Bee News Guest Column - Achievements of women should never be forgotten, understated

March 14, 2012
Erie County Executive

March is Women’s History Month and provides a great chance to reflect on and celebrate the many achievements and accomplishments that women have contributed to our society. Their stories, as diverse and colorful as the culture we live in, provide insights into the strength necessary to overcome adversity and the willpower to persevere in the face of entrenched prejudice.

Women who aspired to be journalists, doctors, scientists, teachers or politicians or pursued any number of other professional careers faced obstacles that weren’t present for men, yet continued on in pursuit of their dreams. They believed in themselves, and as abolitionist and author Lydia Marie Child once observed, “Belief in oneself is one of the most important bricks in building any successful venture.” Despite the odds and the dangers, these women set out to change their world.

Indeed, without the contributions of many outstanding and intrepid women, our world would be very different today. Forging ahead into traditionally male-dominated fields, these women brought fresh energy and new perspectives to our country’s business, education, science and political fields.

Their names, like their contributions, remain undimmed: Mary Kay Ash, Clara Barton, Harriet Tubman, Clare Booth Luce, Maria Montessori, Ida Barnett and their many peers broke new ground in American society. Amelia Earhart, Susan B. Anthony, Annie Oakley, Wilma Rudolph, Billie Jean King and Sally Ride demonstrated that women are every bit as capable as men at succeeding in a “man’s world.”

Their social awareness and willingness to confront difficult issues inspired later generations to speak out against injustice as well; from “Mother” Mary Jones and Elizabeth Cady Stanton to Alice Paul and Eleanor Roosevelt, women have long helped to shape and invigorate discussion about societal problems.

Today, we see evidence of women’s endeavors all around Erie County. For example, America’s first female architect, Louise Blanchard Bethune, lived in Buffalo; she was commissioned $1 million to build her masterpiece, the Lafayette Hotel, in 1904. Mary Burnett Talbert, founder of the Niagara Movement, helped to launch organized civil rights activism in America from her home here in Buffalo. Throughout March, the Buffalo & Erie County Library will be spotlighting Women’s History Month with extensive programming devoted to recognizing women’s achievements. I encourage all residents to visit to review the full calendar of activities, featuring more than 40 performances, workshops, tours and lectures relating to women’s history and contemporary issues.

This year’s theme, “Women’s Education, Women’s Empowerment,” promises to be both educational and inspirational.