March, being annually heralded as Women’s History Month, usually focuses on a few profiles of historical women from the masses who have been courageous, brilliant, audacious, talented, innovative, daring, plucky, passionate, and formidable throughout decades and centuries. I applaud each and every account! Reclaiming women in history is essential: to serve as inspiration and role models for girls and women; to continue to inch toward balance in the preserved records of human accomplishment; and to reaffirm that girls and women have always made an enormous difference and contribution to our world.
These historic and historical tributes help shape us all. This photo is of Sojourner Truth (Isabella Baumfree). Sojourner Truth encapsulates strength and feminism to me. As a young girl, I received a book profiling a few women pioneers. The biographies and accomplishments of these women such as Sojourner Truth just rocked my young world. I never forgot the book, because I never forgot the women. Here are two heroines that I learned about then and still esteem.
(Araminta) Harriet Tubman was an astonishing woman. I still revere all these things about her:
Who she was—really, the literal Great Emancipator starting with herself, and later rescuing over 400 slaves;
What she stood for—dignity, freedom, feminism, spiritual practice and the unswerving belief that she could accomplish what she set out to do;
How jaw-droppingly brave she was—enduring slavery and the effects of being brutally injured, becoming the Moses of the Underground Railroad leading slaves to the promised land of freedom, and serving as a reconnaissance expert in the Union Army, to mention just a few examples.
Harriet Tubman never ceased to better her life and the lives of those around her despite being in the midst of hardship, hatred, and poverty. She is the epitome of a heroine for me. For further information, see Kate Larson’s work here.
Dorothea Dix was an older contemporary of Harriet’s. She grew up as a poverty-stricken Northerner with an alcoholic and abusive father; Dorothea was able to live with her grandparents as a refuge from the violence. Her childhood experiences made her particularly sensitized to other abused and neglected people, or throw-aways. She began trying to make a difference by teaching poor, neglected children in her home. Later in life, she became aware of the conditions that mentally ill and disabled people were kept in at state institutions. She became a passionate activist on their behalf in the United States and in the British Isles, which at the time, was an extremely unpopular stance to take. Eventually, through her tireless work, conditions and care were improved along the Eastern and Southern US.
The United States still struggles with caring for our homeless and our mentally ill, as well as our poverty-stricken children and single mothers. While slavery has been outlawed for over 150 years, human trafficking –primarily of girls and women– is an enormous problem. Harriet Tubman is not the last amazing woman that rescues these oppressed or pushes us to stop the practice of slavery. Dorothea Dix is not the last dedicated woman working for compassionate care and reinstatement of dignity for any person treated as a “throw-away.” No. Women continue to lead the way, continue to just get in there, do the hard work, do the right thing. I’m so grateful to all the heroines past and present.