Five women to know for Women's History Month

It kind of says it all that women’s contributions
are relegated to a single month of recognition,
but let’s not go there. Instead, let’s celebrate
the fact that March is indeed Women’s History
Month, and acknowledge five women who may
not have made it into history books, but whose
work paved the way not just for women’s right,
but for the rights of people everywhere.
1. Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (1651-1695)
Some people today take their educations for
granted, but Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz had to
fight for hers. Born to unwed parents in
Mexico when it was still a Spanish territory,
she become a nun and spent her life cloistered
because it was the only way she’d be allowed
to pursue her studies. She’s bestknown for
writing Respuesta a Sor Filotea, which
defended a woman’s right to an education,
and is considered to be an early feminist
manifesto.
2. Charlotte Hawkins Brown (1883–1961)
Denise Sturdivant gets an up-close look at
North Carolina’s copy of the 13th
Amendment in Sedalia, N.C.. This viewing
was held at the Charlotte Hawkins Brown
Museum at the historic Palmer Memorial
Institute inside Kimball Hall. (Sam
Roberts, Burlington Times-News, AP)
Charlotte Hawkins Brown was born next door
to a plantation in Henderson, N.C., but moved
to Cambridge, Mass., as a young girl. Her
mother made sure that Brown received a good
education, and a chance encounter with Alice
Freeman Palmer, president of Wellesley
College, resulted in her having an influential
mentor. Brown eventually returned to North
Carolina to open the innovative Palmer
Memorial Institute, a prep school for African-
American children. More than 1,000 students
graduated from the Institute in Brown’s 50-
year presidency. She also spoke out against
Jim Crow laws.
3. Victoria Woodhull (1838–1927)
We don’t want to suggest you don’t need to be
in college, but Victoria Woodhull had very little
schooling (she barely attended elementary
school much less high school) and still
managed to influence the worlds of politics,
finance and more. A renowned women’s libber,
she was the first woman to address a
congressional committee, the first female
candidate for president of the United States,
and one of the first women, along with her
sisters, working as Wall Street brokers.
4. Nellie Bly (1864–1922)
Nellie Bly, born Elizabeth Jane Cochran was a
bold and fearless investigative journalist who
was among the first to go “under cover” to
report her stories. Among other things she
exposed corrupt lobbyists and the inhuman
ways that women prisoners were being
treated. She first made her name
by investigating Blackwell Island, a mental
asylum outside of New York City where
patients suffered horrific abuse. She posed as
man suffering from mental illness to gain
access for 10 days. And in a time when few
traveled outside of the states, she went
around the world in 72 days.
5. Nanye-hi or Nancy Ward (1738-1822)
Nanye-hi was born into a powerful Cherokee
Wolf clan in what is now Tennessee. Despite a
childhood filled with violent encounters with
both Europeans and other tribes, including
battles she joined alongside her husband —
even rallying her tribe to victory after he was
shot and killed — Nanye-hi believed all people
should live together in peace. At a young age
she was given the name Ghighau, or Beloved
Woman, by the Cherokees, and went on to
have a powerful and influential position in
treaty talks. She advocated for peace until her
death.