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Women Making History

Tags: Women, History, School
March 29, 2021 12:00 AM
By: PDE Press and Communications Office

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Women’s History Month – celebrated during the month of March each year – is a month dedicated to celebrating and recognizing the accomplishments and contributions women have made to their communities and to society. It initially began as International Women’s Day, but throughout the early and mid 1900s it morphed into National Women’s History Week, eventually expanding into Women’s History Month in 1987. 

Here in Pennsylvania, many women have made great contributions to the commonwealth, past and present, including: 

Nellie Bly (1864-1922) was one of the most influential American journalists. As an intrepid young reporter who wanted to make a difference in the world, Bly inspired changes to the nation’s mental health care system. In 1887, Bly went undercover to investigate the conditions at Blackwell’s Island Asylum in New York. Bly had herself committed to the institution, spent 10 days speaking to patients, and documented the horrific treatment they endured. Her exposé grabbed the world’s attention and pioneered a new style of reporting. 

Virginia Proctor Powell Florence (1897-1991) was the first Black woman in the United States to earn a degree in library science. After earning a degree in English literature from Oberlin College in Ohio, Florence moved back to Pennsylvania with the intent of pursuing a career in teaching. Aware of her passion for children and books, her future husband encouraged her to pursue a career in librarianship. 

Mildred Scott, a Western Pennsylvanian, fought for disability rights in the 1940s and 1950s. After contracting polio as a child, she found out she would be barred from her dream of becoming a teacher because of her disability. She became heavily involved in disability rights activism, leading to some of the laws that exist today. 

There are countless other women in Pennsylvania, across the United States, and around the world who have made great contributions to society - their accomplishments and contributions are important to recognize this month and yearlong. 


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