The celebration of women’s accomplishments will be marked at Fort Lewis College this week and the next with the annual series of events surrounding Women’s History Month.
Who better than women themselves to say what issues are important to them and why their struggle to move from being a marginalized sector of the population to being a major player is important?
Five Durango women – representing a range of ages, issues and occupations – answered our question: “Why is women’s history important?”
Here are their answers, in their own words:
Kerry Siggins, CEO of StoneAge Tools: I think it’s important to honor Women’s History Month to help remind us of what can be achieved when you put your mind, your heart and your effort into something you believe in. This month, we honor the amazing, passionate women who came before us to stand up and push for the rights that we have now. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I was unable to vote, to lead a company, to be a daughter, a sister and a mother. It’s the time to take pause and recognize the value of having both men and women at the table, making decisions for a better environment, community and world.
State Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango: Celebrating the gains evident in American women’s history is important as it gives all of us the poignant reminder that things weren’t always this way. My pioneer great-grandmother arrived by wagon with my great-grandfather and several little ones in tow to homestead in the northeast corner of Colorado in the 1890s. Talk about a tough act to follow! Coloradans can be proud that we were the first state in the country to give women the right to vote through popular vote, and, in 1894, Colorado was first in electing women to represent its citizens in the state Legislature. Colorado continues to be in the forefront in recognizing the contribution of women in elected-leadership roles as we have the largest percentage of female state legislators in the United States. Women bring different life experiences, knowledge and communication styles to the state Capitol, and our state policymaking benefits from those contributions.
Kathy Thomas, retired Air Force major general: Celebrating women’s successes inspires. Learning about women’s achievements empowers. Acknowledging our innate capabilities stimulates confidence, instills pride and motivates women to maximize an inherent potential to excel and to affect positive change. Recognizing women’s triumphs and sacrifices demands admiration and respect. Tapping into women’s unique talents, skills and gifts will ameliorate our nation’s future. Celebrating women’s history is one important step to acceptance, equality and survivability.
Gail Harris, retired Navy captain: Women have played a powerful and important role in our history, yet their accomplishments have largely been unsung. Women’s History Month provides a forum to highlight and honor these achievements and to inspire a new generation. Many times during my professional journey, I felt like giving up. When that happened, I’d pick up a biography of someone like Harriet Tubman. Most know of her exploits freeing slaves, but during the Civil War, she served in the Union Army as a nurse, scout and spy. She also led troops in combat. Another inspiration for me was a woman who was sickly as a child, developing scarlet fever and double pneumonia; she also developed polio. Told she would never walk again, she persevered, eventually played for her high school basketball team, set the state record for scoring and led her team to the State Championships. She also started to run track and, at 16, won a Bronze Olympic medal and four years later became the first American woman to win three gold medals in the Olympics. Her name was Wilma Rudolph. With examples like that, how could I not find the strength to go on? I stand on countless shoulders of others.
Molly Wieser, Title IX coordinator at FLC: Women’s histories have not been shared as widely as the histories of military and political power, which have largely been told by men. So, we pause and celebrate heroes like Mother Jones and Ida B. Wells, who beautifully challenged power. In addition, we try to avoid complacency, recalling that Simone de Beauvoir, born 100 years before my own daughter, was denied graduate school because she was a woman. Everyone has a women’s history – my older brothers and I share one. Our ancestral grandmother was repeatedly sold as chattel for her value as a female; our maternal grandmother needed to make college an express condition of accepting a marriage proposal; our paternal grandmother spoke several languages but could not get the same kind of professional work as her husband; our very accomplished mother’s education and career were subordinate to our father’s. Women’s History Month is also for remembering current realities. These include unequal pay for equal work (especially for women of color) and rates of violence against women (especially women of color) that make every step outside our doors, within our own homes, and across borders a serious consideration for many, if not most of us. ¡Maria Rosa Vialpando, presente!