March is Women’s History Month, a national observation that honors and pays tributes to those women who dedicated their lives to social justice, the environment, education, and positive change for society. Their fortitude and perseverance as pioneers is honored during the month. Here a few women from history will be explored, however note the incredible number of talented women today in Western Massachusetts that continue to demonstrate the importance of women’s rights!
Did you know that Western Massachusetts is home to the first women’s college in the United States? In 1837 a female seminary was founded by chemist and educator Mary Lyon. This seminary is now Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, MA, the first of the seven sisters, a group of liberal arts colleges in the Northeast that were started as women’s colleges. Some of these schools are still women’s colleges today and two of them are here in Western Massachusetts. Both of these college campuses are open to the public to enjoy the grounds, peruse the libraries and attend public lectures and events and many famous women throughout history have graduated from these institutions.
Throughout history, women have been an integral part of the art world. As patrons, historians, innovators, critics, and creators, their contributions are widespread. Why is it that they are underrepresented in art history? How have gender biases influenced our art history narrative? How have women generated social change throughout history? How do they now use visual art and language art to address contemporary issues? Considering answers to these questions connect us to our history, one another, and the places we collectively call home.
In addition to literary explorations of African Americans’ creativity and contributions to U.S. literature, explore African American History Month in Western Massachusetts through the different cultural organizations and institutions that educate the public on the history of African Americans in our region. One of the most significant pieces of New England history is the Underground Railroad, a network of secret routes, stops, and places throughout 14 northern states that were established to help escaped slaves to freedom.
The David Ruggles Center for Early Florence History & Underground Railroad in Florence, MA, in another community-based resource in Western Massachusetts to supporting learning about African American History. The center offers self-guided walking tours, including the African-American history trail, Sojourner Truth’s house, and other abolitionist sites.
This month in “Open Sesame: Kid Lit Musings & Reviews,” Cheli featured three new picture books for Women in History month!