Friday, May 24, 2024

Celebrate Women’s History Month


“Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories.” That’s the theme of this year’s Women’s History Month. And our Leavenworth Library is the place to go to discover many women from our history who have stories to tell. "The library has come to life with faces and stories of women from many cultures and times who have bravely impacted the world for the better,” observed Librarian Amy Massey. She and retired teacher and school board member Judy Derpack, along with Susan Butruille, author, and cofounder of Dangerous Women, combined their resources, knowledge, and enthusiasm for women’s stories to bring to visitors a colorful exhibition. There are books to check out, posters to ponder, craft projects for fun and learning, and a Woman Suffrage curriculum on display. A set of posters from the Smithsonian Institution tells the story of the 72-year-long campaign for women’s voting rights in the United States. It was not easy. Women of the National Woman’s Party, headed by Alice Paul, were attacked, and jailed when they picketed the White House demanding President Wilson’s support for suffrage. Even with the suffrage victory in 1920, not all women — and men — could vote. Many Black people and those of Indigenous and Asian dissent had to fight for their voting rights for many more years.

 On display is a suffrage curriculum developed by Judy Derpack, with help from her granddaughters Cora Landgraf and Elliana Thomas, eighth graders in the Home Link program. Cora and Elliana learned that Washington women won the vote permanently in 1910, after winning it — twice — in the 1880s, and having it rescinded. From her study, Cora drew inspiration from the “persistence and bravery” of the suffragists. “They had to go through so much abuse physically and mentally just standing up for themselves and wanting equality,” Cora noted. “It’s a very important time in history,” added Elliana, “and it should be common knowledge of what women had to go through just to be equal.”

In Derpack’s suffrage curriculum is a story from the Leavenworth Echo by the late historian Pat Morris. According to Morris, women, using their hard-won vote, turned out “overwhelmingly” in 1919 to make the difference in passing a $35,000 bond for a new school building in Leavenworth. At a craft table, visitors can make a gold crown representing the one worn by suffragist martyr Inez Milholland as she led the 1913 suffrage parade in Washington, D.C. mounted  boldly astride her white horse. There’s also crepe paper for making yellow roses to represent the flowers adorning the clothes of suffragists in the final days of the suffrage campaign. Paper dolls for coloring depict such heroes as pants-wearing Mary Edwards Walker, the first woman awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for her service as a surgeon during the Civil War. Also to color is America’s first woman in space, Mission Specialist Sally Ride. Until 1982, only military pilots could qualify for the space program, and only men could be military pilots. Sally Ride launched in 1983. Posters tell stories of such barrier-breaking women as Kyung-Wha Chung, celebrated Korea-born concert violinist; Ida Wells, suffragist, and anti-lynching crusader; Hypatia, fourth- and fifth-century science scholar, philosopher, and mathematician whose murder by a mob shook the Roman Empire; and Luisa Moreno, Guatemala-born labor leader and social activist. There is also a poster advertising the next Dangerous Women production May 19-21 at the Snowy Owl.

History of National Women’s History Month:

On March 8, 1908,15,000 women marched in New York City demanding decent wages and working conditions. Their bold action inspired International Women’s Day (IWD), celebrated worldwide since then. In 1980, Sonoma County, California expanded IWD to Women’s History Week, and in 1987, Congress declared March as National Women’s History Month.



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