Women’s achievements and contributions to history are often overlooked. In 1978, Sonoma County in California initiated Women’s History Week to address the situation. Women in the community did special presentations throughout the country, schools had special programs, and they had an annual essay contest. In 1980, President Carter declared the week of March 8th 1980 as National Women’s History Week. And in 1981, Congress expanded the celebration to all of March. Annual congressional resolutions continued the tradition until 1987, when Congress declared that March would be National Women’s History Month every year going forward.
In honor of National Women’s History Month, we pause to honor and highlight the achievements of some of the more than 300 women who are featured in a special site we have created: Notable Women Legacies.
Shirley Chisholm, an advocate for minority rights who became the first black woman elected to Congress and later the first black person to seek a major party’s nomination for the U.S. presidency. Chisholm ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1972, a campaign that was viewed as more symbolic than practical. She won 152 delegates before withdrawing from the race.
Born Mary Lillian Ellison in 1923, Lillian Ellison was dubbed the Fabulous Moolah after saying she wrestled “for the money … for the moolah.” Ellison was a longtime champion and the first woman inducted into the World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Fame. Ellison grew up in the small Kershaw County community of Tookiedoo, the youngest of 13 children and the only girl.
One of the few women ever to lead a major American Indian tribe, and the first female chief of the Cherokees, Wilma Mankiller led the tribe in tripling its enrollment, doubling employment and building new health centers and children’s programs. She met snide remarks about her surname – a Cherokee military title – with humor, often delivering a straight-faced, “Mankiller is actually a well-earned nickname.”
Elinor Smith was considered one of the youngest and most daring pilots in the 1920s when she set a number of flying records, including the women’s solo flying endurance record and a women’s altitude record. In April 2001, at the age of 89, Smith piloted her last flight when she flew an experimental C33 Raytheon AGATE, Beech Bonanza out of Langley Air Force Base in Virginia.
Florence Wald was dean of the Yale University School of Nursing in the 1960s when she updated its curriculum to include a stronger focus on comfort for dying patients and their families. She left Yale to study at St. Christopher’s Hospice in London and returned to organize Connecticut Hospice in 1974, widely accepted to be the first U.S. hospice program.
To pay tribute and view additional profiles, please visit Notable Women Legacies.