Valiant Women of the Vote is the theme for Women’s History Month 2020. Saint Mary’s School joins in embracing this theme, which celebrates the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment which granted women the right to vote and also honors the “brave women who fought to win suffrage rights for women and the women who continue the fight for voting rights for others.”
Each March, Women's History Month is an annual declared month that highlights the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society. Every year March is designated Women’s History Month by Presidential proclamation.
Women’s History Month began as a local celebration in Santa Rosa, California. The Education Task Force of the Sonoma County (California) Commission on the Status of Women planned and executed a “Women’s History Week” celebration in 1978. The organizers selected the week of March 8 to correspond with International Women’s Day. The movement spread across the country as other communities initiated their own Women’s History Week celebrations the following year.
From the founding mothers of the nation, including Dolley Madison and Abigail Adams; to the suffragettes, including Susan B. Anthony and Sojourner Truth; to aviator Amelia Earhart and astronaut Sally Ride; from civil rights figures Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King, to Supreme Court justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg; there is no shortage of strong women to celebrate who have played important roles in the history of our nation and world.
Saint Mary’s School boasts its own pantheon of women in history.
Saint Mary’s alumnae leaders in government and politics include Betty Ray McCain ’50C, former North Carolina secretary of cultural resources and first female chair of the North Carolina Democratic Party; Marie Watters Colton ’41C, first female speaker pro-tempore of the North Carolina General Assembly and international diplomat; Margaret Highsmith Dickson ’67HS, a North Carolina state senator; and Margaret Rowell Good ’94HS, currently serving as a representative in the Florida House of Representatives.
Saint Mary’s alumnae educational leaders include Martha Dabney Jones, former dean of students at Saint Mary’s, Christian missionary, and former head of Staunton Hall school in Virginia; Emilie Watts McVea, Class of 1884, former president of Sweet Briar College and nationally recognized women’s rights advocate; Virginia McSwain Carson ’67C, former president of South Georgia State College; and Mary Dana Hinton ’88HS, current outgoing president of the College of Saint Benedict and incoming president of Hollins University, both women’s colleges.
Other notable alumnae include Eleanor Wilson McAdoo, Class of 1908, daughter of President Woodrow Wilson, author, and head of the Red Cross in Washington, D.C.; Caro Bayley Bosca ’41C, World War II WASP aviator and world record holding champion pilot; Margaret Jones Cruikshank 1896C, first female president of Saint Mary’s; Nell Battle Lewis, Class of 1918, author, journalist, attorney, suffragist, first female columnist for The News & Observer; and woman’s rights advocate; Sarah Jane Bailey, Class of 1845, dubbed the first suffragist in North Carolina; and many more in the fields of business, medicine, law, philanthropy, education, science, social justice, and more.
These are just a few of the throngs of accomplished women who have shaped the history of our school, our state, our nation, and our world. As the Rev. Aldert Smedes believed when he founded Saint Mary’s in 1842, an educated woman can truly make a difference in the world.