Women's Hall of Fame Gains New Members, Calls for More Progress
SENECA FALLS, N.Y. — READ high school history texts to get a sketch of many of America's famous women. But take a trip to the National Women's Hall of Fame to find out how much those tomes leave out.
Poster-sized placards in this 26-year-old museum chronicle the lives of abolitionist Sojourner Truth, poet Emily Dickinson, and pilot Amelia Earhart alongside more modern heroines such as writer Zora Neale Hurston and astronaut Sally Ride.
This weekend, 18 more pioneering women joined the Hall of Fame's ranks. And some of the latest inductees used the opportunity to say that women's deeds must be heralded even louder and more often to inspire tomorrow's leaders, thinkers, and artists.
"The voices of women need to be heard," says Ann Bancroft, the first woman to reach the North and South poles and one of this year's inductees. "The volume needs to be turned up."
A celebration, a challenge
In a year that celebrates the 75th anniversary of a woman's right to vote and the 100th anniversary of women in state legislatures, it may be useful to recall that the women's rights campaign traces its roots even deeper, to this site in Seneca Falls, N.Y. in 1848.
The struggle, however, is by no means over. A federal report released this year confirms a lack of women in powerful positions. This year has also seen efforts to dismantle affirmative action, welfare payments to unwed mothers, and easy access to abortion.
Many of the hundreds of women - from toddlers to grandmothers - who gathered for the Hall of Fame's ceremony at the historic church here, where suffragist Alice Paul first called for an equal rights amendment, came in search of inspiration.
"It gives us a sense of hope," says Denise Martin, a senior at the University of Rochester, sitting in the audience. "If they went through struggles and they made it through, than we can too."
Women astronauts, social workers, and educators were inducted to the Hall of Fame on Saturday. Among them:
*Mary Baker Eddy. The only American woman to found a worldwide religion, Mrs. Eddy's contribution include the discovery of Christian Science, the writing of the textbook "Science and Health, with Key to the Scriptures," and the founding of this newspaper.
"There is a quiet, persistent continuity of good going on in the lives of men and women all over the world as a result of Mrs. Eddy's contribution," said Virginia Harris, chairman of the Christian Science Board of Directors, upon accepting the honor for Mrs. Eddy.
*Ella Fitzgerald. Touted as the nation's greatest woman jazz musician, Ms. Fitzgerald has won numerous awards for her unmistakable voice. She has also made great strides in bringing equality to blacks in the music industry and bridging the races in all walks of life. "She has enraptured young and old alike," said jazz trombonist Spiegle Willcox, who accepted her award.
*Pat Schroeder: The most senior woman in Congress, Ms. Schroeder (D) of Colorado has served on the House National Security Committee, the House Judiciary Committee, and as chairwoman of the Select Committee on Children, Youth, and Families. She is one of the few women who were presidential candidates.
"When you really think about how little we know about the role American women played in history, it makes me angry." Schroeder said. "I really don't feel that the history books today do a better job [including women] than they did when I was a girl."
*Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, industrial engineer Lillian Gilbreth (made famous in the book "Cheaper by the Dozen"), and public servant Elizabeth Dole were among the other women recognized in the ceremonies.
Lives of courage
"Women in the past got lost in history," says Madeleine Kunin, US Deputy Secretary of Education and a speaker at a brunch honoring new Hall of Fame inductees. "But if it were not for them, none of us would have the confidence and courage ... to continue to make this country great."
National Women's Hall of Fame president Nancy Woodhull says the 125 women in the hall were chosen for their "contribution to society in general, their trailblazing, or their breakthrough work in a profession."
But as donation dollars stretch thin, money is going to women's victim services."There's more crisis money out there than celebratory money," Woodhull says.