March is National Women’s History Month — a time to reflect on the important role women have played in American history and the impact they have made on our culture. From Abigail Adams to Maya Angelou, women have made an indelible impact on the world around us and continue to lead the United States toward the next frontier.
“We’ve come a long way in our country, but our history books and executive offices are still largely full of men,” said Mira Pallotta, Executive Director for Brandermill Woods. “It’s so important that we take time to call out and recognize the women who have been there every step of the way, and who continue to inspire young women as role models. Women’s History Month is a way to empower America’s future women leaders.”
With empowerment in mind, here are five remarkable American women who inspire all of us at Brandermill Woods for their leadership, their ideas and their impact on the world:
Margaret Mead: Women often fail to receive credit for their role in the sciences. An anthropologist and psychologist, Mead became famous for her reports on gender roles in the South Pacific and Southeast Asian cultures, and she left her stamp on the field of cultural anthropology. In 1979, President Carter awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously.
Sally Ride: Speaking of leading American scientists, Ride became the first American woman (and, at 32, the youngest American) to travel to space in 1983. Beyond her role in space exploration, Ride was a physicist whose research centered on nonlinear optics and Thomson scattering, and she was a professor at the University of California, San Diego, until her death in 2012.
Sandra Day O’Connor: Another groundbreaking first for American women was O’Connor’s appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1981. As an associate justice for 25 years, O’Connor had a reputation for finding a middle ground in what was often a politically polarized court, casting the swing vote in a number of 5-4 decisions. She retired from the court in 2006 but remains an active voice in the law.
Sheryl Sandberg: The youngest woman on our list, Sandberg is a highly regarded business executive. Currently Facebook’s chief operating officer, she is perhaps best known as the author of the bestselling book Lean In, which tackles the lack of women in government and leadership positions. The book serves as a guide to help professional women achieve their goals, and to help men who wish to shape a more equitable society.
Maggie Walker: Brandermill Woods is located in Midlothian, Va., right outside Richmond. Our city’s most influential woman in history is arguably Maggie Walker, who is shamefully underappreciated outside our region. A successful African American teacher and businesswoman, she was the first woman of any race to charter an American bank. Among other legacies, her name lives on in Virginia’s Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School, and her home is a National Historic Site in Richmond’s Jackson Ward neighborhood.