Women’s History Month has roots going back to 1911 when the first International Women’s Day was celebrated on March 8. Fast forward to 1987 when the National Women’s History Project urged congress to pass Pub. L. 100-9, thus officially christening the month of March as Women’s History Month.
Since 1987, thousands of schools across the nation have celebrated Women’s History Month annually by planning and distributing their curriculum to promote knowledge of women’s historical roles within society.
We here at Springboard couldn’t be any more excited to celebrate this special month because a majority of our after-school educators are – you guessed it – women. Educators have such a huge impact on the future of children, and it wouldn’t have been possible for our female Springboard educators to have this chance to make a difference in our children’s future if it wasn’t for the women who paved the way before them:
- Mary Lyon (February 28, 1797 – March 5, 1849) – A hometown hero of ours, Mary Lyon founded female seminaries which are today known as Wheaton College in 1834, and Mount Holyoke College in 1837. Her vision was to appeal to those whose socioeconomic backgrounds would otherwise not permit them to obtain a college education. Mount Holyoke catered to the daughters of families who had limited means of income as opposed to the children of those with wealthy backgrounds. She made college education affordable and accessible to many women and we cannot applaud her enough.
- Septima Poinsette Clark (May 3, 1898 – December 15, 1987) – Septima Poinstte Clark was a key player during the Civil Rights Movement of the 20th century. She was a voice of change in a turbulent time, and she turned the dial in achieving voting rights for African Americans. She created workshops that fostered literacy among African American communities after beginning her teaching career at 18. She would teach African American school-children during the day (she was barred from teaching in public schools because of her race), and would work with illiterate adults (of any race) by night. She was an innovator – she came up with teaching methods that are used to this day to help illiterate adults learn to read and write.
- Clara Barton (December 25 1821 – April 12, 1912) – No big deal, but apart from the fact that she founded the American Red Cross, Clara Barton can add teacher, self-taught nurse, and patent clerk to her resume. Her accomplishments were a rarity during a time when women were not known for working outside the home. She started out as an educator, and worked in schools in the U.S. and Canada for 12 years. In 1855, she moved to the nation’s capital and began a career at the US Patent Office. (Also not a big deal, she was the first woman to hold such a position in the federal government.) During the Baltimore Riot of 1861, wounded soldiers were transported to Washington, D.C. for treatment. Following an urge to help, she went to the rail yard where the victims were being treated and took it upon herself to provide care for many of the nation’s wounded. This event changed her career trajectory and she immersed herself deeply into the front lines of battlefields during the American Civil War to nurse the wounded. After the end of the war, she delivered speeches across the country about her experiences and eventually founded what is today known as the American Red Cross.
- Maria Montessori (August 31, 1870 – May 6, 1952) – Widely known as the mother of the educational philosophy that is her namesake, Maria Montessori had big dreams starting when she was just a young girl in Italy. She envisioned herself becoming an engineer among a sea of little girls who wanted to grow up to be homemakers. She enrolled in an all-boys technical school at age 13, but soon found engineering was not her thing. A few years later, she enrolled at the University of Rome Medical School to study medicine. She graduated in 1896, and continued her research at the University’s psychiatric facility. It is here where she began to work with children. In 1906, she created a childcare center in the poverty-stricken San Lorenzo district of Rome. Many of the children the school catered to were deemed unable to learn, and Maria proved that assumption wrong by using scientific observation skills she learned at technical school, and coupling them with the psychological experiences she gained at medical university. Today, the Montessori movement is alive and well across many parts of the world, and has seen a resurgence in the United States over the last decade.
- Mary McLeod Bethune (July 10, 1875 – May 18, 1955) – Born the daughter of slaves, Mary McLeod Bethune was gifted with an innate curiosity and a will to learn from an early age. She was the only child in her family to attend school, a one-room schoolhouse for African American children. She would come home everyday and teach her illiterate family what she had learned. She started her teaching career at her former elementary school, and then moved on to a teaching role at Haines Normal and Industrial Institute in Augusta, GA. It was here she met Lucy Craft Laney, widely considered to be an influential mentor for her. Laney, also the daughter of former slaves, emphasized a teaching philosophy that educating women of color would help to further the socioeconomic improvements of African American communities. Mary McLeod Bethune adopted and adapted many of these teaching philosophies when she went on to create a private school for African-American girls in Daytona Beach, Florida. She became the highest ranking African American woman in government under President Franklin Roosevelt when he named her director of Negro Affairs of the National Youth Administration. On top of all of these achievements, she also founded many organizations – most notably co-founding the UNCF.