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Women's History Month

“Women’s History Month” by Sophia Oster of Lauren Fulk, Mary Germilhac, Gabby Morris, Lauren Agnew, Cassidy Marshall, Denise Liles, Jordyn Damato, Cayla Cataline, Tanya Domina, Charlize Valentine, Charlize Wright, Jazmine Anderson, Marisa Fisher and AJ Malonson / Directed by Jazmine Anderson / Graphic Design by Sophia Oster / Photography Assist : Maddison Hill

By Ashley Chase

Recall the most prominent stories you were taught in history class. What characterizes these stories? How about the stories often referenced in popular culture and media? These stories often revolve around men. Quite literally, “The Men Who Built America” was a prevalent component of history classes. The stories about women tend to be repeated ones of very prominent and powerful women, such as Marie Curie. Although these women are extremely important, we often forget about the stories of everyday women that faced their own struggles in trying to live in a heavily patriarchal society.
Jackie Mitchell was a 17-year-old girl with an exceptional talent for baseball. She was the first female pitcher signed to a professional baseball league, specifically the Chattanooga Lookouts, and the second woman to sign an Organized Baseball Contract (the first was Lizzie Arlington). On April 2, 1931, Jackie pitched in a game against the New York Yankees. In a feat that made history, Jackie struck out both Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, two baseball legends. This caused a uproar as people accused this of being “staged” and a “publicity stunt” (Attia, 2019). After this, Jackie’s contract was voided, and it was another 9 years until the creation of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. People still question whether Jackie actually struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. An article by the Smithsonian Magazine in 2013 about Jackie titled their article “The Woman Who (Maybe) Struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig”. Why “Maybe”? Why was did people immediately claim this was a staged publicity stunt? Is it so difficult to believe that perhaps a woman could beat a man at his own game? People refuse to believe this story because it goes against the typical gender norms of men being better at certain sports than females. At the time, this went against gender norms of women being delicate and weak, making them unable to succeed in sports. The only way for a woman to outperform a man at baseball would be if the whole thing was a staged publicity stunt, because according to gender stereotypes this is the only logical explanation. Perhaps, these accusations were all false. Perhaps, Jackie could have been a legendary baseball player, but we will never know this because society could not handle the simple thought a woman being a better baseball pitcher than a man.
Fannie Lou Hamer was a Black civil rights activist that also fought for Black reproductive rights. Fannie was a victim of the “Mississippi Appendectomy” and even coined this term. The Mississippi Appendectomy refers to the forced sterilization of Black women, usually poor, that were “unfit to reproduce” (Klein, 2024). Some hospital used forced hysterectomies of Black women as “practice for medical residents” (Klein, 2024). Fannie fought against the practice of forced sterilization and raised awareness about this issue. Additionally, Fannie Lou Hamer, Victoria Gray, and Annie Devine were the first Black women to stand in U.S. congress when they unsuccessfully protested the Mississippi House election of 1964. She also helped found helped found National Women’s Political Caucus in 1971 (Michals, 2017).
Milicent Patrick was an extremely skilled makeup artist hired by Universal Pictures as makeup designer for “Creature From the Black Lagoon” in 1954 (Attia, 2019). The monster Milicent created for this film was gained so much fame that Universal wanted a promotional tour for the movie, called The Beauty Who Created the Beast, featuring her as the star designer. Her boss at the Universal monster shop, Bud Westmore, was jealous of her success and fame from her creation. So, he told her that he told her that during the tour she had to tell people that he designed the creature, and she was not allowed to take credit for it. He proceeded to fire her, and his name was featured on the movie’s credits, not hers. This is a story that we hear too often: a man stealing a women’s success, not giving her credit, and her story not coming to light until decades later. Why were so many men unable to accept and credit women for the work they did? This is not a trend that is entirely in the past. In 2010, Simon Cowell attempted to take the credit for the formation of One Direction despite it being Nicole Scherzinger’s idea. Yet, history teaches us time and time again that women’s stories cannot be covered up and erased. The true story comes to the surface eventually. Despite this, women’s stories should never be covered up to begin with.
In 2014, Nadia Murad was kidnapped from her home in Iraq and help captive by ISIS for 3 months (12 women activists and leaders making the world a better place). After she escaped, Nadia became a influential advocate for women in conflict and survivors of sexual violence. She was even awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018 after co-founding the Global Survivors Fund. Nadia began an organization called Nadia’s Initiative, which “works to persuade governments and international organizations to support the sustainable re-development of the Yazidi homeland, as well as survivors of sexual violence globally”. In 2019, she was become a Sustainable Development Goals Advocate for the UN. Nadia’s story shows the resilience of women globally, who are too often the victims of sexual violence during times of conflict.
Licia Fertz is a model and influencer on social media. However, what makes Licia unique is the fact that she is 93 years old. This makes Licia Italy’s oldest body positivity influencer. She has “colorful outfits and a radiant smile” that make people adore her (BBC, 2023). She even modelled nude for the cover of Rolling Stones magazine at the age of 89. Licia is anti-ageism, a feminist activist, an LGBTQ+ activist, and promotes body positivity. Women everywhere can appreciate the age norms that Licia Fertz is breaking for women. Society tries to tell women that they need to dress a certain way as they get older and should try to avoid aging at all costs. Licia helps show us the beauty in aging and how this doesn’t need to affect one’s fashion choices or body confidence.
Paxton Smith is a 19-year-old girl that was the valedictorian at Lake Highlands High School in Dallas, Texas. Instead of giving the typical “graduation speech”, she gave a heartfelt speech about Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s abortion restriction legislation. This legislation banned health care providers from performing abortions if a fetal heartbeat had been detected. The video of her speech when viral on social media. One of the most impactful parts of her speech was when she stated “I am terrified that if my contraceptives fail, I am terrified that if I am raped, then my hopes and aspirations and dreams and efforts for my future will no longer matter…I hope that you can feel how gut-wrenching that is. I hope you can feel how dehumanizing it is, to have the autonomy over your own body taken away from you,” (5 amazing young people fighting for women’s right to control their own bodies). She is now making a collaborative book called A War on My Body about the history of reproductive rights with contributions from other activists. All the proceeds of this book will be donated to Afiya Center, which helps to promote sexual and reproductive health for Black women and girls. Paxton Smith is an incredible role model for young women. Standing in front of your peers and giving this speech in a majority conservative state takes bravery. Reproductive rights is a major issue that women are facing today. Paxton’s speech at graduation shows how truly impactful and heartbreaking the loss of reproductive rights is to women. As she stated, it is “dehumanizing” to steal this right from women. Again, society feels the need to tell women what they can and cannot do with their body, a trend that needs to officially end. Women’s body and reproductive rights are not a political campaign, as stated by Paxton, these rights have the power to prevent women from following their dreams and passion.

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