Northwest Missourian Opinion

In the early days of train transportation, women weren’t allowed to ride because people believed their bodies were incapable of handling 50 mph speeds, and their uteruses would fly out of their bodies if they tried. 

Spoiler alert: Women proved them wrong. 

Women crushed that myth, demonstrating they were capable, and they continued to prove sexist notions wrong. Women proved they were smart enough to vote, accountable enough to hold office, strong enough to be on the front lines, fit enough to run marathons and dedicated enough to be astronauts, among many accomplishments. 

All of these things were banned or illegal until courageous women fought the system for equality, which is why we have Women’s History Month. Until 1980, the history and contributions of women often weren’t taught. 

In 1980, President Jimmy Carter declared “Women’s History Week,” which became a time for teachers to educate their classes on the vital role women played in history and for communities to honor the accomplishments of women. Seven years later, Congress declared March Women’s History Month. 

Today, women are in charge of countries, leading scientific discoveries and running their own businesses. Women make up half of the U.S. college-educated labor force, earning more bachelor’s and doctoral degrees than men. This is a significant milestone that the women who paved the way for us would be proud of, but they would also agree we have more work to do. 

For instance, women still only earn roughly 82 cents to every dollar earned by males, and women with bachelor’s degrees only earn about 75% of what their male counterparts earn.  

Almost 60% of women would earn a higher wage if they were paid the same as men with equivalent levels of education and experience. While the amount of women entering the workforce has risen, women are still generally expected to take care of the home when they get back from work. The weight of chores, childcare and caring for sick family members still mostly falls on women. 

Gender-based discrimination is still prevalent in the U.S., but we wouldn’t have come this far without the determination of women. I’ve taken plenty of things for granted that I’ve seen as a given, like the right to go to college or choose my own religion, but it hasn’t always been that way for women. It wasn't until the '70s that women had control over how they could spend their money, buy birth control or work a "man's job." 

We wouldn’t have these opportunities without the action of brave and determined women, and now it’s up to us to continue their endeavor toward gender equality, basic human rights and democracy. That’s why observing Women’s History Month is just as important now as it was when it was enacted. We celebrate to inspire people to keep working toward equality and chase their aspirations, even in the face of adversity. We celebrate to honor the women who dedicated themselves to making a positive impact in our country and to thank women for the work they are doing today. 

Women’s History Month is a celebration, so join the commemoration. Continue to educate yourself on women’s accomplishments to help break gender stereotypes. Call your mom or another woman who positively impacted your life and let them know you appreciate them. If you live with women, share household chores. Take time to appreciate how much women have done and are still accomplishing. 

Because of Women’s History Month, we are able to recognize how important women have always been in our society. Women have come a long way since proving their uteruses did indeed stay inside them like any other organ. We’ve continued to say, “We can do it,” when told we can’t —  a message that everyone can draw strength and inspiration from.

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