A Tribute to Women

Celebrating Women’s History Month


Library of Congrass

For centuries women have united to fight for rights and privileges men often take for granted. /Image by Benjamin M. Dale, Courtesy of Library of Congress

Mary Kroeck

It makes sense to me that Women’s History Month takes place in March. Women have marched throughout history to make a difference in their societies. From the Women’s March on Versailles during the French Revolution, to women’s suffrage movements around the world, to women’s involvement in the Civil Rights Movement, women have often stood up for what they believed in and created a united front.

Women’s History Month is celebrated in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and Canada, though our neighbors to the north celebrate it in October.  

The 2016 theme of Women’s History Month is “Working to Form a More Perfect Union: Honoring Women in Public Service and Government.” As I reflect on this month, I think of my personal connection to women’s history and those I have to thank for it.

I couldn’t wait to turn 18. I didn’t care about being able to buy cigarettes or go to R-rated movies. I was excited to turn 18 so I could register to vote and I have my mother to thank for that.

There was also a time when women weren’t allowed to vote at all and when my mom was growing up, the voting age in the U.S. was 21. Men were going off to war, but they couldn’t vote for who was sending them there. She thought that was unfair.

So, what did she do? She found out that her representative at the time, Sen. Charles Percy, was having a meet and greet at the Federal Building for constituents. She and my grandfather attended.

When she got a moment to speak to Sen. Percy she told him that she didn’t think it was fair that there were young men in the military, fighting for our country, but unable to vote. According to my mom, Sen. Percy disagreed and she didn’t know if anything would ever change. She was only in eighth grade or a freshman in high school at the time. Ironically, throughout my teen years, my mother wondered why I was involved in war protests and wanted to attend a political science camp.

Though it was a small action, my mom was one of the many, many U.S. citizens who believed the voting age should be lowered. As we all know, 18-year-olds are now allowed to vote.

Women’s History Month is special. It’s not just as a reflection of how far women have come politically, as even in that arena we still have a long way to go. Women’s History Month gives us an opportunity to think about the women we sometimes take for granted, who did little things that shaped our lives–like our mothers, second mothers, aunts, grandmothers, sisters and girl friends.

Women do extraordinary things every single day. There are women who struggle and fight for justice in the face of adversity. There are women who touch lives through a song or a dance or a flicker of the motion picture reel. There are women who the history books may never remember.

If I’m honest, I don’t always like being a woman. Though I know women who enjoy getting their periods, I loathe it–always have. It pains me to know that women in Illinois have to pay tax on tampons when women in some other states don’t. It’s a tax for simply being female. Of course there are other downsides. For example, whenever I go to a show, the women’s washrooms always have the longest lines. Women also tend to make less money than men, are often thought of as property, and there is always pressure placed on looks and body type.

Since I don’t know what it’s really like to be a guy, I guess it’s easier to think the grass is greener on the other side. In reality, though, I know we still have a long way to go to be seen as equal across the board in society.

I am in awe of my mom, aunts, grandmothers, great-grandmothers, second mothers, cousins, “sisters,” girl friends and my female teachers. To be a woman is to be magical, powerful and strong. I owe a great debt to the women who came before me, who sacrificed, prayed and dreamed of me before I was born. We all owe a debt to women–from those who birthed us to those who raised us, taught us and helped us become who we are today.

Maya Angelou said, “There’s nothing greater than ‘thank you.’ That’s what you say to God is ‘thank you.’” So to those women who came before me, those women who are around me now and the women of tomorrow, I thank you for the positive difference you made,  the difference you’re working toward and the difference you will make in the future.