Celebrating Women’s History Month through the Accomplishments of Women

March 14, 2022

By Laurie Todd-Smith, Ph.D.

In 1920, Old Glory boasted 48 stars on the flag, 8% of Americans graduated from high school, and our country functionally had a female president in First Lady Edith Wilson, who ran the Executive Branch, controlling all information to and from the White House following President Wilson’s stroke in October 1919. The year 1920 was a pivot away from the ravages of the Spanish flu and catastrophic loss of life in World War I to a time of prosperity and a heightened focus on women’s suffrage. March is Women’s History Month, a time to reflect and celebrate the various roles women have played in shaping American history.  

The idea of women’s suffrage was a radical concept in the eyes of previous generations, but American culture was altered by decades of brave women entering public life. In the first decade of the 1900s, a teenage girl born in Manhattan and hailing from Oyster Bay, New York, Alice Roosevelt, grew of age in the spotlight of the Washington, D.C. press, where she emerged to be one of the most important political power brokers of the 20th Century. 

Through her campaigning and official diplomatic missions on behalf of her father, President Theodore Roosevelt, Alice created a model for women to engage in politics energetically. Unlike famous suffragists such as Susan B. Anthony, the Nation saw political authority bestowed upon a girl who grew comfortable representing her father and the Nation despite the media’s persistent criticism. From 1910 to 1920, the number of women in the workforce increased from 5 million to 8 millionwith 2.5 million working in manufacturing, trade, transportation, and public service. Then with the help of Alice and others, 202 Republicans and 102 Democrats in the House and 36 Republicans and 20 Democrats in the Senate supported the constitutional amendment for women’s suffrage. And in March of 1920, after the 36th state ratified the 19th Amendment, women were finally granted the right to vote. 

Women’s labor force participation was 57.4 percent in 2019, up from 57.1 percent in 2018. That same year, 76 percent of women ages 2554 were in the labor force. Over half of them had children less than age 18 years at home. The importance of women in the workforce cast a new light on the relationship between childcare and the economy due to the labor issues created by the pandemic. Unemployment during the Great Depression was far greater than what the contemporary world endured during the Covid-19 pandemic, but female representation in the modern workforce has become an established characteristic of the modern world.

When considering how far America has come as a nation in the past century; with 50 stars on Old Glory, 90% of students graduating from high school, more women graduating with 4-year college degrees than any other time in history, our Nation can be optimistic that women’s achievement will be restrained only by their own ambition. For our Nation to continue its forward progress, we must continue to support all American Workers and recognize the continually growing importance of women in our workforce.

Laurie Todd-Smith, Ph.D., is the Director for the America First Policy Institute’s Center for Education Opportunity. She is a former preschool and public-school teacher and served 8 years as Senior Education and Workforce Policy Advisor to Governor Phil Bryant. She worked as Executive Director for the State Workforce Investment Board in Mississippi before being appointed by President Donald J. Trump as the Director of the Women’s Bureau at the Department of Labor.

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