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Girls want to learn about women's history

March 18, 2007|by PEPPER BALLARD

Eight Washington County Girls Inc. members raised their hands excitedly and correctly explained the accomplishments of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. when interviewed at the West Washington Street club recently.

The eight girls, who are between the ages of 8 and 12 and who attend Washington County schools, responded differently when quizzed about historical women's figures.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton? The girls, who were all wearing their "Strong, Smart and Bold" club T-shirts, fell silent.

Amelia Bloomer? Silence.

Susan B. Anthony? "Isn't she on a coin?," one of the girls asked.

Yes. Anthony's face is on the $1 coin because of her influential fight to get women the right to vote; The congressional amendment granting women voting rights was named after her.

Bloomer was a suffragist who wore Turkish trousers for eight years in the mid-1800s in an effort at dress reform. Stanton, a leader in the women's rights movement and colleague of Anthony, co-wrote the Declaration of Rights of the Women of the United States, which was presented in Washington in 1876.

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So what happened locally during Women's History Month?

Washington County Public Schools Supervisor of Secondary Social Studies Evelyn Williams said earlier this month that not many middle schools and high schools had plans to recognize Women's History Month.

Boonsboro Middle School students were reading women's stories during morning announcements, she said. No other secondary schools had told her of plans, she said.

"I wish we did more for women. I like the idea of emphasizing it every day on the morning announcements," said Williams.

In the elementary schools, Linda Kuczynski, curriculum instruction specialist for elementary social studies, said, "There's a good bit that covers females in history in their language arts classes."

Williams said, "I know some history teachers with whom I've had these conversations feel as though continual integration through the (history) chronology is more valuable" than focusing a month's attention on landmark women, Williams said.

Discussions about current events also are common in county classrooms, Williams said.

"This year in government, we have Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House and Hillary Clinton, the first viable presidential candidate," she said.

Hagerstown Community College's Public Information Officer Elizabeth Stull said the college had no events planned to recognize Women's History Month this year.

Female heroes

Although the Girls Inc. members are young, they said they do have female heroes. They said they admired Rosa Parks, Anne Frank, Helen Keller, Harriet Tubman and Amelia Earhart, among others.

Hannah Pittman, 12, who attends Western Heights Middle School, said she wants to be a lawyer when she grows up.

"I just want to learn more about what women did for our country," Hannah said.

Antaje Aldridge, 12, who attends E. Russell Hicks Middle School, said, "I want to know who helped women start voting because if women weren't allowed to vote, it could make a big impact."

Olivia McPherson, a 12-year-old Northern Middle School student, said, "I want to know who the first woman was to get the Nobel Peace Prize."

Winning that prize, she said, "would show that they can make a difference, a big impact in the world."

Allison Nichols, 11, a Northern Middle School student, said she wants to know the names of women who were the first to open libraries and banks.

Evidence of inequalities, as the girls see it, come when boys tease girls about their abilities.

"A lot of boys think it's bad to lose to a girl," Olivia said. "Girls can be stronger than boys."

Allison added that not all boys are like that.

"Some boys can realize girls can be just as good," she said.

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