By Jennifer Leitch, Development Officer
While many women around the world face violence and inequality on a daily basis, significant strides have been made in the U.S. since the rise of the feminism and civil rights activism in the 1960s: in 1963, the first federal law prohibiting discrimination based on gender was passed; in 1974, the first shelter for battered women seeking respite from violence was opened; the first female, Sandra Day O’Connor, was nominated to the Supreme Court in 1981; and in the early 1990s, the Family and Medical Leave act, requiring employers to provide job-protected leave for reasons including pregnancy and adoption, and the Violence Against Women Act, providing federal funding to investigate and prosecute violent crimes against women, were signed into law. With these laws and shifting attitudes towards civil rights, women today have more choices when it comes to their personal wellbeing and economic security.
In honor of these achievements and the women who contributed to this progress, March 8 has been declared International Women’s Day. For over 100 years, this global day of recognition has celebrated women and their accomplishments, and in some countries, International Women’s Day is now an official holiday (these countries include Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China, Cuba, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Madagascar, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nepal, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Zambia). While it’s not (yet) a national holiday in the U.S., we would like to salute the women who have made significant contributions to the fields of arts and education, and who continue to be an inspiration for many of us:
- In the late 19th century, Maria Montessori developed a philosophy of education based on independence and respect for a child’s natural psychological, physical, and social development; the Montessori method is still widely used in both public and private schools today. Montessori was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize six times.
- Louise Blanchard Bethune was the first woman to become a full member of the American Institute of Architects (1890).
- Linda Nochlin, whose seminal 1971 essay “Why Have There Been No Great Female Artists?” challenged existing social structures and the normative behavior expectations they impose.
- Aretha Franklin, who has won 18 Grammy Awards and sold over 75 million records worldwide, was the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1987).
- Jenny Holzer, who was the first woman to represent the U.S. at the Venice Biennale (1990).
- Halle Berry, the first black female to win an Oscar for Best Leading Actress (2002).
- Marin Aslop was appointed the 12th music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestral in 2006 – she was the first woman to hold this position with a major American orchestra.
- Maya Lin, who as an undergraduate student, won a competition to design the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial, beating more than 1,000 other submission; she was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 2009.
We would also like to recognize two women who have made significant contributions to P.S. ARTS’ success – Co-Executive Directors Kristen Paglia and Amy Shapiro. Kristi, who has a background in special education and cognitive psychology, guides the vision for P.S. ARTS programs. Through her advocacy efforts with the California Department of Education’s Blueprint for Creative Schools and the President’s Committee for the Arts and Humanities Arts Turnaround initiative, she has helped highlight the important role the arts play in education. Her work has been crucial to defining our values as an organization and resulted in the elevation of our program quality. Amy, who also has a background in special education as well as a degree in nonprofit administration, provides outstanding leadership at P.S. ARTS, enabling the organization to meet programming and financial goals, and ensuring the organization operates with exemplar conscientiousness toward its mission and community. Together, Kristi and Amy have shaped P.S. ARTS into a thriving nonprofit organization, contributed to the robustness of the field, and helped improve the quality of life for thousands of children.
To all the women today who are paving the way for future generations, we celebrate you! Happy international Women’s Day!
 http://www.internationalwomensday.com/about.asp#.UxZa5PldWW0 (accessed March 4, 2014).