The Activist Celebrates Women's History Month

British poster for Women's Day March (1974).

The Activist dedicates this issue to Women's History Month, in observance and celebration of the vital role of women in American history. With this tribute, we hope to honor all people who identify as women, and we recognize all the ways the complexity of womanhood has been rendered invisible— from too-narrow definitions of what constitutes "labor," to the white mainstream exclusion of women of color, to the ongoing rejection of and violence against trans women and gender nonconforming people.    

This month of tribute has been officially recognized throughout the United States since 1987, but its celebration was initially encouraged by educators in Santa Rosa, California, in March of 1978.

International Women's Day, which occurs yearly on March 8th, originated much earlier in the 20th century. The earliest recorded official commemoration was organized by the Socialist Party of America in 1909.

Each year, the National Women’s History Alliance chooses a theme for Women’s History Month. This year's theme is “Women Providing Healing, Promoting Hope.” We believe the gallery below captures a very small sampling of figures who embody this theme.

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The Black (Woman) Experience

By Jovanka Beckles

Jovanka Beckles, AC Board of Transit Director for Ward 1 and former Richmond City Council member 

I was going to write a planned article about Black women in history. I will write that article another time. Rather I am writing about the real time, history-in-the-making, effect of the direct harm of belligerent racism towards the BIPOC community—especially towards Black women. I move through the world as a dark-skinned Black woman, and I experience racism daily. From the so-called micro aggressions to the less common, but not extraordinary, blatant attacks. 

This morning is simply one example. I was trying to reach someone with a 505 area code from my office desk phone. It was the wrong number, obviously. This is how it went:

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What Do Women Want?

By Kathleen Wimer and Diana Wear

Aretha Franklin performs during "Women of Soul: In Performance at the White House," 2014.

Aretha Franklin said it all, R-E-S-P-E-C-T. The Supreme Court 1973 decision making it constitutional for women to choose whether or not to have a baby (Roe v Wade) may have lulled us into complacency, but last September the Supreme Court permitted implementation of Texas S.B. 8, a law authorizing anyone to collect $10,000 should they turn in someone later found guilty of helping a girl or woman get an abortion.

Covid 19, too, set an old familiar stage. The pandemic revealed the disproportionate disadvantages women endure—low wage multiple “essential” jobs with exposure to the pandemic, balancing children's at-home learning and care; often with other adults in the home but not necessarily helping and sometimes instead even administering abuse. These day-to-day women’s realities, plus the current Supreme Court threats to our free agency in reproductive matters, call us to demand rights for women together, at the local level, now.

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We Deserve Nothing Less


Trans Women in Politics

By Jamin Pursell

Andrea Jenkins, the first African American openly trans woman to be elected to political office in the United States. She serves Ward 8 on the Minneapolis City Council

In traditionally male-dominated spaces, simply being a woman is an act of radicalism. Being queer is always a rebellion. No matter where you sit in the rainbow of LGBTQI+, your very existence breaks rules that have been long ascribed to the human body and mind.

The 6.7 million LGBTQI women in America primarily vote with the Democratic Party and tend to be actively engaged with political issues. They are volunteers, activists, contributors, advocates, and voters for progressive candidates and causes. It is hard enough being a woman in the world, but being a woman in politics is especially difficult. Often the hardest workers and bravest must fight the stereotypes prescribed to them, and with little recognition. They must tread new ground with no map or guidance. That is why it is essential to uplift these women and admire the vision and fortitude that carries them in politics.

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This Women’s History Month, Try a Little Respect

By Floy Andrews

Margaret Hamilton as the Witch in the 1939 film version, threatening Dorothy (Judy Garland), 1939.

When the former Richmond City Attorney departed during the tumultuous conclusion to 2021, the mayor referred to her as the “wicked witch” and quoted lyrics from the Wizard of Oz song, “Ding-Dong! The Witch is Dead.” The mayor said equally disparaging things about our city manager as she, too, left office earlier last year. On top of that, Mayor Butt suggested that the entire city council had a “drama queen” reputation. I was offended, though not particularly surprised, to read those lines in Mayor Butt’s December e-forums. Such anti-woman attitudes permeate a culture that furthers the white male power structure.

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Rest In Peace Alexis Parsons

By Tamisha Walker

Alexis Parsons, a dedicated fellow of the Safe Return community, passed away on February 1, 2022 at her home in the Sycamore neighborhood of Antioch. She was 30 years old.

Words cannot begin to describe this tragic loss. We miss her so dearly and will always treasure the two and a half years she spent with us in the Safe Return family.

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Rosie Lee Tompkins, Richmond Quiltmaker

By Shiva Mishek

Rosie Lee Tompkins, 1985. Photo courtesy of BAMPFA.

In the mid-1980s, psychologist Eli Leon stumbled across the work of Rosie Lee Tompkins at a Marin flea market. He devoted the rest of his life to collecting her quilts. At the time of his death, Leon had amassed over 500 works by the artist, who chose to live in complete anonymity.

Rosie Lee Tompkins is the pseudonym of Effie Mae Martin Howard. The now-renowned artist was born in rural Arkansas in 1936, where she was one of fifteen children in a sharecropping family. Tompkins moved to Richmond in early adulthood, during the Great Migration of African Americans away from the Jim Crow South and into western states. She lived and worked as a nurse in Richmond until her death in 2006.

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Spring RPA Membership Meeting

Come one, come all!

RPA Membership Spring meeting will be Saturday, March 26, 2-4 pm. We know we’re all tired of Zoom meetings but, for now, it’s still our go-to gathering spot. And yes, the Office Committee is looking for an office but we’re not there yet. Still, we have news to share, people to meet, and actions to plan.

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