March is Women’s History Month, which celebrates the remarkable accomplishments of women throughout the world. In honor of this important month, I want to highlight a few notable women who made incredible contributions to our world. Although women have been making history as long as humans have been around, this showcase begins in the 1700s:
We’ve all heard the story of Paul Revere, but legend has it that a young girl, Sybil Ludington, alerted the American troops to the advancing British army. Born in 1761, Sybil Ludington was the daughter of Henry Ludington, a militia officer and aide to George Washington. The recollection written by her great-nephew recounts 16-year-old Sybil’s bravery as she rode more than 40 miles through the night to bear the order for muster.
Sacagawea played an instrumental role in the famous expedition of Lewis and Clark. Without her guidance, there’s no doubt that the explorers’ journey would’ve turned out very differently. Sacagawea was born in 1788 or 1789 in what is now Idaho. Born into the Native American Shoshone tribe, she grew up in the Rocky Mountains near the Salmon River region. After her kidnapping by the Hidatsa tribe, she was sold or traded to a French-Canadian fur trader. One truly amazing part of her story is that she navigated the land with Lewis and Clark while caring for her newborn.
Frances Cabrini was born in Italy in 1850. Her original goal was to become a missionary in China, but immigrated to New York on the advice of Pope Leo XIII. There, she dedicated her life to helping Italian immigrants achieve a better life in America. She is the founder of The Institute of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and was the first U.S. citizen to be canonized. The Mother Cabrini Shrine in Golden, Colorado honors her legacy and her love of Colorado.
Ida B. Wells-Barnett
Ida B. Wells-Barnett was born into slavery in 1862 (during the Civil War). After the war’s conclusion, her parents played an important role in Reconstruction Era politics. After both parents died due to an outbreak of yellow fever, Ida Wells stepped in to raise her younger siblings. She relocated the family to Memphis, Tennessee, where she worked as an educator. Throughout her life, she became a strong activist, investigative journalist, and researcher. She’s known for her outspokenness in confronting white women in the suffrage movement who turned a blind eye to lynching and closed out her long and storied career fighting for urban reform in Chicago.
Nellie Bly is a pen name used by Elizabeth Jane Cochran. Nellie was born in 1864 and became responsible for contributing to her family after her father’s death when she was six years old. She became a strong women’s rights activist after discovering very few opportunities for work in comparison to her less-educated brothers. She began her career in journalism as a reporter at The Dispatch, but quit and relocated to New York City to write more serious pieces. After running into numerous dead ends, she was challenged by the editor, Joseph Pulitzer, to write an expose on the mental asylum Blackwell’s Island. After rising to the challenge and completing a six-part series on her experience, Nellie Bly earned a spot as one of the most celebrated journalists in history.
Women’s History Month provides a great opportunity to look back on the past and appreciate the incredible accomplishments that women from all walks of life have contributed. Although there are countless stories to be told, the ladies mentioned here are some of my favorite heroines from the 1700s and 1800s.