FLORENCE, S.C. – For 36 years Americans have been asked to take a little time each March to remember what women accomplish through their hard work and industriousness.
This year, the national theme for Women’s History Month is “Nevertheless She Persisted.” In words often attributed to Maya Angelou, “We stand on the shoulders of those who come before us.” Women’s History Month is an opportunity to look at those who came before.
In January, in a second event of its kind, millions of people came together for the Women’s March in Washington. The movement seeks to show solidarity of concern for women’s issues, such as equal pay for equal work, and it seeks to inspire women to vote and be involved in their communities.
Similar marches were conducted across the nation and locally. Marion was one such location. Brian Nolan and Emma Gerald Boyer worked to organize this year’s event, which began on Godbold Street, and are urging folks to put Jan. 19, 2019, on their calendars.
With the cry of “Me Too,” a movement unifying millions during the past six months, the marches seek to combat and openly discuss the issue of sexual assault.
“There’s no going back,” said Marguerite Willis, a Florence resident and well-known antitrust attorney who regularly speaks out on women’s issues and initiatives.
Like most advances, Willis explained, there are peaks and valleys, forward momentum and stalls, but the overall picture is one of moving forward, of making gains.
Women won’t lose the rights they’ve gained, and are making, said Willis, who is running for governor of South Carolina. There are times of great sweeping changes, she added. This is a great time for open and positive debate on women’s issues, she said.
“I think it’s a great thing for women to feel more empowered to speak out on issues such as equal pay, equal rights, equal reproductive rights and other matters, and to have that diversity of opinion. It’s a good thing.”
Women’s History Month had its origins in 1981, when Congress authorized the week beginning March 7, 1982, as “Women’s History Week.”
From the accomplishments as athletes, to acclaim in academics, arts and business, women in South Carolina inspire others. Their biographies are easily found online. Check out Sciway.net’s Notable SC Women page, or SCPRT’s famous South Carolinians page, among others.
Let’s remember Sumter County’s Mary McLeod Bethune, a child of a former slave who became educated and sought to educate others; Bennetsville’s children’s advocate Marian Wright Edelman, and civil rights leader Septima Poinsette Clark of Charleston.
The work of Wil Lou Gray of Laurens continues today, as does the work of Florence’s Lucy T. Davis.
For inspiration to achieve through athletics, there are Marion’s Olympian Lucile "Miss Ludy" Godbold, and Florence’s distinguished basketball player and coach Pearl Moore.
There are Revolutionary War heroine Elizabeth Britton Goddard Jenkins of Britton’s Neck and Mabel Montgomery, a Marion writer, photographer, biographer and civic leader, to be remembered.
Also are women such as Marion’s Kate Lilly Blue, the county’s first librarian, and Mae Gum Gasque, who followed her husband as sheriff of Marion County and was then elected its treasurer.
Hemingway’s Sylvia Woods used her cooking skills to create a culinary empire, never forgetting her roots, and Lake City business woman Darla Moore continues to make her mark in the business world and in her hometown.
The National Women’s History Project, according to its website, recognizes and celebrates the diverse and historic accomplishments of women, with this year’s theme presenting the opportunity to honor women who have shaped America’s history and its future through their commitment to ending discrimination against women and girls.
“Nevertheless She Persisted” was born in February 2017, the group’s site says, when Sen. Elizabeth Warren was silenced during Jeff Sessions’ confirmation hearing as attorney general. “At the time, Warren was reading an opposition letter penned by Coretta Scott King (a past NWHP honoree) in 1986. Referring to the incident, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., later said, ‘Senator Warren was giving a lengthy speech. She had appeared to violate the rule. She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless she persisted.’ Feminists immediately adopted the phrase in hashtags and memes to refer to any strong women who refuse to be silenced.”