Honoring Great Work By Women for Society
Happy Women’s Day! March 8th is International Women’s Day? It’s a great opportunity to celebrate women’s contributions to the world. You may be thinking, why is International Women’s Day needed today? Yes. The answer is yes. Women are still fighting to gain position, recognition and respect in today’s world.
As the mother of a little girl, it’s important to me. I think about the world she lives in. I can’t help but reflect on the history and hardship women have endured thus far. Progress has been made, but there is still a long way to go.
Women have only been able to own property in the U.S. since the mid 19th century. Also, women won the right to vote just a little over 100 years ago. It should be noted, that although women had the vote, they often voted in line with the views of the male heads of their family and not necessarily what in keeping with their own views.
So, let’s take a look back from where we were as we move forward into the future.
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What is International Women’s Day
International Women’s Day is an annual day of reflection and action in the name of gender equality and women’s rights. It’s an opportunity to celebrate the “social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.”
Taking place on March 8th, it’s a time for attention to focus on ways to even the playing field between genders. It provides an opportunity for action, discussion, advocacy and support for women.
Regarding gender equality, the issue spoken of most often is the lack of equal pay for equal work. While an improvement, women still earn $.82.3 cents on the dollar in comparison to men. Their achievements have been ignored. Instead, men received credit for women’s work. Today, it may be noted in historic records, but in many cases, attribution remains elusive.
Did you know that women account for over half of doctoral degrees earned and only 10% of patents?
The Matilda Effect
It’s sad when something happens with such regularity that it requires a name. Such is the case with The Matilda Effect. So named in 1993 by American Historian of Science, Margaret W. Rossiter to explain the practice of men receiving recognition for achievements made by female scientists.
What is sad and galling is that this phenomenon was first described in a 1870 tract by Matilda Joslyn Gage, a suffragist and abolitionist. Subsequently it was noted in the North American Review, in 1883! That is over 150 years ago!
Please don’t assume that such disregard for the contribution of women is only a mere 150 years old. No! As outrageous as that would be, the fact is that Rossiter discovered an instance in the 12th century when books written by a female, Italian physician (Trota of Salerno) were credited to male authors following her death.
I’d like to introduce you to a few examples that fall under this umbrella. Following that, I will share further evidence that oversights of this nature exist beyond the scientific world.
Were you aware of that a number of significant, scientific advances discovered by women laid the foundation for much of what we understand of the world today?
Rosalind Franklin – DNA Double Helix
Rosalind Franklin, a chemist and X-ray crystallographer, refined the method by which DNA was viewed under X-ray. While working with her student, Raymond Gosling, she discovered that there were two forms of DNA. After reviewing a photograph (photograph 51) taken by her student, Rosalind Franklin determined that there was a wet (A) and crystalline (B) form of DNA, further defining its structure.
Unfortunately, without her permission, her colleague, Maurice Wilkins, showed the photograph to James Watson & Francis Crick. They, in turn, used it to create their DNA model which resulted in their win of the Nobel Prize in 1962. Aside from a somewhat brief comment by Watson years later, they did not credit Rosalind Franklin with her discovery and contribution to their success.
Dr. Chien-Shiung Wu – Law of Parity
During World War II, Dr. Chien-Shiung Wu was Chinese-American experimental physicist. She was part of the now infamous, Manhattan Project for the development of the atomic bomb and is widely known as the “First Lady of Physics.”
Two of her colleagues, theoretical physicists Tsung Dao Lee and Chen Ning Yang asked Dr. Wu to conduct an experiment for them. The “Wu Experiment” proved that identical nuclear particles do not always act the same way during beta decay. In essence, she proved Tsung Dao Lee and Chen Ning Yang’s theory that resulted in their Nobel Prize in Physics win in 1957.
While they received accolades, Dr. Chien-Shiung Wu was excluded from recognition.
Candace Pert – Opiate Receptor
As a doctoral student at John’s Hopkins University in 1974, Candace Pert discovered the brain’s opiate receptor. In the world of neuroscience, this was an amazing discovery. So much so, that a reward was given… to her professor. Yes, Dr. Solomon Snyder was credited with this critical find.
Advocating for herself, Candace wrote a letter of protest to the awards committee for this oversight. In response, Dr. Snyder said, “that’s how the game’s played.” Despite that incident, she went on to make great, lasting, strides in the field of neuroscience.
Where would we be without technology? If not for the technological strides made by these women, I would be unable to have a digital business.
Ada Loveless – Computer Algorithm
Accomplished women come from all walks of life. Take, for instance, Ada Loveless. She was a Countess, writer and mathematician, who also happened to be the daughter of poet Lord Byron.
She worked with noted computer scientist Charles Babbage on his ‘Analytic Engine’. The Engine was never built and tested. However, the belief is that she was the first to recognize that the Analytic Engine could compute complex mathematical problems. The earliest records of a computer program come from the notes she took.
Controversy exists among historians regarding the validity of her contribution to the advancement of computers; the credit lies with Babbage.
Hedy Lamarr – Wireless Communications
Do you use Bluetooth? How about Wi-Fi? The possibility of that technology can be credited to the work done by Hedy Lamarr. Not only was she a noted actress, she was also very bright. In her spare time, she liked to dabble in different projects and inventions.
During WWII, upon learning that radio-controlled torpedoes could easily be jammed and thrown off-course, she worked with George Antheil to create a frequency-hopping signal. Through their work, they determined a way to have radio frequencies change in a split-second, making them harder to track or jam.
They patented the idea in 1942. Unfortunately, despite showing no interest, the United States Navy classified the patent and began incorporating the technology into a number of weapons systems by the 60s. The work she did for the war effort would later become the basis for the wireless communications we enjoy today.
Arts & Culture
Margaret Keane – Artist of ‘Big Eyes’
Women can’t catch a break in the arts either. Margaret Keane was an artist whose gained recognition in the 1960s. The images were of children, animals and women with large, bright, yet sad, eyes.
Her husband, Walter Keane, began selling her paintings. However, without her permission, he claimed them as his own. Under duress, she initially gave him credit as well. She continued to paint while he enjoyed the spotlight.
Following their divorce, Margaret publicly claimed ownership of her art. After denial by her now ex-husband and an article in USA Today, she sued. In a surprising move, the judge ordered a “paint-off” to determine the true artist. She participated, he didn’t. She won and finally received acknowledgement for her art.
Elizabeth Magie – Monopoly
In 1903, Elizabeth Magie made a statement against land barons like Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller. Her weapon of choice? She created “Landlord’s Game.”
“We are not machines…Girls have minds, desires, hopes and ambition.”~ Elizabeth Magie
She created the game as an expression of her political beliefs. She patented the game in 1904. It included 2 sets of rules, one that provided wealth for all in a non-monopolist society, and one that created adversity through mononpolistic play. The monopoly rules gained popularity.
It wasn’t until 30 years later that Charles Durrow made some updates to the game we know today. While Charles Durrow made millions, Elizabeth Magie only made $500.00 for her game.
Caresse Crosby (a.k.a. Polly Jacob) – The Modern Bra
We owe the bra to 19-year-old debutante, Caresse Crosby. As a solution to the tight, restrictive discomfort caused by the corset, Caresse told her maid to, “Bring me two of my pocket handkerchiefs and some pink ribbon… And bring the needle and thread and some pins.” In a matter of minutes, she made a bra.
Her freedom of movement did not go unnoticed by the other ladies attending the ball. She filed for and received a patent for the ‘Backless Brassiere” in 1914. Her husband was not in support of her maintaining a business, so in the early 1920s she sold the patent to The Warner Brothers Corset Company in Bridgeport Connecticut for $1,500.00. They excluded her name from their history. Over the next thirty years, Warner ended up making $15 million on the patent.
Marion Donovan – Inventor of Disposable Diapers
Moms, this one’s for you! For Marion Donovan, it all started with a shower curtain. She tired of leaky, soiled diapers dirtying clothes and sheets. In an effort to stop leaks, she cut up a shower curtain to cover the diaper, that soon led to the use of parachute material and an absorbent insert with snaps in lieu of safety pin fasteners.
Because of sexism, manufacturers had no interest and found the product unnecessary, so she took it to market herself. She received credit for the invention and a patent in 1951. Later improvements led to the modern-day disposable diaper. Her idea was later used by Victor Mills Pampers to start the Pampers company, without credit or acknowledgement of her contributions.
Margaret Knight – Square Bottomed Paper Bag
Imagine the number of times you’ve packed a paper bag. What if you were unable to have it stand upright to hold everything? That’s how it used to be until Margaret Knight came along. Margaret was a factory worker making paper bags.
She realized that a square-bottomed bag would be more functional and set out to create a machine to create them for mass production.
She applied for the patent. However, man named Charles Annan stole her idea and got his own patent. In a rare feat of courage and confidence for the time, Margaret Knight fought for herself by taking Charles Annan to court.
In the end, Margaret won the court battle and received her patent in 1871, but not before Charles proclaimed, “no woman could invent such an innovative machine,” as part of his defense.
How to Celebrate International Women’s Day
Above all, it’s about the acknowledgement, respect and celebration of women. Take a moment to honor the women in your life. What have they done to improve your life? How have they contributed to your community? Say, “thank you.” Or, “I appreciate everything you do.”
Women’s Day is not just for women. Men, are welcome too. If you partner with a women on a professional project, don’t forget to give credit. This is especially important in male dominated professions where women may be overlooked.
Watch a woman’s sport. I enjoy sports of all kinds, but definitely like watching the Women’s Soccer (Football) team more than the men’s. If you haven’t watched them play, you definitely want to check it out.
Get together with your girlfriends and have a party! Ladies, work in solidarity. Be a source of inspiration and support for each other.
And, ladies, use your voice! It’s important for you to know your value. Don’t allow anyone to diminish or dismiss you. Advocate for yourself! It’s up to you to teach people how you want to be treated.
To learn more about how women have impacted history, visit International Women’s Day and The National Women’s Museum.
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Regrettably, the information shared here is just the tip of the iceberg. Women were always there. Even without power or a voice, women led from obscurity. They quietly shaped the infrastructure of the world.
Strong and resilient, time will tell where next a woman will leave her mark. There is an effort through STEM initiatives, to encourage more girls to gain education and careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Historically, overlooked, women are proudly making their place known today.
We continue to blaze trails in business, politics, arts and science. Are you ready? Because, here we come! Happy Women’s Day!
How do you plan on celebrating International Women’s Day? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
26 thoughts on “Happy Women’s Day”
I have always known the disadvantages of being a woman in society but it is disheartening to read of all the contributions from women in which they were not properly credited for. I am also ashamed to admit that I was not aware of all of these contributions! Women are truly magical, resilient creatures. You bring a very good point about raising a daughter in this world. This is something I would like to be mindful of as well, as my little one gets older.
I’m not sure how I will be celebrating International Women’s Day but I am pretty sure it will involve my husband waiting on me hand and foot like the queen that I am lol. Thank you so much for sharing!
Yes, Angie! I am in full support of your plan for celebrating Women’s Day! That is as it should be. A mom, raising a little woman should be pampered. It’s hard work, that’s for sure! And, yes you’re right. There’s just so much out there that women have lost simply because of the fear of others and misogyny. I wish so much more for the next generation. I think if we do our part and raise our girls to stand up for themselves, that is an important first step!
Way cool Cassie. Posts like these inspire women to continue to rise, even beyond ridiculous mindsets of society, fueled by the patriarchy. My wife is an incredibly strong-minded, independent woman. She works with people, and for people as a generous servant, but like me, mixes her helpfulness with being a real trail blazer. Definitely an empowered soul who gets after it daily. All of my women friends, from bloggers, to friends offline, exhibit the same empowered, focused mindset, obliterating their victim mentality and freeing many women who gain inspiration from their example.
Thanks, Ryan! I love that your wife is out there doing such great work with people. More and more, people are retreating rather than reaching out. I love a trail blazer! I hope to be an example of that for my daughter and want her to conquer the world! I can tell by how you speak about her that you not only love her but have a great amount of respect for the person she is. If we can have more of that in the world, we would be in a much better place.
This is such an inspirational post! I will be celebrating by sharing info on Hawaiian Women that have made a name for themselves! All Women deserve to be seen and I hope to share something new with everyone.
P.S. You are a remarkable woman with an amazing blog!
I love that Lisamarie! I love Hawaii and the culture is so beautiful. I was last there in 2015 and my little one wants to go so we’ll head there in the next couple of years when finances allow. I can’t wait to read your piece. I’m always open to learning something new, especially about outstanding women. And, I would be remiss not to mention how inspiring you are. You have such an open and supportive heart and hustle like I’ve never seen. It pushes me forward to see what more I can do to realize my dreams, so thank you!
Wow Cassie. Loved the post. I didn’t know much about these cases described by you. Thanks for bringing them up. We must encourage and recognize the work done by women in all spheres of life.
Let’s celebrate Women’s Day by giving them their due and much more.
Yes, we definitely need to do that, Rupali. Not only the women that came before us, but our own accomplishments as well. If we don’t stand up for ourselves now, we will end up as a footnote in some history book in the future. We owe it to the women in the past, ourselves today and the young ones for the future.
Amazing post! Thank you for sharing these wonderful women and their inventions with us. I really want to celebrate Women’s Day and just, Women in general, more this year! So many deserve so much more credit
Thank you. I agree with you. Women do so much and get little recognition and accolades. That needs to change. I think if we were more comfortable with unashamedly tooting our own horns, then there would be no choice but to pay attention. I am going to work on honoring myself and celebrating my accomplishments. I hope that you’ll do the same.
Beautiful post Cassie! I’ve learned so much from this post and these incredible and inspirational women deserve credit. Women continue to pave the way through an unfair society and although voices are being heard, there’s still much work to be done. Thank you for sharing!
Thank you! Yes, I agree. I can’t imagine doing something as amazing as they have and being silenced or having your idea just stolen and credited to someone else! We need to do so much better than we are. I want my girl to know her voice and have no fear in expressing herself.
Oh wow, I loved reading this post! Honestly it’s disheartening to read of so many women that invented plenty of things and never got recognised, but I am so glad to have read and learned about them! I hope to celebrate this year reading more and learning more about them x
It makes me sad to think that all of their hard work was credited to other people. For most of those women, they were in a time when speaking up was not polite. I hope that women work on being far less polite now and take ownership for all of their contributions. Just think of how much further society could be if we empowered everyone! So, please, when you do something great, speak up!!
I was not aware of many of tgese women and their accomplishments. I am glad I had the chance to learn about them through your post. Unfortunately, there are still places and professions where women are not yet appreciated as much as they should. Thank you for this wonderful post!
Thank you for reading. You’re so right about the places where women continue to be limited and diminished. I’m hoping that we are now at a time when women feel more empowered and encouraged to advocate for themselves. There are still so many areas for women to make a mark and I’m excited to be here to see it.
Happy International Women’s Day! Thank you for writing this post because women are underestimated and undercredited for their successes.
Thank you! Happy International Women’s Day to you too! I truly feel the power of women in my life. I am blessed to know women that are smart, kind and powerful and not afraid to speak up. I hope that I can instill that same courage and confidence in my own child one day.
Thanks you for reading and commenting.
What a great article, shedding light on the great history of women!
Thank you! There are so many great posts out right now showcasing women’s accomplishments. I’m happy to live in a time when our voices can be heard. I just need to remember to use mine. Thanks for reading!
what a nice post!
Thank you, I appreciate it.
Wow, I have never realised we as women have invented so much! So many strong ladies, so many of them! I was especially surprised by the Monopoly one, it’s one of my favourite games ever!
I was shocked about Monopoly! The sad thing is that the list I shared is such a small part of things. Women have had their hand in so many of the things that we enjoy today. The only reason to silence women is out of fear and a sense of insecurity. Otherwise, just be proud. I feel like bloggers get it. I love that as a community, we have the mentality that there’s room for everyone to thrive. If only society could get on the same page.
Lovely post Cassie. I myself am a Geoscientiat and its still a hard time for women in Science in a country like India. I loved reading about all the accomplished women in your post.
I also recently got to know about the suffrage movement while writing about a post on Women’s Day.
Thank you, Ginia! Wow, a Geoscientist! You’re certainly in a position to be a pioneer for yourself and all women. I can imagine the pressures you might feel as a woman in your country, but I applaud you for blazing your own trail. Can you imagine being a woman during the suffrage movement. I am awed by the courage and drive those women had and will forever be indebted to them for my own life.
Thank you for reading and taking the time for your thoughtful comment.