Women’s History Month is a celebration of the contribution of women to history, culture and society. It has been observed annually in the month of March in the United States since 1987. Women’s History Month 2021 will take place from Monday, March 1-Wednesday, March 31, 2021.
The actual celebration of Women’s History Month grew out of a week-long celebration of women’s contributions organized by the Sonoma, California school district in 1978. Presentations were given at dozens of schools, hundreds of students participated in a “Real Woman” essay contest and a parade was held in downtown Santa Rosa.
Since 1871, the National Episcopal Church Women, ECW, have championed women’s rights and the Christian foundation of God and family. They are an affiliate of the Episcopal Church and celebrate what Episcopalians believe in a loving, liberating, and life-giving God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. ECW provides a safe place where every woman is free to become the person Christ created her to be.
Between 1958 and 1985, the role of women in the Church went through numerous and significant changes. As women were accepted into seminaries and ordained, elected to vestries and as deputies to General Convention, and otherwise mainstreamed, the Episcopal Church Women struggled with their position in the Church. Over time, the national structure changed from being a part of the National Church structure to an independent group culminating in the creation of the National Board of the Episcopal Church Women in 1985. This Board, with minor changes, continues to function. ECW provides a forum and training ground for developing leadership both inside the church and influence outside the church for women of all ages, ethnic origins and socioeconomic backgrounds. The Episcopal Church Women have a long history for triumphing local and global issues affecting women and girls. The group’s work encompasses a range of social justice issues.
Here are six “SheHeroes” of the Civil Rights Movement that you may not have heard about before:
Rev. Pauli Murray
Pauli Murray was arrested for sitting the “whites only” section of a bus 15 years before Rosa Park’s famous incident. It inspired her passion for civil rights and drove her to become a lawyer. She became the first African American to receive a doctor of juridical science degree from Yale University. In 1977, Murray became the first black woman to be ordained as a priest within the Episcopal Church.
Rev. Murray’s writings were crucial to issues of gender and race. She created the term “Jane Crow” to refer to the discrimination black women faced. She also wrote States’ Laws on Race and Color, an essential text at the intersection of race and gender studies.
Amelia Boynton Robinson
Amelia Boynton Robinson was a champion for African American voting rights in Selma, Alabama and worked at helping with literacy, voting and property rights. She cofounded the Dallas County Voters League in 1933 and
would hold voting drives in Alabama over the following two decades. In 1964, she ran for a seat in Congress, making her the first black woman to do so for the Democratic party.
She also brought Martin Luther King Jr. to Selma, allowing the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to set up their headquarters at her home. She was one of the 17 protesters hospitalized on Bloody Sunday, when she was beaten unconscious. She continued to be active in the fight for civil and human rights for the duration of her life.
Many of us know the story of Rosa Parks, but what most don’t know is: Before Parks was Claudette Colvin. Colvin was the first black woman to be
arrested for refusing to give up her seat, but the NAACP didn’t recognize her protest. They feared she wasn’t a good face for the movement because of her feisty demeanor and the fact that she became pregnant with a married man’s child.
Claudette Colvin would prove integral to the movement once again when she served as a plaintiff in Browder v. Gayle, the case ruling that Alabama’s bus segregation laws were unconstitutional.
Septima Poinsette Clark
You may not be familiar with Septima Poinsette Clark, but she’s known as the mother of the American civil rights movement. Clark was a teacher advocating with the NAACP to get Charleston, South Carolina, to begin
hiring African American teachers. She also started citizenship schools, which taught literacy to African American adults, so that they could vote and become involved in the political process.
Viola Fauver Liuzzo
Viola Fauver Liuzzo was an American housewife and civil rights activist. In March 1965, Liuzzo heeded the call of Martin Luther King Jr. and traveled from Detroit to Selma in the wake of the Bloody Sunday attempt at marching across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Liuzzo participated in the successful Selma to Montgomery marches. While driving back from a trip shuttling fellow activists to the Montgomery airport, she was fatally hit by shots fired from a pursuing car.