Wonderfully Woman: Women’s History Month celebrates women’s accomplishments

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(Photo/Huey Turlich)

The implementation of Women’s History Month challenged the patriarchal society of America to recognize the success of women throughout history.

 In February of 1980, former president of the United States, Jimmy Carter, declared the week of March 8 as National Women’s History Week. This later turned into a month-long affair after the National Women’s History Project successfully urged Congress to expand the event to the entire month of March, according to National Geographic.

Throughout history, women’s contributions to society have always been overlooked by their male counterparts. Historical figures such as Harriet Tubman, Madam C.J. Walker, Susan B. Anthony and Catherine Brewer paved the way for women to speak up for their rights and to have the courage to complete tasks that were male-dominated. 

Tubman helped countless numbers of enslaved individuals escape to freedom. Walker created hair care products for African American hair, making it possible for styling. Anthony was the most prominent advocate for women’s voting rights during the Women’s Suffrage Movement. Brewer became the first woman in the United States to graduate with a bachelor’s degree. 

It is women like these historical figures that helped bring light to women’s accomplishments and the power of being a woman.

“It is impactful when people see themselves represented in places of leadership. When women see leaders like them making decisions, caring for others and directing organizations, they are affirmed that it is possible for them to do the same,” Laura Lauglin, the director of the USM Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life said. [via USM Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life] 

Hattiesburg native, Oseola McCarty, donated her life savings to USM to help aid future students’ college journeys. 

McCarty is known as one of the most prominent figures in Southern Miss history with the university naming a Residence Hall after her and placing a statue in her honor beside Shoemaker Fountain. 

Lauglin says that McCarty is someone that she admired growing up.

“One of the first women I looked up to in life was Oseola McCarty. I knew her when I was a little kid growing up in Hattiesburg,” Laughlin said. “Even as a child, before the world knew her story, I knew her to be a kind, genuine, selfless Hattiesburger. She will always be a model of simplicity and selflessness.”

Much like McCarty, there are other notable historical female figures within the state of Mississippi.

 Ida B. Wells was a journalist and civil rights leader advocating known for her anti-lynching campaign. Fanny Lou Hammer was a civil rights leader and advocate for African Americans’ right to vote. Eudora Welty is one of America’s best and most recognizable authors. 

Modern-day notable female figures from Mississippi include nationally known talk show host,  author Oprah Winfrey and Robin Roberts, a nationally known news broadcaster.

Geneal Washam, the office manager of the USM Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life, thinks that celebrating women’s success is crucial.

“Women’s Month should be celebrated to give acknowledgment for the work that so often goes unnoticed by so many great women,” Washam said. “Designating this month is a time to reflect on the courage of women in the past and present generations who’ve paved the way for so many others.”

Many steps have been taken to ensure that women get the praise that they deserve for their contributions to society, but there is still work to be done. The United States is still a male-dominated society, especially when it comes to leadership in the workplace.

According to Nichols College Institute for Women’s Leadership reports that 21 percent of women hold senior leadership positions. Women are typically thought of as ‘weaker’ or ‘less assertive than men, therefore being overlooked for top-tier positions. 

Still, in 2022, the pay gap between men and women is still significantly spaced out, with men out-earning women by 18 percent. 

History has proven that women are worth more than that.

Washam wants to encourage women to achieve their goals, no matter how difficult the situation.

“Every day I wake up with breath in my body is an opportunity to do something to change the world. If you believe in your dreams, you can definitely achieve them. That alone inspires me daily to be the change I want to see,” Washam said.

Women are strong, fearless and dynamic. Part of the American ideology is to give everyone equal opportunities within life. 

This should be honored for everyone, male, female, or however one identifies. While Women’s History Month may be ending at the end of March, the fight for women’s rights will not cease.