Image courtesy of the Women’s Museum of California, via Melissa DeVelvis’s U.S. women’s history syllabus

‘Women’s history is women’s right’

A tribute to overlooked innovators, good troublemakers, and remarkable women of the past, present, and future

Published in
4 min readMar 8, 2023

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“Women’s history is women’s right,” wrote Gerda Lerner, who organized the first Women’s History Day in the U.S., the precursor to Women’s History Month. “It is an essential, indispensable heritage from which we can draw pride, comfort, courage, and long range vision.”

Lerner is just one of countless historians, labor organizers, and political activists who’ve fought to recognize and validate women’s contributions, and to tell their stories. This March, to celebrate Women’s History Month, we’ve gathered a collection of some of those stories from across Medium’s archive. In it, you’ll find writer and editor Debra Groves Harman, MEd’s story about working as a tradeswoman in the ’80s; data scientist Mariana Avelino’s analysis of gender representation in Disney and Pixar films; former U.S. Supreme Court clerk Tim Wu’s memories of afternoon tea with Ruth Bader Ginsburg; and much more.

Of course, we’ve barely scratched the surface of everything there is to read about women’s history on Medium. So, if you have a story to share, please drop a line in the responses — we encourage you to read, highlight, and respond to each other’s recommendations.

Medium Staff

I Helped Pave the Way for Women Working in Trades” by Debra Groves Harman, MEd, writer and editor, in The Narrative Arc

Even now I smile remembering feeling like I owned that shop. In my jeans and work apron, I switched the lights on and started our days there. I remember rubbing my hand over a well-sanded table, or helping to lift a 20-foot piece of angle iron. I was fit, strong and every bit a woman. And I am proud of that.

Measuring the Gender Gap in Animated Films Using Computer Vision” by Mariana Avelino, data scientist, in Better Programming

Storytelling is an art form, and it would be limiting to prescribe a ‘correct’ amount of female or male screen time. Different stories are just that: different…With that said, it is good to keep in mind that the world is made up of men and women and that sometimes a male character could just as easily be rewritten as a female character.

The Making of Moms Mabley” by Toni the Talker, content strategist, in Momentum

Naturally talented, Mabley quickly became one of the most successful entertainers on the Chitlin’ Circuit. However, as a Black woman, her wages were meager as compared to her peers.

Margaret Scott, Rachel Peace, May McFarlane and Olive Hodgkin exercising in the yard of Holloway prison, 1913. (From the archives of the Museum of London)

The Birth of Surveillance Photography” by Kitty Dinshaw, writer and artistic director

In 1871, prisons were instructed to photograph all inmates. In an act of defiance, the suffragettes refused to pose for these photographs. But, by 1913, Scotland Yard wanted their images to create a photographic register of these subversive women, presumably so they could share them with around institutions where the suffragettes often made their most public demonstrations. So, they invented the dubious art of surveillance photography. Once again, the authorities had found a new way of removing their agency from them.

Women Invented the Internet, Too” by Becky Robinson, web developer and designer

If you’re a developer, how many times a day do you use the word ‘debug’? For that we can credit Grace Hopper, an American who served in the navy in World War II… Hopper and her associates found an actual moth caught inside a switch on one of their machines and had to remove it (literally de-bug) because it was obstructing the machine’s operation. The remains of that moth are now in the Smithsonian.

David Lee/Netflix

Viola Davis on Playing the Powerful Ma Rainey” by Adrienne Gibbs in ZORA

The Black woman is always dark, fat, funny, can sing, and is really not sexualized in any way that is dangerous. But that’s not my understanding of women like that. Ma is my Auntie Joyce, my Aunt Letha, who were highly sexual and the most beautiful women I ever seen in my life. They were stylish.

When Wise Women Were Witches” by Olivia Campbell, bestselling author of ‘Women in White Coats’

When we wonder why there aren’t more women physicians recorded in history books, it’s important to remember that there was a time when practicing medicine as a woman could get you killed, that women risked their lives to heal their neighbors.

Wikimedia Commons

The Woman Who Photographed America’s Darkest Days” by Taylor B. in History of Women

On a dreary day in 1936, Lange approaches a starving woman in California…Lange snaps a shot of the mother and her children…The photo is later published in San Francisco News. The response from the photo results in the U.S government sending 20,000 pounds of food to the campsite where the woman and her children live. The photo becomes forever known as “Migrant Mother”. It remains the most famous photo from the Great Depression era.

A Dutch Queen’s Epistolary Smackdowns” by Jenni Wiltz

Sophie would have fared much better in our time, when she could make her own choices. Instead, she found herself subject to stifling royal etiquette and a husband she loathed.

Browse more curated stories:

Staff Picks: Women's History Month

35 stories
Two lines of women in long, vintage skirts face the camera in a black and white photograph.

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