Women’s History Month. Here’s a fact: The United States didn’t even have a month dedicated to women’s history until 1987. So when we hear and read things like: “She was the first woman to do this, or invent that, or discover that, it really means something. We never hear of men spoken in the same way.
There’s an incredible admiration I personally hold for women. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m gay and I can sympathize with women whom, as a whole, have been oppressed and suppressed in culture worldwide. We look up to power women, because despite all of their adversity, they came out on top—of everyone. That’s what inspiration is. In my mind, women frankly get sh*t done and they are not afraid to speak their minds or their emotions. As a male, my pride sometimes renders me incapable of saying how I truly feel. There is also a special maternal bond between mother and child and perhaps that’s where my innate admiration and respect for women comes from. Who knows? What’s important is that we celebrate it in Women’s History Month. Unless we are talking about space, you don’t hear anyone say, “First man to do this, or that, because men were given the opportunity to do these things long before any woman every had; even the artistocratic ones. We are so incredibly spoiled in The United States to have laws that protect women. It’s easy to forget many parts of the rest of the world treats women. Domestic Abuse isn’t considered an offense. Women are without rights in many places. For this blog I’ve decided to quickly list a few women in history whom I’ve always admired.
Hildegard of Bingen. Unless you’re a music geek like me, you probably would never know who she is. Also known as Saint Hildegard (canonized as a doctor of the Roman Catholic Church in 2012 by Pope Benedict the XVI.) “ She was a Benedictine Abbess, composer, writer philosopher, Christian mystic, polymath and visionary” Wikipedia. I first learned of Hildegard in music history. I had a dynamic music history professor at The San Francisco Conservatory of Music named Robert Greenberg. He had this charismatic ability to captivate every one of his students attention- so much so that still to this day the he’s written several book and sells seminars of lectures around the world. When I was in that class, I learned that Hildegard was a medieval composer who had more surviving works and writings in music, theology and natural history than anyone else in the medieval period. She is such an important figure in the foundation of classical music, she will forever be immortalized as a pioneer of the art form. To think in the 11th and 12th century that she accomplished all of this, and was then and now, equally recognized by theologians, scholars, historians, writers, scientists and The Church as a cornerstone of their origin is mind-blowing to an 18 year old kid. I’d just learned to sight-read music a year before in high school and then I read about the Superwoman of music. It’s a lot for a kid to take in.
Madame Marie Curie
She discovered two elements, (polonium and radium) invented the machine that we sit on for X-rays, developed the theory of radioactivity as we know it today, and let us not forget: From Wikipedia. “She was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the first person and only woman to win twice, the only person to win a Nobel Prize in two different sciences, and was part of the Curie family legacy of five Nobel Prizes. She was also the first woman to become a professor at the University of Paris, and in 1995 became the first woman to be entombed on her own merits in the Panthéon in Paris.” In short, she changed the world and gave us life by developing the X-ray machine during World War I. Just have a think of where we’d be without that?
Congress refers to Rosa Parks as “the first lady of civil rights” and “the mother of the freedom movement”. She taught us how to demonstrate peacefully, and practice what’s entitled to us in the United States constitution that “all men are created equal.” A 42-year old woman from Montgomery, Alabama had finally had enough one day and in 1955 and she decided to sit and stay where she was, instead of submit the laws of segregation and move to allow white people to sit in her place. First things first: this is frightening. It wasn’t that long ago. Secondly, we’re not out of the woods yet. Recognize it, or not, this is part of our recent history. Her bravery and continued activism made her an icon of The Civil Rights Movement and an inspiration to any of us who have felt marginalized.
Marilyn Monroe is like the Frida Kahlo of Mexican art. She is still so revered and relevant in American culture, and probably world culture at this point. I wonder how much money the “Estate of Marylin Monroe” brings in each year, assuming there is one. I remember being a young boy and hearing stories of her death and her troubles with addiction and mental illness. And then of course, the iconic haunt “Goodbye Norma Gene”, one of Elton John’s masterpieces. When I first discovered it at the piano, in a songbook I got my hands on in high school. Feeling like a pushover at the time, I was completely heartbroken by how she was treated. It’s crazy how much a song can actually communicate having only used a few words. Of course there are so many references to her in pop culture, “Dear Mr. President”, etc. She was a liberator of women’s sexuality and will probably always remain timeless. She was a true agent of change, and that’s why she makes this list for me.
Love her or hate her. Some people do hate her. I don’t get it, personally, but to each their own. I can understand if her tv personality annoys you sometimes, but to hate her? How could you? After having grown up in The South, she was raped at 14 and carried the baby to term until he died in his infancy. She was sent to Milwaukee and got a job at a small radio station at 19 years old. Her performances were so emotional that she quickly catapulted up the ladder from radio host to news anchor and then to talk show. In her first season of nationwide syndication, she took over Phil Donahue’s spot as the #1 talk show in America. I find it remarkable when someone can bring themselves from tragedy to triumph in the way that Oprah Winfrey has done. She’s used her influence as a force for good in this world. Much respect.
Go out and celebrate Women’s History Month if you haven’t yet. It’s a fairly new tribute in the United States. If we keep celebrating women as they should be, perhaps we’ll see more equality for women worldwide.