Katherine Johnson. Dolores Huerta. Billie Jean King. Kalpana Chawla. Malala Yousafzai. Oregon’s own Esther Pohl Lovejoy.
All are important figures in the study of women’s history. Women who put their reputations, and sometimes their personal safety, on the line in order to advance the cause of women’s rights. And as we celebrate Women’s History Month 2020 – a year that also marks the centennial of women’s suffrage in America – it is well worth remembering their contributions.
Considering the achievements of these women can be intimidating. As an individual, I sometimes struggle with how to measure up. How can I continue to pass the torch on my own level?
The best way is to confidently walk through doors courageously opened by our predecessors.
Take a moment to consider who has been your example – a relative, friend, colleague, teacher, or health care provider. More likely than not, by the time you finished reading that sentence, someone’s name popped into your head. Someone who had faith in you even though odds were not in your favor. Someone who set an example to follow – perhaps in taking an actual sick day to prioritize self-care. Or someone who speaks confidently in meetings, not apologizing for speaking up.
In other words, someone who determines what is best for herself and acts accordingly, not seeking permission or validation from those around her. Someone who, when denied a seat at the table, decides to build her own.
Though seemingly small, those actions write microhistories from which we all benefit. Look to those giants in women’s history and celebrate their accomplishments. And during this Women’s History Month let’s also continue that spirit at OHSU and beyond by supporting each other in setting examples for everyone around us.
Kathryn Goforth is a program administrator for strategic planning in the OHSU Office of Research and Innovation. She also serves as chair for the OHSU Women’s Employee Resource Group.