By Georgia Kirkendall
March is International Women’s History Month. Word of this commemoration seems to have spread more this year than ever before (I’ll admit that before 2021, I had no idea that there was a month dedicated to women’s history at all). It is difficult not to realize the symbolism of March, with the bombardment of leading magazine headlines, online tags, and even commercial sales. This is wonderful because anything feminist should be celebrated and shared, but it leaves one wondering what makes this year such a big deal.
As it turns out, this year is the centennial anniversary of female suffrage in the United States. A 100 years should be considered a huge, huge deal. The National Women’s History Alliance has designated the yearly theme for Women’s Month as “Valiant Women of the Vote: Refusing to be Silenced,” in tune with the anniversary of the 19th amendment.
As the nation strives to recognize great movements and people in United States (as well as global) history, it is also important to commemorate the achievements of the ethnically diverse population. Everyone knows who Susan B. Anthony was, but what about Zitkala-Ša? What about Andrea Villarreal? Let’s explore the lesser-known, yet equally influential, women of progressive history.
Zitkala-Ša was a reformer who worked to safeguard Native American culture and identity. She was a correspondent for the Society of American Indians, and founded the National Council of American Indians. Also an influential writer, Zitkala-Ša published short stories and essays relating to her personal struggle of retaining her indigenous identity in a conformist American society. Andrea Villarreal was the “Mexian Joan of Arc.”A Mexican revolutionary and writer, Villarreal advocated for revolution in Mexico and supported women’s suffrage in her two published newspapers, La Mujer Moderna (The Modern Woman) and El Obrero (The Worker). Aurora Lucero-White Lea advocated for bilingual education and cultural practice in the school environment. She was the Assistant Superintendent of Instruction for the New Mexico Department of Education, and was one of six New Mexican women commended for fighting for female suffrage in a memorial bill passed by the New Mexico legislature in February 2020.