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March is Women’s History Month. Throughout the month we’ll be profiling D.C. based women you should know. Amy Morse, the founder of Ideas Club, is overseeing the project. We’ll let her introduce the project.

What women inspire you?

Wangari Maathai and Mary McLeod Bethune. These women both cultivated the wealth of talent in their communities to advance meaningful environmental and social change, respectively. Wangari led women in Kenya to combat deforestation by planting trees and inspired people all over the world to do the same. I heard her speak in 2006 and I can still remember the sound of her voice, the power of her conviction and the strength of her spirit.  Mary McLeod Bethune, a close friend of Eleanor Roosevelt’s and a member of President Roosevelt’s Black Cabinet, used her home on 16th St in DC (you can visit – an awesome date idea for WHM, IMHO) to convene the leaders in the Civil Rights Movement. She started a school for girls, scoured the national newspaper headlines daily to track the status of Black people in America, and fought tirelessly for change.

Understanding history helps to shape and define who we are. Prior to 1970, it was difficult to learn about women’s history in the US. In dramatic and awesome protest, women in the feminist movement burned their history degrees, pronouncing that after earning PhDs, they had learned nothing about women’s history. The feminist movement enabled new fields of study, expanding the scope of our human lens on history to include the intellectual, literary, artistic, and scientific contributions of women in education curriculums. Today, organizations such as The Representation Project, Because of Them We Can, and See Jane raise awareness about women’s history and also note the lack of progress.

The majority of programming on television and the media is still led by men. It was only three years ago that Congress convened a panel on women’s reproductive health that included no women. The US is among the only wealthy industrialized countries without paid maternity leave, subsidized childcare, or universal early childhood education (where some of the greatest educational inequalities emerge). If women represented 50% of the seats of Congress instead of 20% – would this be different? My guess is yes. I look forward to reading Jay Newton Small’s forthcoming book on the topic.

This project seeks to recognize both women in our community who rock and the women from history who inspire them. These ladies are making history through their leadership and commitment to social change, documentary film making, science, law, spirituality, transportation systems – and for some, raising awesome kids! The series leads off with women who work in activism. I am deeply inspired by them and grateful for their contributions to this project.

As with most notes I write, I must conclude with links to things that have been blowing my mind lately.

  • The Baller ways in which everyday women can use their voice to transform communities: Majora Cater on “Greening the Ghetto”.

  • The greatest book ever? It glows in the dark, it’s about Marie Curie, love and science and available in the DC Public Library. (thank you, thank you wonderful, creative, loving and curious librarians) Radioactive.

  • A song, perhaps my favorite song, entitled, “Song for Jane Goodall” by the wonderful Lori Henriques (who has since become a daily penpal and soul sister) that melts my heart and emboldens my spirit.

Amy Morse, Founder, Ideas Club