have laid foundations to rearrange the trajectory of today's society. For everything we have, there is a connection to a woman who we can salute. It brings sheer excitement to think of what is to come for women in the years to come.  

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