Women We Admire: Women’s History Month

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At 834 Design & Marketing we pride ourselves on being a team of fierce, empowering women. We stand up for what we believe in, and work our asses off to be the best we can be, both as individuals and as a team.

In honor of Women’s History Month, we’ve rounded up the women we admire, whether it be for their courage, bravery or badass-ery.

Kim’s pick: Bessie Stringfield, all-around badass

Photo Credit: AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame

Photo Credit: AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame

Here is an African-American woman, born in 1911 that quite literally gave no-fucks. She was born to a white mother and a Jamaican father, who both died when she was only 5 years old. At the age of 19 she became the first African-American woman to ride across the United States solo on a motorcycle. This was before highways, when road travel was haphazard at best; pavement was scarce, and dirt roads were carved with danger, if they existed at all. As a skilled rider, Stringfield navigated these challenges. But discrimination and Jim Crow laws posed even more treacherous hurdles.

After her first trip across the U.S., Bessie would complete the journey seven more times, eventually visiting all 48 contiguous states, plus Europe, Brazil, and Haiti. Her favorite game was tossing a penny onto a map and traveling wherever it landed. To fund her trips, Bessie performed motorcycle stunts for local carnivals, which helped secure her fame.

As an African-American woman who participated in an alternative lifestyle, she was treated as a second-class citizen, especially in the Deep South, where few black people were able to move freely. When motels denied her accommodation, she slept in gas station parking lots — her motorcycle a bed, her jacket a pillow. Once she was reportedly knocked off the road by a white man in a pickup truck.

During WWII she worked with the Army as a civilian motorcycle dispatch rider, the only woman in her unit, carrying messages between domestic bases. She affixed the Army crest to the front of her blue Harley 61.

She was repeatedly pulled over, she said, by police officers who claimed “nigger women are not allowed to ride motorcycles.” Rather than quit, Stringfield arranged a meeting with the chief of police, took him to a local park, and proved her motorcycle skills first-hand. She was never targeted by police again.

One of my favorite stories of her was when she won a motorcycle raise disguised as a man and when she took off her helmet and revealed her gender was refused the the prize.

This woman was fearless, determined and someone I aspire to be every day of my life. She did things in the 1930s women nowadays wouldn’t dream of doing. Bessie you are, and always will be the original badass.

Source: Timeline.com

Adrienne’s pick: Hillary Clinton, a woman who needs no introduction 

Come on now, you didn’t expect us NOT to list Hillz, did you?

I personally don’t know any women, republican or democrat, within my friend circle who didn’t see or listen to her concession speech on election night with a dry eye. This is not because we are weak, rather, it’s because we are strong and it’s terrifying to some folks. While not everyone wanted a Hillary win due to party politics, it can’t go unnoticed that the highest and thickest glass ceiling of all was close to being shattered.

And to all the women, and especially the young women, who put their faith in this campaign and in me: I want you to know that nothing has made me prouder than to be your champion. Now, I know we have still not shattered that highest and hardest glass ceiling, but someday someone will — and hopefully sooner than we might think right now. And to all of the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams – Hillary Clinton

An an unintended “consequence” to losing, Hillary Clinton provided a fem “call to action” and inspired the launch of over 4,500 female campaigns narrowing what authors call the “leadership ambition gap.” The so-called ambition gap shows that women are less likely than men to be encouraged by parents, teachers or party leaders to run — yet they are also less likely to run without being prodded. They underestimate their abilities and assume they need to be much more qualified than men to run for the same office. Even when women are recruited, they often believe they aren’t qualified enough. This “confidence gap” as it were, isn’t really limited to politics however, for decades we have seen this play out on just about every level of business, in most STEM careers and the like.

Sheryl Sandberg of Lean In fame, summarized it most appropriately, in saying: “professional ambition is expected of men but is optional—or worse, sometimes even a negative—for women. “She is very ambitious” is not a compliment in our culture. Aggressive and hard-charging women violate unwritten rules about acceptable social conduct. Men are continually applauded for being ambitious and powerful and successful, but women who display these same traits often pay a social penalty. Female accomplishments come at a cost.”

So in the words of Hillary Clinton, “my friends, let us have faith in each other, let us not grow weary and lose heart, for there are more seasons to come and there is more work to do.” So very much work to do.

Leigh’s pick: Bella Abzug, lawyer, U.S. Representative, and social activist

Bella’s badass-ness started early in her life with a passion for human rights built on the foundation of her past. Her parents were immigrants and she was born into a time when women were not allowed, or at least encouraged, to participate in activities and experiences that were traditionally meant for men. So, she decided to push past the boundaries set by society and religion. With a post-grad education, Bella went on to a career in law, followed by politics. Throughout her life, fighting for human rights was one of her top priorities. She was one of the first Congress members to support gay rights, outspoken in her rejection of the Vietnam War, and a major player in the Women’s Rights movement.

Grace’s pick: Jane Addams, social activist, founder of Hull House

This is the other Jane Addams. Jane Addams was one of the first progressive era socialists. Not to mention, the first woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. She took her pedigreed upbringing and instead of using it to take tea with other socialites in the late 19th century- she took on women’s and children’s rights. She founded Hull House in the late 1890’s to create a space that provided services such as child care, education, and employment training to the neighborhood’s local immigrant population. I first learned of this amazing person in college, although I’m not sure why we don’t learn about her much earlier in life.

Hull House was the foundation of Addams’ impact on society. She and the other women that taught and walked alongside the residents and neighborhoods surrounding Hull House ended up becoming some of our nation’s leading immigrant, labor relations and poverty authorities. They were soon in high demand publishing essays and speaking all over the world. They spoke out to reform child labor laws, immigrant rights, and later for peace.  Jane Addams was on the forefront of many movements that changed our society. Jane Addams spoke up and took action when it was not accepted that women do so, she stood up for those that she didn’t have to, and helped improve the lives of many.

Jessica’s pick: Malala Yousafzai, author

This brave lady is still alive today, but her story will definitely be known in history. If you’ve read her book, I Am Malala, it reveals a significant moment in her life where she was shot on a bus for speaking up about women and children’s right to education. Malala was an activist for these rights long before this event occurred. Everyday she had to keep herself safe and still make her voice heard, all while having a death threat issued against her by the Taliban. Malala survived to tell her story. Her commitment to standing up for her rights have been heard across the country. In 2014, she won the Nobel Peace Prize – becoming the youngest to do so. What isn’t there to admire about Malala?

‘I don’t want to be remembered as the girl who was shot. I want to be remembered as the girl who stood up.’

-Malala Yousafzai

Emma’s pick: Harper Lee, author

To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my favorite books of all time. In fact, it was probably the only book that I was ‘forced’ to read in high school, and loved. Harper Lee’s writing is simple and honest, which can be interpreted in many different ways; sometimes beautiful, cringe-worthy, and also tear provoking. Written in 1988 during a time that our country was still racially divided, Lee wrote a story that many authors were too timid to tackle, and sadly, the novel’s themes are still relevant today. Whether you agree or disagree with Lee’s writing, or you love or hate the characters, the novel elicits impactful words and actions, and acts on characters’ vulnerabilities.

Since this is all about the women we admire, myself and Leigh (834 Project Manager, and also avid lover of Harper Lee) would love to give a special shoutout to Calpurnia, a main character in the novel. Calpurnia’s general position was the Finch family housekeeper, but she was so much more than that – she raised Jem and Scout. Calpurnia was intelligent, maternal and loyal. The Finch’s were her family, and she treated them with love, protection and high expectations.

“Calpurnia was something else again. She was all angles and bones; she was nearsighted; she squinted; her hand was wide as a bed slat and twice as hard. She was always ordering me out of the kitchen, asking me why I couldn’t behave as well as Jem when she knew he was older, and calling me home when I wasn’t ready to come. Our battles were epic and one-sided. Calpurnia always won, mainly because Atticus always took her side. She had been with us ever since Jem was born, and I had felt her tyrannical presence as long as I could remember.”

-To Kill A Mockingbrid

Rest in peace to one of the most eloquent authors to this day, Harper Lee. 

Ali’s pick: Betty Ford, Former First Lady of the United States, and advocate for many things

Betty Ford is known for more than being the First Lady of the United States, and her marriage to President Gerald R. Ford… Mrs. Ford was an activist for the Equal Rights Amendment, was pro-choice on abortion, leader of the Women’s Movement and a breast cancer awareness advocate, among many other topics.

Most importantly, I commend Mrs. Ford for being a notable influencer on mental health and substance addiction, mainly due to her transparency about her personal battle with these issues. After openly seeking treatment for depression and alcoholism, Mrs. Ford opened the Betty Ford Center to help people seek treatment for substance abuse and alcoholism. 

Cat’s pick: Yoko Ono, artist and activist 

Many know her as the women who married John Lennon, but what you may not know is that Yoko Ono is a famous activist and artist. Her work is mostly performance-based, focused on promoting peace and pushing of feminism. Yoko believes that women should do more than just get a job, take care of men and produce babies – gender stereotypes that not all women can identify with. Yoko believed that women should step away from the norm; Become President’s, show that we are more than just a housewife. I admire that Yoko really pushes the limits as an artist and speaks out for women’s rights. Her performance in the 1960s  Cut Piece showed how much people have control on the way you look. Cut Piece documents the potential harm that we have on others, and the deconstruction of human rights. If you want to learn more about Yoko’s activist moments, I recommend viewing her website: imaginepeace.com. 

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