Posted on March 09, 2022
Women’s History Month is a celebration of women’s contributions to history, culture, and society and has been observed every March in the United States since 1987. In the spirit of this mission, every Wednesday of this month, we’ll be featuring women historians from all walks of life in the hope that their stories will inspire you throughout the year to learn about and celebrate the accomplishments of other women.
This week’s storytellers are women who have led efforts to improve their communities.
Wangari Mathai (1940-2011)
Wangari Maathai is the founder of the Green Belt Movement and the winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize. She was born in Nyeri, a rural area of Kenya in Africa, and earned bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in science, making d she the first woman in East and Central Africa to do so.
In 1976, while serving on the National Council of Women, Maathai introduced the idea of community-based tree planting and continued to develop this idea into a broad grassroots organization, the Green Belt Movement, whose main objective is poverty reduction and environmental conservation. by planting trees. She has also been internationally recognized for her activism for democracy, human rights and environmental conservation, addressing the United Nations on several occasions and speaking on behalf of women at sessions. of the General Assembly during the five-year review of the Earth Summit. She has also served on the Commission for Global Governance and the Commission on the Future.
In the early 2000s, Maathai represented Tetu constituency in Kenya’s parliament and served as deputy minister for environment and natural resources in Kenya’s ninth parliament. Prior to her death in 2011 from ovarian cancer, she founded the Wangari Maathai Institute for Peace and Environmental Studies to bring together academic research on land use, forestry, agriculture, resource conflict and peace studies, with the approach of the Green Belt Movement.
Source: Green Belt Movement
Claudia Jones (1915-1964)
Claudia Jones was a feminist, political activist, visionary and pioneering journalist. Jones was born in Trinidad in 1915 but lived and worked in the United States, where she was an active member of the American Communist Party, which resulted in her exile to the United Kingdom in 1955.
In the UK, Jones continued her lifelong fight against racial inequality and intolerance. She has worked with activist organizations to campaign against housing injustices, workplace discrimination and racist immigration policies. Jones was also an outspoken champion of women’s rights.
In 1958 Jones founded the West Indian Gazette, an anti-racism newspaper campaigning for social equality. It was Britain’s first black commercial newspaper. The West Indian Gazette sought to unite Caribbeans in the diaspora and foster dialogue with black internationalist freedom movements. The document also highlighted patterns of anti-black violence, racial harassment and prejudice in the UK.
When violent riots broke out in Notting Hill in 1958, Jones helped launch the Notting Hill Carnival the following year in an effort to uplift Britain’s black communities. The celebration of Caribbean culture and heritage attracts artists, activists and crowds eager to show unity and enjoy the music, dance, calypso, steel drums, masquerade and stalls of food. It is now the second largest street rally in the world.
Source: University of Bristol
Sister Corita Kent (1918-1986)
Sister Corita Kent was an artist, educator and social justice advocate. She was born in Ford Dodge, Iowa, and at age 18 entered the religious order Immaculate Heart of Mary, eventually teaching and then directing the art department at Immaculate Heart College. His work evolved from figurative and religious to incorporating imagery and advertising slogans, lyrics from popular songs, Bible verses and literature.
Throughout the 1960s his work became increasingly political, urging viewers to consider poverty, racism and injustice. Kent’s primary medium was screen printing, also known as serigraphy. She became self-taught after sending for a DIY screen printing kit. His innovative methods pushed the boundaries of two-dimensional media at the time. Kent’s emphasis on print was in part due to her wish for democratic outreach, as she wanted art that was affordable to the masses. His work, with its messages of love and peace, was particularly popular during the social upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s.
In 1968, she left the order and moved to Boston. After 1970, his work evolved into a more sparse and introspective style, influenced by living in a new environment, a secular life and his battles with cancer. She remained active in social causes until her death in 1986. By the time of her death, she had created nearly 800 editions of serigraphs, thousands of watercolors, and countless public and private commissions.
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