There are so many reasons to celebrate women, and the month of March has been designated to do just that. Not only is March National Women’s History Month, but it is also American Red Cross Month.
I found an interesting correlation between the two because the founder of the American Red Cross is a woman. Her name is Clara Barton, and she has a fascinating story.
WOMEN HAVE served as leaders since the beginning of time. And often what drives them to lead is not fame or glory, but a desire to fill a need, support a cause, heal a hurt, resolve a problem or make a difference in someone’s life. Barton was such a person.
She was a Massachusetts teacher who went to work as a clerk for the government in Washington, D.C. When the Civil War broke out in 1861, she saw a need for battlefield nurses, quit her job and went to serve. She began her work caring for soldiers on April 20, 1861, and became known as the “Angel of the Battlefield.” Obviously she was not afraid of the war and the possibility of getting hurt or even killed. She saw a need, and her heart led her to her destiny. In 1869, she traveled to Europe and learned about the International Red Cross Movement.
She had a determined and passionate spirit that resonated with people, and on May 21, 1881 she established the American Red Cross. Twelve years later, Barton aided close to 30,000 people who were left homeless after a hurricane on the Sea Islands of South Carolina. She served as the first president of the American Red Cross and resigned her membership in 1904. She died at the age of 91 at her home on April 12, 1912.
The first presidential proclamation in celebration of Women’s History Month was in 1980, when President Jimmy Carter designated March 2-8 as National Women’s History Week.
PART OF HIS message was: “From the first settlers who came to our shores, from the first American Indian families who befriended them, men and women have worked together to build this nation. Too often the women were unsung and sometimes their contributions went unnoticed. But the achievements, leadership, courage, strength and love of the women who built America was as vital as that of the men whose names we know so well.”
The 2013 national theme is “Women Inspiring Innovation Through Imagination.” Women all over the world are honoring generations of women who throughout American history have used intelligence, imagination, tenacity and a sense of wonder to make extraordinary contributions in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
In the United States, Women’s History Month began as International Women’s Day in 1911. In 1978, a school district in California participated in Women’s History Week and two elected officials noticed the popularity of the event. U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and U.S. Rep. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., in 1981 cosponsored the first joint
congressional resolution proclaiming Women’s History Week. In 1987, Congress expanded the focus to a whole month.
SOME OF THE previous themes included: “Writing Women Back into History” in 2010, “Our History is Our Strength” in 2011 and “Women’s Education – Women’s Empowerment” last year.
Women today serve in virtually every role that one can think of. They are making a difference in their homes, their jobs, their communities and their world. We celebrate all women, and I encourage you to take the time this month to show your love for the women who are making a difference in your life.
(The writer is a radio talk show host, author, life coach and mental health advocate in Augusta.)