Mary Elizabeth Walker, an 1855 graduate of Syracuse Medical College, was among nation’s few female medical doctors at the beginning of the Civil War. She recognized that the Army needed medical personnel and vigorously pursued a US Army commission. Though denied a commission, she volunteered in hospitals in Washington, DC and Virginia. Walker finally secured a contract position with the Ohio 52nd Infantry in 1863. Confederates captured Walker and made her a prisoner of war. Following her release in a prisoner exchange, Walker secured a contract position as an Acting Assistant Surgeon directly with the US Army where she was assigned to supervise female prisoners of war and an orphanage. Walker retired from military service at the war’s conclusion. She was awarded the Medal of Honor in recognition of her extraordinary service to her country. Dr. Walker remains the only woman in history to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Archive for March, 2016
NWHM President & CEO Joan Wages was recently interviewed on the “How Do We Fix It?” podcast. The popular podcast, run by veteran journalists Richard Davies and Jim Meigs, invites innovative thinkers to discuss new research and fresh thinking around current topics. The podcast not only analyzes problems but also offers practical solutions.
Wages spoke about the absence of women in high level positions in Fortune 500 companies and public office and its correlation to a lack of role models in history books. She pointed out that fewer than 20% of the Members of Congress are women. Women’s representation in corporate boardrooms is even lower. Fewer than 5% of CEO’s at Fortune 500 companies are women.
“Role models have a huge impact on the way young girls and women in general think about themselves,” stated Wages. When fewer than 15% of figures in US history textbook are women, it is not surprising that women and girls hesitate to pursue traditionally male career fields.
Wages discussed NWHM’s efforts to incorporate women’s history into the popular historical narrative as well as its goal to build a national museum dedicated to women’s history, the first of its kind in any world capital.
Listen to “The Gender Gap in Our Public Square: Joan Wages: How Do We Fix It?” at http://bit.ly/HowDoWeFixIt
Students from across Northern Virginia gathered on Saturday, March 5, 2016 for the Region 5 Virginia History Competition. Students engaged in a year-long research project on the topic of “Exploration, Encounter, and Exchange in History.” They entered projects in a variety of categories including websites, exhibits, dramatic presentations, documentaries, and papers. The winners will progress to the Virginia State competition to be held in April.
In addition to awards by category and age group, four special awards were given by various organizations. National Women’s History Museum awarded two Certificates of Excellence for projects in women’s history to a middle and high school student. The women’s history category had the most number of entries for any of the special awards categories with 25 projects eligible for consideration.
The winners for Excellence in Women’s History were:
Laura Pavlak of West Springfield High School for her Senior Historical Paper “Gertrude Bell and the Birth of Iraq.”
Lydia Frazier of Mary G. Porter Traditional School for her Junior Individual Documentary “Isadora Duncan.”
Aesha Ash, Ann Veneman and Christine Walevska accepted awards
Washington, DC – March 15, 2016 – The National Women’s History Museum (NWHM) recognized three trailblazing women, whose accomplishments helped to pioneer pathways for other women to serve in similar fields, at its 2016 Women Making History Awards held at the Mayflower Hotel. This year’s honorees included Ann Veneman, the first female secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Christine Walevska, the only living female master musician and Aesha Ash, one of the first black ballerinas for the New York City Ballet and founder of The Swan Dreams Project.
Through their professional and philanthropic efforts, these trailblazing women overcame unique challenges in their individual fields and paved paths for other women to follow.
Secretary Veneman, who was the first woman to serve in six of her leadership posts before being named Secretary of Agriculture, accepted an award for her contributions to public service here in the United States and on the international scene as executive director of UNICEF.
Christine Walevska, an internally acclaimed cellist, was honored for her 30-year plus career in classical music, a field still primarily dominated by men. Walevska gave a mini-concert playing Bach and Ennio Bolognini, a composer who asked that only Walevsa perform his music. Walevska dedicated one of her selections to the National Women’s History Museum and its President, Joan Wages.
Aesha Ash, one of the first black ballerinas to join the New York City Ballet and the only one during her seven-and a half year career with the corps, had an outstanding career here in the United States and internationally before turning her attention to inspiring the next generation of dancers, in particular those of color. So was born The Swan Dreams Project, an effort by Ash to promote positive and alternative images of black women.
“This event is a true tribute to many unsung heroes in our midst,” said Wages, NWHM President and CEO. “The countless achievements and contributions women have made in shaping this nation have been left out of the historical narrative and it’s beyond time to correct the record. We are committed to integrating women’s history into the American mainstream; and ensure that future generations will recognize the tremendous value women bring to society.”
NWHM’s mission is to educate, inspire, empower, and shape the future by integrating women’s distinctive history into the culture and history of the United States. A key element of advancing that mission is tobuild a world-class museum on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
For more information on NWHM or to become a member, please visit www.nwhm.org.
About the National Women’s History Museum
Founded in 1996, the National Women’s History Museum (NWHM, Inc.) is a nonpartisan, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to educating the general public about the diverse historic contributions of women and raising awareness about the critical need for a national women’s history museum in our nation’s capital. Currently located online at www.nwhm.org, the Museum’s goal is to build a world-class, permanent museum on or near the National Mall that will herald and display the collective history of American women. A Congressional Commission has been established that is charged with producing a feasible plan, which would include the governance, fundraising, location and organizational structure of the museum. For additional information visit NWHM.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
For press inquiries or credentials, please contact Melissa Williams at email@example.com or 703-461-1920.
One hundred years ago, in 1916, a newly published book encouraged girls to build electromagnets, study the aerodynamics of flight, and send messages using Morse code. It instructed girls in the mechanics of pitching a tent, building a campfire, and using a compass. In a society that adhered to Victorian beliefs that there were “boy” activities and “girl” activities, emboldening girls to become knowledgeable and proficient in non-traditionally feminine skills was somewhat radical.
What was the title of this revolutionary publication? How Girls Can Help Their Country: A Handbook for Girl Scouts. The author was Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of the Girl Scouts of the USA.
Low was introduced to scouting in Great Britain, becoming close friends with Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts, and his sister Agnes Baden-Powell, who founded a sister organization. The overwhelmingly positive reaction of girl to becoming British Girl Guides encouraged Low’s belief that all girls would benefit from scouting. She formed the first American Girl Scout troop in Savannah in 1912.
The turn of the 20th century saw many changes and challenges old ideas. Women increasingly confronted social conventions that discouraged them from going to college, finding constructive work, or participating in civic life. In a changing world, many parents feared that scouting would encourage girls to become tomboys. Low and the women who helped her to establish troops understood the challenges but also the potential rewards. “If you asked her daughter [why she wants to participate],” Low said talking about the rewards of scouting, “She would probably reply, ‘Because Girl Scouts have real Fun. “But,” she continued, “if I were to analyze the result of Scouting I would tell that mother that the most valuable asset her girl would gain is a sense of Individual Responsibility . . . brought about by Team Work.” Girls who embraced scouting did so precisely because it was a creative program that recognized changing roles.
The 1916 Girl Scout Handbook was the second American edition. It expanded upon the requirements for earning awards and changed the name from merely “proficiency” badges to “merit” badges. While girls earned badges that reflected traditional women’s roles, such as Child Nurse, Invalid Cooking, and Housekeeper, several others required deep exploration of technical and scientific concepts, i.e. “boy” stuff. Girls responded to the opportunity in droves.
Two Savannah, Georgia troops in 1912 with 18 girls had grown to 70,000 members nationwide in 1920. At Girl Scouts’ silver anniversary in 1937, more than 430,000 girls were enrolled. Girl Scouts numbered over 2.8 million scouts and adult leaders in 2014. Today’s girls honor Low’s mission to foster their individual growth, character, and self-sufficiency. NWHM joins with millions of alumni and supporters celebrating National Girl Scout Week.
By Elizabeth L. Maurer
Director of Program
“Juliette Gordon Low – Girl Scouts.” Girl Scouts of the USA. Accessed March 08, 2016. http://www.girlscouts.org/en/about-girl-scouts/our-history/juliette-gordon-low.html.
General Research Division, The New York Public Library. “Twenty-five years of girl scouting, 1912-1937″ New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed March 8, 2016. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/a98caf45-1a0a-088e-e040-e00a18067403
Cordery, Stacy A. 2013. Juliette Gordon Low: the remarkable founder of the Girl Scouts. http://ebook.3m.com/library/BCPL-document_id-q6rwz9.
Low, Juliette Gordon, Agnes Smyth Baden-Powell, and Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell Baden-Powell of Gilwell. 1916. How girls can help their country. [Savannah, Ga.]: [Press of M.S. & D.A. Byck Co.].
Who are the women you think belong in a National Women’s History Museum?
On March 1st, the National Women’s History Museum launched the #HelpUsBuildIt social media campaign. The campaign encourages members, friends, and social media followers to join together to build the Museum. NWHM believes that if everyone pulls together, the American people can build a national women’s history museum—the first of its kind in any nation’s capital—in Washington, DC on the National Mall.
The #HelpUsBuildIt campaign’s social media followers have personalized their messages of support and rallied their friends.
Click www.HelpUsBuildIt.org to learn more or join the conversation and #HelpUsBuildIt @WomensHistory.
I Am Anne Hutchinson/I Am Harvey Milk is a new concept opera Starring Kristin Chenoweth & Andrew Lippa, with The National Philharmonic, Alexandria Harmonizers, & Colin Wheeler, words & music by Andrew Lippa. Part choral work, part theater piece, I Am Anne Hutchinson / I Am Harvey Milk is an emotional, musical celebration of two American icons.
Strathmore is pleased to partner with Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and the National Women’s History Museum, who will benefit from the proceeds of these performances.
“To remain great, our nation must utilize the talents of all of our citizens. To do that, girls must overcome the pervasive gender gaps in our society to become our next CEOs, entrepreneurs, scientists, and senators. They need female role models,” explained Wages.
Mentors guide us on our pathway to achievement, but role models provide the vision to which we aspire. Having both role models and mentors lays a foundation for women to achieve their goals. Wages charged the audience to seek role models in fields where women remain dramatically underrepresented, to promote stories of women, and to aspire to those things that never before seemed possible.
Wages spoke on October 23, 2015 for Ursuline College’s TEDx seminar at the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage.