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02/28/2022 Celebrating Women’s History Month

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Happy Women’s History Month! At HopeWell, when we celebrate the contributions women have made to our country’s history, culture and society our thoughts turn to pioneers and leaders in child welfare, the Disability Rights Movement, and related professions like social work and direct support. 

This includes women like Ellen Attaliades, President and CEO of the Association of Developmental Disabilities Providers and a longtime advocate for people living with intellectual and developmental disabilities and brain injuries in Massachusetts, and Christine James-Brown, President and CEO of the Child Welfare League of America, Inc., our country’s oldest and largest membership-based child welfare organization. 

It also includes Marian Wright Edelman, founder of the Children’s Defense Fund (and the first Black woman admitted to the Mississippi Bar) and Rebecca Jones Gaston, President Biden’s nominee for Commissioner for the U.S. Administration for Children, Youth and Families—who experienced foster care as a child. 

We also celebrate Judith Heumann, who has brought about substantive change nationally and internationally as a longtime leader in the Disability Rights Movement, and the late social work pioneer Frances Feldman, who did groundbreaking research on workplace discrimination against people with cancer, and the effect of financial stress on families. 

We’re grateful for the leadership of these women and we’re proud to continue building on the foundation of dignity, justice, equity, and safety they have laid for children, youth, and adults who are living with developmental disabilities. Through their work they and countless other women working in the human services context—including many HopeWell employees— embody this year’s Women’s History Month theme, “Women Providing Healing, Promoting Hope.” 

Women’s History Month grew out of a weeklong celebration of women organized by the Sonoma, CA, school district in 1978. Schools hosted presentations, sponsored a “Real Woman” essay contest, and organized a parade. Communities across the country followed suit, and by 1980, President Jimmy Carter declared the inaugural Women’s History Week in March. The following year, Congress passed a resolution establishing a national celebration of Women’s History Week. In 1987, thanks to the advocacy of the National Women’s History Project (now known as the National Women’s History Alliance), Congress expanded Women’s History Week to a month-long celebration in March. 

Interested in taking a deeper dive into women’s history this month? 

We recommend you check out Women’s Disability Activism: A Timeline, which focuses on “activism by women with disabilities for women with disabilities.” The timeline’s introduction provides a helpful history of disability activism in the U.S. and other important contexts. The timeline traces women’s disability activism from Elizabeth Packard’s advocacy on behalf of women institutionalized in “insane asylums” in the 1800s (often at the behest of their husbands) up to the Women’s Disability March in 2017. 

The National Women’s History Museum is brimming with online exhibits that showcase women’s history in a range of contexts, from their contributions to science and NASA to their Olympic achievements and military service and so much more. The exhibit on the contributions of immigrant women is a great place to start. 

Harvard’s Schlesinger Library, a hub for scholarship on U.S. women’s history, also has many digital collections to explore. Read or listen to oral history interviews with social worker Beulah Hester, the first Black person appointed to the Board of Overseers of Boston’s Department of Public Welfare and Civil Rights Movement icon Rosa Parks, among many other Black women who took part in the Black Women Oral History Project. Explore the lives and work of legends from suffragist Alice Paul to Bostonian Kip Tiernan, the founder of Rosie’s Place, the first emergency drop-in shelter for women in the U.S. 

We’re grateful for the intellect, vision, and dedication of these and so many women throughout history who have worked to make our country and its institutions more equitable, just, and accessible for all Americans.

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