Women’s History Month has been celebrated since 1987 and was dedicated to reflect on the often-overlooked contributions of women to United States history. This March, the Lebanon Heritage Commission invites you to “stand in her shoes” to explore some of the features shared by others in New Hampshire and beyond—including some local perspectives.
According to NH Home Magazine, this celebration has deeper roots as relates to International Women’s Day (March 8), noting that it was “Born out of grievances by female garment workers in New York City in 1907. The protest highlighted the lack of women’s rights, including the denial of a vote, poor working conditions and lack of respect for women in the workforce. But the movement gained more speed and attention in socialist and communist countries where the outcry for women’s rights was greater.
France proclaimed its first Woman’s Day in 1911, followed by Russia, where Vladimir Lenin declared Woman’s Day an official holiday. Spain and China followed suit. After 1945, the name was changed from Woman’s Day to Women’s Day and was celebrated mainly in socialist countries. The United Nations General Assembly officially recognized March 8 as International Women’s Day in 1975, and by 2014, it was observed in over one hundred countries. Purple was the color chosen to symbolize achieving dignity and justice for all women.”
More locally, women in New England have seen and experienced tremendous events and changes in our society just over the past fifty years or so. There was a time when only men were allowed in combat roles in the armed forces, for example. That includes the Vietnam War years between 1955 to 1975. Long-time Lebanon Heritage Commission member Rebecca Book recently penned “Remembrances of a Younger Sister During the Vietnam War”, which recounts the profound impact of that era on her own life and more broadly, the whole country, and how she ended up at Mary Hitchcock Memorial Hospital.
Did you know that the City of Lebanon has a record of women in leadership as the Mayor of Lebanon? The list includes, in order of oldest to most recent: Shirley Merrill, Pamela Bean, Barbara Jones, Karen Wadsworth (twice), Nancy Esquivel, Karen Liot Hill, Georgia Tuttle, and Suzanne Prentiss. Of the 34 times that the position has been filled, approximately one-quarter have been female mayors. While not an apples to apples comparison, notably, in New Hampshire, 41 percent of NH Towns currently have 0 women on their selectboard. The City of Lebanon Inclusiveness Resolution is one way that the community seeks to balance gender equity and rights, among other diversity needs.
Others in New Hampshire have also celebrated this month or work on women’s initiatives on a daily basis. Examples include, thanks to NH PBS and others sources:
- NH Women's Heritage Trail, which reveals the stories of notable women of the past throughout diverse fields.
- In Times Pasta blog by Larry Coffin, which highlights the history of Upper Valley towns and includes the following titles:
- Girls at Work. builds leaders. Programs are designed to build confidence, strength and resilience through building with power tools.
- New Hampshire Women's Foundation invests in opportunity and equality for women and girls in the Granite State through research, advocacy, education, grant making, and philanthropy.
- The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan political organization encouraging the informed and active participation of citizens in government.
- Womenade provides immediate, short-term ﬁnancial support to neighbors in need who are facing a difﬁcult time in their lives.
- Women of Dartmouth (also on Facebook) which connects women to events, talks, and more.
- Welcoming New Hampshire which honors immigrant women and lists related engagement opportunities.
This is just the tip of the iceberg for what’s available and highlighted in NH and the Upper Valley. It’s also worth mentioning a handful of organizations in Lebanon, including WISE, an advocate for progressing gender related social change, and the DHMC Women’s Health Resource Center, which provides education and services for parents.
There have also been several activity groups serving Lebanon over time, from the Lebanon Women’s Club, which dates from the early 1900s, to the more recent Little Bellas mountain bike mentoring organization.
Women have led many initiatives and organizations in this area over the years. What other stories, highlights and groups could be added to the list? Let the Lebanon Heritage Commission know by using their Contact Form.