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Women's History Month is Celebrated in the National Parks


The annual Suffragette March Reenactment at San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park is a living history portrayal of a 1901 march in support of women's voting rights. NPS photo.

Women have struggled for centuries to get the same rights and opportunities as men, and the same recognition and respect for their achievements and contributions to society. Here in America, the early stages of the women’s rights movement were dominated by efforts to gain equal pay and the right to vote (suffrage).

The voting issue was resolved by a Constitutional amendment in 1920 and the pay gap has been narrowed considerably in the modern era.  But even though women have made great strides in these and numerous other areas, many gender-based inequalities remain.  The struggle continues.

The formal celebration of women's history, a significant component of the women's movement, has spread throughout the world. Here in the United States, it has become much more organized during the past three decades.  In 1981 a Joint Resolution of Congress established a Women's History Week, and in 2001 a second Joint Resolution designated Women's History Month as an annual event to be nationally celebrated each March. 

Today, events and activities scheduled during Women's History Month are an important vehicle for celebrating women's progress and honoring women who have made vital contributions to society.

Not surprisingly, the National Park Service celebrates Women's History Month in many national parks, and not just ones that were established to honor women.  Here is a sampling of the women's history exhibits, programs, and special events scheduled in the National Park System during March:

* On March 10, a film entitled The Forgotten Grave: Women Soldiers of the American Civil War was to be shown in the visitor center at Tennessee's Fort Donelson National Battlefield.  The film highlights the many roles that women played during the war, including serving as nurses, spies, cooks, and even soldiers.

* At San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, the fifth annual Suffragette March Reenactment, a vintage 1901 living history event, is scheduled for Saturday, March 12, at noon and 3:00 p.m.

* In partnership with Women's Rights National Historical ParkSteamtown National Historic Site in Scranton, Pennsylvania, will screen the film Dreams of Equality at 1:00 p.m. on March 12 and 19.  This 27-minute documentary chronicles the early years of the women's rights movement and includes contemporary discussions of gender roles.

* In Washington, D.C., Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site and Carter G. Woodson Home National Historic Site, two administrative components of National Capital Parks-East, will recognize Women's History Month through a series of events tailored to the theme Our History is Our Strength.

A film screening and three book signings have been scheduled.  The film The Crowning Experience, a 1960 musical based on the life of black education leader Mary McLeod Bethune, will be shown on March 12 and 26. The first book signing (March 17) will feature Cheryl A. Smith, who will discuss and sign Market Women Black Women Entrepreneurs: Past, Present, and Future, her book about empowering women to embrace business ownership as a career field. The second (March 24) will feature Carla L. Peterson, who will discuss and sign her book Black Gotham: A Family History of African Americans in Nineteenth Century New York City.

The final event (March 31) will feature Tracye Lynn McQuirter, who will discuss and sign By Any Greens Necessary: A Revolutionary Guide for Black Women Who Want to Eat Great, Get Healthy, Lose Weight, and Look Phat.
* At noon on March 15, NPS cultural interpreter Julia Parker will present One Indian Woman's Story in the Yosemite Valley Auditorium at Yosemite National Park.

* At noon on March 28, author Fernando Peñalosa will appear at the same venue to present Making and Documenting Yosemite Women's History: Ranger-naturalist Enid Michael and Historian Shirley Sargent.

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On July 30, 1909 a Mountaineers Club party climbed Mount Rainier from the northeastern side and flew a flag on top bearing the words “Votes for Women.” (The Mountaineers Club was founded in 1906 with a charter membership of 77 women and 74 men.)

I find it facinating that the Fred Harvey Company had two powerful women exectutives: Mary Colter, architect, and Alice Steele, head of personnnel, and neither of these CEOs were allowed to vote until 1920.  They could help run a company, but were not trusted to help choose a representative.

We'd love to hear from more readers who have information and views on women's lesser-publicized contributions to the national parks and the National Park Service.

Ruth Kirk has climbed to the summit of Mount Rainier five times and traversed the peak along the 93-mile-long Wonderland Trail. She has (along with her husband Ranger Louis Kirk) lived in, explored, photographed and written about Death Valley, Yellowstone, Crater Lake, Mount Rainier, and Olympic National Parks.

"People say the Grand Canyon makes you feel humble, feel small. You’re nothing compared to so much nature. But I’ve known that for decades . What I feel is exultation, not humility. All that’s needed amid the rock and the silence is to hear a canyon wren sing, surely a proclamation of more than real estate, or to fill eyes and soul with the unending colors and forms of canyon walls. It’s easy to slip into river life without clocks or parking lots or decisions beyond how far up a side canyon to hike . . ."

IMHO A National Parks Traveler's bookshelf is not complete without a few of Ms Kirk's books.
I'd bet more than a few of you have a copy of, National Parks and the Woman's Voice: A History by Polly Welts Kaufman gathering dust on the shelf, eh? I just dusted mine off, poured a cup of coffee and going offline now, till soon folks...

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