I don’t know when this happened but Women’s History Month is finally a thing. All I can say to that is it’s about damn time! When you think of Women’s History, who do you think of? Do women like Amelia Earhart and Susan B Anthony come to mind? Or did you learn about Harriet Tubman and Cleopatra? They were very famous women in History that’s true.
I played Rosa Parks in my 4th grade school play for Martin Luther King Day (from 3rd to 5th grade I attended an all white school. It just happened that way. Don’t hate me for it).
I didn’t learn about too many women throughout school. One woman here or there was mentioned in history classes but those women left a major impression on me. So here are 5 of 10 Women in History who made a big impact on my life.
Maya Angelou – American Poet & Writer
Women’s History Month can’t start without this first lady on my list. I was first introduced to this lovely lady in the 9th grade. We were given an assignment to pick a writer from the list and research that writer’s life. I really wanted Charles Dickens but my teacher tasked me with Maya Angelou. I was very disappointed because I knew nothing about her. Then I read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and I was hooked.
I identified with the abuse she suffered as a child by her mother’s boyfriend. That’s how I related to her through her book and it left a huge impression on a 14 year old girl. The only difference is she forgave while I still couldn’t. I wasn’t ready but I respected and admired her for finding her strength. She was a writer and poet but she was also an activist, working alongside Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X during the Civil Rights movement.
Marie “Madame” Curie – Polish Physicist
Are any of you familiar with Pollock jokes? I am! Growing up in a polish family I heard them all the time. They were meant to be funny but being polish was also used as an excuse for any mistake we made. Yes, they were funny but for a young girl who was always told that she would never amount to anything, the constant reminder that one of those reasons was because I was Polish put an extra weight of shame on my shoulders.
That is until this wonderful, amazing woman came into my life. She was, again, another assignment. This time through History class in my first year of Community College. Also, again, it was a man I wanted to do a report on. At that time I was a bit obsessed with Billy The Kid and wanted an excuse to do more research on him. My professor knew better though and thank God he did.
Madame Marie Curie came into my life at just the right time. There was a lot of pressure on me during these years. I was the first of my immediate family to ever graduate high school and the only one of my siblings. So you can imagine the pressure that going to college put on me.
Anyway, Madame Marie Curie helped to spark a new fire inside me. She gave me a new hope and she made me realize that my Polish heritage need not hold me back from what I want to do.
In case you haven’t heard of this remarkable woman, she discovered radium. Here are some outstanding facts about her:
Not bad for a pollack woman eh?
Frida Kahlo – Painter
I actually learned of Frida in one of my Women’s Studies Courses during my second go at Community College. We watched the movie with Salma Hayek. Frida was a darker woman and I’m talking about her skin color. Her soul was a bit darker. She was a mess at times and wasn’t afraid to admit it. That’s what impressed me most about her.
I’m just going to leave this with some Frida Kahlo quotes that I found to be incredibly honest and inspiring. Look up the movie with Salma Hayek. It’s definitely worth watching.
Mary Wollstonecraft – Feminist Activist and Writer
You all have heard of Mary Shelley right? You know, the woman who wrote Frankenstein? Yeah, that’s her. Well Mary Wollstonecraft was her mother. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree does it? Anyway, Mary was a famous activist for Women’s Rights as well as a writer.
I learned about her through another Women’s Studies course.
While her career was brief (she died giving birth to her famous daughter), She is most famous for her writing The Vindication of the Rights of Woman, which was published in 1792. She lived an unorthodox life during that time but by the second feminist movement she was regarded as one of the founding feminist philosophers and activists.
Harriet Ann Jacobs – Former Slave, Writer, and Abolishionist
I am going to end with this awesome and determined woman, Harriet Ann Jacobs. I learned about her through a literature class actually. She wrote a book about her brutal and heartbreaking life as a slave in the American South in the 19th Century.
Harriet’s story broke my heart but also inspired me in a way I never thought was possible. She was a young woman brought into a very violent world and treated as nothing more than cattle. She was beaten and raped. Her children were torn from her arms – something I can’t even imagine yet I felt like I was right there with her as she describes every detail and every emotion.
Despite all of this and despite having a “master” who sought to break her at every opportunity, this incredible woman didn’t break. She remained steadfast and was very determined to get to freedom. That’s exactly what she did and not just for herself but for her children as well.
I highly recommend you read her book, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. It will rock your world. I still have the book on my book shelf!
Thanks so much for reading!
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