Warm greetings from one woman to another!
It is of no surprise that as women we experience life differently from the opposite sex. However, as women, we always seem to find a way to overcome our obstructions and excel. As we wrap up Women’s History Month, I wanted to celebrate and highlight a couple wonderful women who aren't always the first to be recognized and have undergone extreme situations, yet still pulled through and have created a legacy for those who will follow.
Dorothy Laurence - Journalist
Hendon was the birthplace of Dorothy Lawrence. A guardian of the Church of England adopted her after her mother abandoned her.
The Times published a few of Lawrence's articles when she was trying to make it as a journalist. By 1914, Lawrence was living in Paris. After contacting several British papers, Lawrence offered to work as a correspondent in France. There was no woman employed by any of the editors to do what they believed to be very dangerous work.
Following her return to England, Lawrence disguised herself as a man and joined the British Army. Her true identity was discovered after serving for ten days in the Tunneling Company of the British Expeditionary Force on the Western Front under the name Denis Smith. As a punishment, the authorities confined her in a French convent and made her swear an affidavit promising not to reveal how she fooled the Army authorities.
She settled in Canonbury, Islington after returning to England. In 1919, Dorothy Lawrence published a book about her experiences, Sapper Dorothy Lawrence: The Only English Woman Soldier.
Now reflecting on Dorothy's story at the time I cannot help but believe that she was unaware or understood how monumental her life decisions would impact the path of women today. Dorothy broke all social norms during her era and took a stand for what she believed in. Women who read her story are going to be nothing but inspired to go for what they want, which is a truly powerful legacy to leave behind.
Victoria Cruz - LGBT Rights Activist
Victim of the Stonewall protest and the first transgender woman of color to receive the National Crime Victim Service Award for her championship, Victoria Cruz holds a prestigious award for advocacy on behalf of transgender victims of crime. Victoria spent a lot of her early twenties working as a sex worker putting her life at risk. Growing up, being transgender was not widely accepted or very common in the United States. There were very few serious conversations about the identity of gender. As a result of this, Victoria often had to be wary of drug dealers and defend herself from being physically attacked.
Despite the thorns and pains that have stood before Victoria throughout her life span, Victoria has managed to turn this into a positive. As a result of the riots, Johnson became a leading member of the LGBT community. Together with Sylvia Rivera, she founded the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries also known as STAR. As a community organization, STAR supported transgender youth. Additionally, Victoria was a member of the Gay Liberation Front and took part in the Christopher Street Liberation Pride Parade commemorating the first anniversary of Stonewall and the eponymous Pride Festival we celebrate today.
Alice Coachman - American Olympic Athlete
Coachman, born November 9th in Albany Georgia became the first black woman to win an Olympic gold medal and the first African American woman to earn an endorsement. Yet much like Victoria Cruz, all these great achievements didn't come about without some pitfalls.
During her teens, Coachman initially received resistance from her father when it came to her athletic career. Coachman spoke of having to hide her sports shoes to avoid her father "whipping " her. This was due to the fact that athletics was deemed to be an activity for men only during this era. Another difficulty was the issue of racism faced by Alice. After winning her gold medal and returning home, Alice was forced to use a side entrance to the auditorium where she was being recognized. The Mayor of Albany, Georgia also refused to shake her hand. This was purely based on her skin color and takes the notion that as an African American woman, she was worthless and unable to be successful.
Despite her hardships, Alice has managed to make her way into nine different halls of fame and through her Field Foundation, she has supported many younger athletes throughout their career.Coachman is the epitome of conscientious and resilience because no matter the obstruction she faced existing in a male dominated industry, she found a way to succeed and use the backlash as a way to push forward and not accept defeat.
From one Queen to another
So, ladies reflecting back on the lives of just a few women and the hurdles they have had to jump over to be true to themselves, it is important we take away a few gems.
Moving forward in 2022, I think it is extremely important we uplift each other and encourage other fellow women when attempting to break barriers. If we have not learned anything from the stories from the women above, it is that they struggled immensely to progress due to the judgment of men in what was deemed at that time to be a “man's world”.
When it comes to empowerment, let us speak up and be vocal if we see other women struggling to get their voices heard. Let's make our difficulties navigating the world of today an issue we have to fix as a team. Let us not stay silent and speak up because behind every successful woman is a tribe of other successful women who have her back.