It seems fitting that the first posting of Women of Consequence should coincide with the inauguration of the first woman Vice President of the United States. It only took us 232 years! Love her or not, when Kamala Harris raises her right hand and takes the oath of office, she will cement her place in history as a woman of consequence. Change is coming, but at a snail’s pace.
Consequence: importance, significance, greatness, magnitude, value, substance.
We are surrounded by women of consequence. After discovering many of the definitions of “woman” in the Oxford English Dictionary were demeaning, Maria Beatrice Giovanadi started a petition that resulted in Oxford University Press changing its definition and expanding it to include more examples and idiomatic phrases which depict women in a positive and active manner. Dr. Kizzmedia Corbett, a research fellow at the National Institute of Health, at the age of 34, led the team that discovered the Moderna vaccine. Every day women play a key role in the health care response to the COVID-19 crisis. While they are under-represented among physicians, they make up the vast majority of nurses.
Not all women of consequence will make a published list of extraordinary people, but that does not lessen their importance to someone they impacted along the way. My sister-in-law Jane was encouraged to attend college by her brother’s girlfriend. My sister Suzi was bolstered by her Latin teacher, Mrs. Heeter. I will always remember her telling me, “Mrs. Heeter believed in me.” The idea that someone believes in you has the power to carry you through many of life’s challenges.
Growing up in small-town Indiana in the 1960s, I lived a sheltered life. Men were in charge. Leave it to Beaver and Father Knows Best were must-see TV. But oh so slowly over the horizon, rose the feminist movement. A copy of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique was being passed around among my friends. Gloria Steinem was campaigning for the Equal Rights Amendment and girls were finally allowed to wear pants to school.
Fortunately, some women of consequence have begun to get recognition. Movies like Hidden Figures revealed the role of African American female mathematicians and their work on Project Mercury, bringing focus to the critical contributions of black women like Kathryn Johnson to space science. But as a rule, women were grossly under-represented in the history books I studied in high school. Men’s contributions were well-documented while any recognition of women’s accomplishments was brief. Even Eleanor Roosevelt was mostly depicted as a caregiver of her husband, rather than focusing on her life as an outstanding political figure, diplomat and activist. But as we know, most history is written by men.
I take pleasure in the fact that the times they are a-changin’. My granddaughters’ and grandsons’ textbooks are not the ones I had in 1970. They will grow up seeing a woman in the White House and I will share with them what I learn while writing these posts. Once a month for the remainder of 2021, I will feature a Woman of Consequence. Consequence with a capital C. Women who stepped up and stepped forward without concern for themselves but with real concern for others. Some you may be familiar with, others still in the shadows. But I hope to do my part to help bring them into the light. All deserve our gratitude and admiration.
C’est la vie.