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Women hold up half of the sky
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I appreciated Judy Duryee’s article earlier this month highlighting the historical achievements of women on the national, state, and local levels. This annual celebration has been observed since 1987. The theme for 2024 is “Women Who Advocate for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.”

I have researched some of the lesser-known or forgotten names of remarkable women who actively worked toward eliminating bias and discrimination in various fields and institutions. Here are some exceptional women to honor and remember.

Jeannette Rankin was the first woman elected to Congress in 1916. When she returned to school in 1910 in Seattle, she joined the state suffrage association and lobbied for women’s right to vote. As a legislator, maternal and child healthcare was important to her, and the regulation of hours and wages of women workers.

Mildred Didrikson Zaharias or “Babe” was the first woman to play in an all-male PGA Tour event in 1934. Two years earlier she entered the U.S. women’s track and field championship as the sole team member winning five events and the overall championship. Babe and other female golfers formed the Ladies Professional Golf Association in 1950.

While Hedy Lamarr was a successful actress in Hollywood, she was also dubbed “the mother of Wi-Fi.” She developed a technological concept of frequency hopping during World War II along with composer George Antheil.

This was the forerunner to what we now call Bluetooth. She was eager to defeat the Nazis after the sinking of a British passenger ship in 1940.

Fifteen-year-old Claudette Colvin was too tired to give up her seat on the bus ride home in Montgomery to a white passenger in 1955, nine months before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat. Claudette was arrested, pled guilty, and received probation.

She was one of the four plaintiffs in a court case that ruled against the unconstitutionality of the Montgomery segregated bus system.

Rosalind Franklin led a research team in England to study DNA structure at the same time when women were not allowed to eat in her college’s cafeteria. Her groundbreaking X-ray image of DNA, called Photo 51, revealed the spiral shape of the DNA molecule. Her work was barely mentioned when other researchers, James Watson, and Francis Crick, went on to win the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for proposing the double helix structure of the DNA molecule.

American physician, Dr. Mae Jemison, is the first African American female astronaut. She began her career at NASA in 1987. Five years later she became the first African American woman in space as a science mission specialist aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour. Before NASA she worked in a refugee camp in Thailand and the Peace Corps in Sierra Leone and Liberia.

There is a Chinese quote by Mao Zedong that “Women hold up half the sky.” Women make up just a little over 50% of the population in the United States. It is a little less worldwide. According to

, 63% of women voted in the 2020 presidential election, compared to 59.5% of men. Women have voted at a higher rate than men in presidential elections since the 1980s. Let us continue to make our voices heard in the 2024 elections.

Janice Walker Great Bend