Article and graphic by Rubi Melo
March is women’s history month! This month is a time to acknowledge the history of the United States, and the women who began the never ending process of bettering the country.
During women’s history month we often hear about strides by women such as Amelia Earheart, Eleanor Roosevelt, Harriet Tubman and Susan B. Anthony. There have been many other, less well known women, who have done great things for our country; women like Alice Ball, Sojourner Truth and Ella Baker.
Alice Ball, born in 1892, was the first African American woman to graduate from the College of Hawaii with a master’s degree in chemistry. She also developed the first successful treatment for people who suffered from leprosy. Sadly, she only lived to be 24 years old and was not given credit for the discovery in her lifetime. Her treatment, later called the “Ball Method”, was used on thousands of people for thirty years. Today, there is a bronze plaque on the campus of the University of Hawaii in honor of Alice Ball and her accomplishments.
Sojourner Truth was born into slavery in the 17th century and escaped in 1826. She was an abolitionist and an advocate for women’s rights. In 1844, Sojourner Truth’s activism began when she joined the Northampton Association of Education and Industry, founded by abolitionists. In 1850, she spoke at the National Woman’s Rights Convention in Worcester, Massachusetts. She became acquainted with other activists like Frederick Douglas and William Lloyd Garrison, who had similar motives as herself. Sojourner Truth is most famous for the speech she delivered at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention in 1851, called “Ain’t I A Woman?”. In her powerful speech about gender and racial inequality, she says, “if my cup won’t hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn’t you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?”
Ella Josephine Baker was a very influential figure in the civil rights movement. She was involved with some of the most influential organizations of her time. The NAACP, Martin Luther King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. She grew up in North Carolina in 1903 and was often told stories by her grandmother about her life in slavery. She was inspired by her grandmother’s resilience and was motivated to play a part in effecting social justice. She once said, “this may be a dream of mine but I think it can be made real.” Baker also co-founded the organization In Friendship in which she collaborated with other activists to raise funds for and support the work of Martin Luther King Jr.
This women’s history month we can all look back at history to learn from the women who created positive change and discover how we can continue to create change in the present.