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Women trailblazers who inspire us right now

March 27, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

(FILES) An undated 1930's file photo shows US aviator Amelia Earhart at the controls of an aircraft in Essonne, France. The United States vowed March 20, 2012 to help solve the 75-year-old mystery of aviation legend Amelia Earhart after analysis of a photograph showed that she may have crashed on a remote Pacific island. Earhart set off in 1937 from Papua New Guinea on a mission to circumnavigate the globe over the equator, its longest route. She and her navigator Fred Noonan were never seen again, despite a massive US search in the midst of the Great Depression. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described the trailblazing female pilot as a personal and national hero and offered moral support for an upcoming expedition to find the ruins of Earhart's Lockheed Electra aircraft. AFP PHOTO / FILES (Photo credit should read AFP/AFP/Getty Images)

As Women's History Month comes to a close, says Marianne Schnall, many of us are afraid, angry and anxious about what's next -- and there's arguably never been a more significant time to consider how women's history informs the present. Trailblazing women leaders share with Schnall who the women are who keep them inspired when the going gets tough.

Conversations About Women, Leadership and Power" and the founder of Feminist. com and the What Will It Take movement.

(CNN)In 2020, Women's History Month comes amid a time of social upheaval and global fear over the coronavirus pandemic and resulting political turmoil.

While for many the 2020 presidential race is now an afterthought, this Women's History Month does also mark the departure of the last remaining women candidates from the 2020 presidential field -- during an election year that also marks the centennial of women's suffrage.

As Women's History Month comes to a close, many of us are afraid, angry and anxious about what's next -- and there's arguably never been a more significant time to consider how women's history informs the present.

In that spirit, I asked an esteemed set of women to reflect back on their lives and careers as leaders, drawing on historical moments or achievements by women that have given them hope and the fortitude to keep going.

As Jennifer Siebel Newsom told me, "We must continue to lift each other up, build partnerships, and fight for each other—because when women rise, we all rise. "

Here is a glimpse at those inspiring stories and figures—who they are, what they've meant to these women in the past and what they mean to them now, looking forward in 2020 and beyond.

As the global community grapples with a major public health crisis, during this Women's History Month I have been reflecting with pride on the leading role that women have always played, and continue to play, on the front lines of medicine and caregiving.

Learning about Claudette was a lesson in how women's history is a lot more vibrant and thrilling than the history books suggest.

I invited Congresswoman Chisholm to Mills College to address the Black Student Union as the first African American woman elected to Congress, having no one idea that she was also running for president right up until she said it in her speech.

And she taught me that Black women can't go along to get along—we must change the rules of the game if we are to address institutional racism and sexism.

Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm remains an inspiration to little girls and women everywhere, including myself, reminding us to strive for what's possible, unburdened by what's been.

That's how I'd like to be remembered. " During this Women's History Month, I am thinking of Shirley Chisholm, and hope that little girls and women everywhere remember: yes, she had guts, and we should, too.

When the New York Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights passed 10 years ago, I knew I was both witnessing a massive historical achievement in that moment and riding the crest of a longer historical arc, lifted up by millions of women who have been fighting for respect and dignity for generations.

Women like Dorothy Bolden, who began fighting for the rights of domestic workers in the 1960s, riding the buses of Atlanta, Georgia, to organize workers on their way to and from work, and made a breakthrough in 1968 when she founded the National Domestic Workers Union of America.

Around 30 years later, I witnessed the signing into law of the first state legislation ensuring domestic workers in New York have the right to overtime, a day of rest, three days paid time off and protections from discrimination and harassment—a moment which was riding on the momentum of Dorothy Bolden before us, but which also in turn created momentum for the eight pieces of state legislation that followed.

Nearly a decade after the New York legislation passed, a National Domestic Workers Bill of Rights was introduced in 2019 by Sen. Kamala Harris and Rep. Pramila Jayapal—two strong women of color serving in Congress.

Ai-jen Poo is executive director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and co-director for Caring Across Generations and a co-founder of Supermajority, a women's equality organization made up of women from all backgrounds, races and ages.

At the opening plenary, a colorful congresswoman from New York, Bella Abzug, proclaimed, "In the next century, women will change the nature of power, rather than power changing the nature of women. "

In this historic year of celebrating the 19th Amendment giving women the power of the vote, I'm still a believer in Bella's prediction because I have witnessed what can happen when women bring forward the full scope of our experiences as mothers, daughters and sisters, individually and collectively, to redefine power by how we use it and share it.

From negotiating peace to leading toward climate justice, we have, as a global women's community, the opportunity to fully actualize Bella's faith in us.

When I wrote "American Heroines: The Spirited Women Who Shaped Our Country" an observation jumped out: in many instances in the remarkable progress of women in history, the first barrier breakers worked for years to be recognized in their fields, but never saw their success.

She broke a barrier and likely would be surprised that almost 25% of the Senate's members are now women.

Amelia Earhart broke the barrier for women in aviation, then Jackie Cochran founded the WASP, a WWII Women Pilots Service, paving the way for Sally Ride, the first American woman in space.

And finally, suffragists rallied and marched for women's equality starting in 1848, seeking the basic right to vote and assure their voices were counted.

Many of the women who faced obstacles just because they were women never even dreamed of the women today running America's biggest corporations or leading their cities, states and judiciary as mayors, governors, senators, and Supreme Court justices, but they fought for equality and education.

We stand on the shoulders of giant spirits who fought for women's role in building our country, in every field that contributes to the greatness of America.

More than 20 years ago in Beijing, Hillary Clinton stood in front of the United Nations World Conference on Women and declared that "human rights are women's rights and women's rights are human rights. " Although Hillary's history-making speech was directed at the world, it felt like she was speaking directly to me.

I became involved in the Women's Leadership Forum and worked at the US Department of Housing and Urban Development during the last year of the Clinton administration.

I can't imagine that Hillary would have predicted that her speech in Beijing would lead to her successor in the US Senate, but I'm certain she knew that her words would inspire generations of women.

Kirsten Gillibrand is a Democratic US senator from New York, a former candidate for the Democratic nomination for president and the creator of Off the Sidelines, a movement to encourage more women and girls to run for office and participate in civic life.

Alicia Garza is strategy and partnerships director for the National Domestic Workers Alliance and a co-founder of Black Lives Matter and Supermajority.

The women of color who built our movement

The women of color who founded the movement we carry forward today are my inspiration.

The term "women of color" was born in 1977 in Houston, Texas, at the first and only National Women's Conference.

There, among more than 20,000 mostly white women, a cadre of Black, Latina, Asian American and Native women redefined the women's agenda to include race, class and solidarity.

Now women of color—a majority of women in several states—are leading progressive reforms as voters, organizers and courageous elected leaders.

But the lineage of we women of color runs even deeper, back to Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Ida B.

It is exemplified with my hero Shirley Chisholm who began her historic run for Congress 51 years ago.

Aimee Allison is founder and president of She the People, a national network elevating the political power of women of color.

I wasn't a delegate, but like many of the women around me, I had been given a floor pass by a male delegate.

She said: "By choosing an American woman to run for our nation's second highest office, you send a powerful signal to all Americans.

If we can do this, we can do anything. " In that moment, women caught a glimpse of how it would feel to have real representation at the highest levels of government for the first time.

That moment is on my mind this year, as women are proving to be the most energized voters in the country.

But 36 years after Geraldine Ferraro electrified the convention, we can absolutely elect the first woman Vice President of the United States.

Patrisse Cullors artist, activist, co-founder of Black Lives Matter and founder and chair of Reform LA Jails, a Los Angeles-based committee that represents a coalition of citizens, community leaders, and organizations to prevent crime, and permanently reduce the population of people cycling in and out of jail that are experiencing mental health, drug dependency, or chronic homelessness issues.

Most women have had such experiences.

But Wells-Barnett's legacy can be seen in the sit-in demonstrations of the 1960s, the contemporary emerging political power of Black women, and the struggles against anti-Black violence that is the foundation of #BlackLivesMatter and #SayHerName.

One of the people who has inspired me is Mariame Kaba, one of the nation's leading prison abolitionists and the founder of the organization Project NIA, which works to end youth incarceration.

She is one that I look to during this Women's History Month.

However, there are also several women around the globe that I admire.

I've been highlighting black women change makers around the globe—modern icons I admire because of their phenomenal work in their communities.

It was over 30 years ago that I went to the mountainous Northern Cordillera region of the Philippines, at the invitation of the Filipina Women's Movement, to work with women.

She was proud that her children were learning to read: a woman came once a week from the tiny Bontoc Women's Centre to teach them.

Robin Morgan is an author, co-founder of the Women's Media Center and host of WMC Live with Robin Morgan.

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