KEENE FAMILY YMCA

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Stylized text "Celebrate HERStory" with illustration picturing the profiles of 5 multi-racial women

5 Women who changed our world

Since 1987, March has been designated Women’s History Month in the United States. It is a time for us to reflect on the significant contributions of women throughout our history. Contributions that have often been overlooked or overshadowed by those of men.

There are far too many remarkable women in the world to mention here, all of whom deserve to be recognized and celebrated. The women we are celebrating here have been chosen for their exceptional accomplishments, daring deeds, and painstaking dedication to bringing about change so that women of the future could reap the benefits of their bold sacrifices.

Some of these brave women have ties to our local community, while others have earned national recognition for their ground-breaking work. In recognition of the 2022 Women’s History Month theme of “Women Providing Healing, Promoting Hope,” declared annually by the National Women’s History Month Alliance, all of them are change-makers and caregivers.

Join us as we celebrate these 5 incredible women who changed our world.

Black and white photo of Susan B. Anthony

Susan Brownell Anthony

Born: 1820
Died: 1906

Born in Adams, Massachusetts to Quaker parents, Susan B. Anthony was a true champion of the women’s suffrage movement. She realized early on, after experiencing first-hand discrimination based on her gender that no one would take women in politics seriously if they did not have the right to vote. She also realized that women would be fighting the same battles over and over again if they didn’t have a say in who was granted the power to establish laws in their country.

In 1851 Anthony met Elizabeth Cady Stanton at an anti-slavery conference. They went on to form a lifelong partnership campaigning for women’s rights.

Anthony was a magnificent speaker and for years she traveled the country, giving upwards of 70-100 public speeches each year in support of women’s suffrage, sometimes braving hostile crowds as she continued to speak out against inequality and to demand that women be granted the right to vote, the right to own property, and the right to hold custody of their own children.

In 1872 Anthony broke the law by casting her vote in the Presidential election. In 1873 she was found guilty and fined $100, which she never paid.

Throughout her life, Susan B. Anthony fought for racial and gender equality. It wasn’t until 14 years after her death that the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America, also known as the Susan B. Anthony Amendment, was passed, granting women the right to vote.

References & Further Reading:

Historic New York Suffragists (ny.gov)

Susan B. Anthony – Women’s Rights National Historical Park (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov)

Susan B. Anthony – Quotes, Facts & Women’s Rights – Biography

Kamala Harris Headshot

Kamala Harris

Born: 1964

In 2021, Kamala Harris became the first woman, the first African American, the first Indian-American, and the first person of Asian-American decent to be elected to the office of Vice President of the United States of America.

Vice President Harris is the daughter of immigrants. Her father was born in Jamaica and her mother was born in India. They divorced when Harris was 7 years old, and she and her sister were raised by their mother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, a Civil Rights activist and world-renowned scientist whose breast cancer research was groundbreaking.

Growing up in Oakland, California, Harris accompanied her mother to many marches and protests, solidifying her commitment to fighting injustice. Her mother knew that people in this country would always see Kamala and her sister Maya as Black girls, so she raised them both to be strong, proud Black women, making sure they remained connected to both their Indian and African American roots.

Harris attended Howard University in Washington, D.C., and earned her law degree from the University of California Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco. She began her career in the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office and in 2003 was elected District Attorney of the City and County of San Francisco. In 2010 she was elected Attorney General of California, the first African American and first woman to hold the office. Then in 2016 she was elected as Senator for the State of California.

Vice President Harris credits her mother for her success, recognizing that she, and generations of women before her have paved the way for her remarkable accomplishments.

References & Further Reading:

Kamala Harris Biography (womenshistory.org)

Kamala Harris: The Vice President (whitehouse.gov)

Who Was Kamala Harris’s Mother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris? – Facts About Kamala’s Mom (townandcountrymag.com)

Deb Haaland Headshot

Debra Anne Haaland

Born: 1960

Secretary Deb Haaland made history when she became the first Native American to serve as a cabinet secretary. She is a member of the Pueblo of Laguna, a 35th generation New Mexican, and the 54th United States Secretary of the Interior. 

Growing up in a military family, her father was a decorated combat Marine, and her mother a Navy veteran who also served as a federal employee for 25 years at the Bureau of Indian Affairs. As is common in military families, Haaland attended no less than 13 public schools before graduating from Highland High School in Albuquerque.  

Through hard work and determination, Haaland put herself through college, earning her Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of New Mexico in 1994. In 2006, she earned her Juris Doctor in Indian Law from the University of New Mexico School of Law.

As a single mother, Haaland started a salsa company to help support herself and her child. She was able to afford to send her child to pre-school only by volunteering there. Times were tough, and she struggled to make ends meet, relaying on food stamps at times and living paycheck-to-paycheck.

Rising above these hardships, eventually Haaland served as a tribal administrator at San Felipe Pueblo, and became the first woman elected to the Laguna Development Corporation Board of Directors, overseeing the business operations of the second largest tribal gaming enterprise in New Mexico. As chairwoman, she successfully advocated for the corporation to create policies and commitments to earth-friendly business practices, something she has continued to champion throughout her political career.

Secretary Haaland became the first Native American woman to be elected to lead a State Party in 2015, when she was elected as chair for the Democratic Party of New Mexico. She is one of the first Native American women to serve in Congress, where she focused on environmental justice, climate change, missing and murdered indigenous women, and family-friendly policies.  

Throughout her career in public service, Secretary Haaland has broken barriers and opened the doors of opportunity for future generations.  

References & Further Reading:

Secretary Deb Haaland | U.S. Department of the Interior (doi.gov)

Deb Haaland – Wikipedia

Suzanne McCormick Headshot

Suzanne McCormick

Suzanne McCormick is the 15th person, and the first woman, to lead YMCA of the USA (Y-USA), the national resource office for the Y, a leading nonprofit committed to strengthening community through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility.

McCormick became President and CEO of Y-USA in September 2021. She brought with her more than 27 years of experience working as an executive leader in the nonprofit sector, most recently serving as the U.S. President of United Way Worldwide.  As a member of the organization’s global management team, she helped the national organization build more resilient, inclusive and sustainable communities. 

McCormick was born in Iowa and moved with her family to Wilmington, NC when she was in third grade. During her senior year, a race riot took place at her high school as a result of a “terrible racial slur” appearing in a photo that was published in their yearbook. As the yearbook’s editor, she felt an enormous sense of responsibility for the incident which ignited in her a “passion for social justice.”

After graduating from Duke University, she joined the Peace Corps and spent two years as a volunteer teaching English in Thailand. They were transformative years, living in another country as a minority taught her humility, and gave her an appreciation for those who daily feel that they are different from those around them. She returned to the United States with a renewed commitment to service, and made the decision to dedicate her career to helping people in her home country.

She continues to make a positive impact through her work with the YMCA.

References & Further Reading:

Suzanne McCormick: How she fell in love with the idea of service (”1on1 with Jon Evans” podcast) (wect.com)

Suzanne McCormick | YMCA of the USA

Photo of Jennie B. Powers standing with a horse in hand

Jennie B. (Carter) Powers

Born: 1864
Died: 1936

Known throughout the country as “The Woman Who Dares,” Jennie B. Powers was an animal rights activist and Deputy Sherriff in New Hampshire, a role only one woman held before her. She was a humane society agent in Cheshire County, NH and Windham County, VT, known for her bold approach, sometimes marching right into logging camps, mill yards, farms, etc. to address suspected animal cruelty.

Powers was also a staunch advocate for women’s and children’s rights, taking a stand against domestic violence. In fact, upholding animal cruelty laws often led agents to confront spousal or child abuse in the home as well.

Powers used her camera to photograph instances of animal cruelty, family violence and poverty throughout the Monadnock Region, and her powers as Deputy Sherriff to address them.

In 1967, the Cheshire County Humane Society (now knows as the Monadnock Humane Society) opened the Jennie B. Powers Memorial Shelter in Swanzey, NH.  

The Historical Society of Cheshire County is hosting a film premiere of “Jennie B. Powers: The Woman Who Dares” on March 13th at 4pm at the Colonial Theatre’s Showroom. Click here to learn more.

References & Further Reading:

Jennie B. (Carter) Powers – Historical Society of Cheshire County (hsccnh.org)

Jennie B. Powers honored with DAR Women in American History Award | Community News | sentinelsource.com

Our History – Monadnock Humane Society

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