Written by Jimmie Epling   

Expand Your Horizons During

Women's History Month 

By Jimmie Epling

Did you know March is National Women’s History Month?  No?  It had its origin in 1981 when Congress passed a bill authorizing and requesting the President to proclaim the week beginning March 7, 1982 as “Women’s History Week."  In 1987 after being petitioned by the National Women’s History Project, Congress passed a bill designating March as “Women’s History Month."  This year they are celebrating 35 years of “writing women back into history.”  The Darlington County Library System is your place to discover the stories of women who individually and collectively are an essential part of the fabric of our nation’s history.

At the Library, you will discover thousands of biographies and histories of women who are having an impact on our lives today and those in our nation’s history whose impact is still being felt.  These stories of women’s lives and the choices they made provide strong role models to encourage girls and young women to think larger and bolder, and give boys and men a fuller understanding of the female experience.  Knowing women’s achievements challenges stereotypes and upends social assumptions about who women are and what women can accomplish today.  This 35th anniversary of the Women’s History Month and the National Women’s History Project, we recognize and celebrate the many ways that women’s history has become woven into the fabric of our national story.

Among the many threads in the fabric of our national story is Louisa May Alcott, author of “Little Women.”  Through reading about her life you will come to understand why she said, “I’m not afraid of storms for I’m learning how to sail my ship.”  Learn why Amelia Earhart believed “Courage is the price that life exacts for granting peace” at the Library.  And discover what occurred in Rosa Parks’ life to prompt her to say, “I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.” These three women, an author, aviatrix, and activist, broke new ground for all who follow them because of their exemplary strength, determination, and willingness to make a stand.

The Library encourages everyone to read a book or magazine article, listen to an audiobook, or watch a film about the life of a woman or girl who took a stand.  Then share the story of their struggles and achievements.  Sharing their stories can help to inspire tangible and material changes to improve the lives of women and girls throughout the world and our country.

Two books were recently published that have a strong, pro-women message.  They present women and girls who are strong without being caricatures; emotional without being a harmful stereotype; and most of all, full realized characters with hopes, dreams, and struggles.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart.  Something happened to Frankie Landau-Banks the summer between her freshman and sophomore years at Alabaster Preparatory, one of the nation's most elite boarding schools.  Before, she was pretty enough, but lanky, a little awkward, the kind of girl you might not notice, known in her family as "Bunny Rabbit."  Almost overnight, however, she turned into a full-blown swan.  With a gorgeous face and a knockout body to match, Frankie is suddenly getting a lot of attention, particularly from senior heartthrob Matthew Livingston.

I am Malala: The First Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb.  When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley, one girl spoke out.  Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education.  On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, when she was fifteen, she almost paid the ultimate price.  She was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school and few expected her to survive.  Instead, Malala's miraculous recovery has taken her on an extraordinary journey from a remote valley in northern Pakistan to the halls of the United Nations in New York.  At sixteen, she has become a global symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest nominee ever for the Nobel Peace Prize.  This is the remarkable tale of a family uprooted by global terrorism, of the fight for girls' education, of a father who, himself a school owner, championed and encouraged his daughter to write and attend school, and of brave parents who have a fierce love for their daughter in a society that prizes sons.  Her story will make you believe in the power of one person's voice to inspire change in the world.

Among the thousands of biographies at the Library you will not only find the courageous story of Malala Yousafzai, but also those of current newsmakers such as Hillary Clinton, Kate Middleton, Michelle Obama, and Kay Robertson (Duck Commander).  We also have the latest books from comedian Amy Poehler and musician Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth.  These join our biographies of past great women like, Helen Keller, Abigail Adams, Harriet Tubman, and Florence Nightingale.

When you visit the Library to learn the story of a woman who changed America, remember that biographies aren’t just found together in the BIO section.  Depending on the content of the book, it might be found among the entertainment, sports, or political books.  If the book is a collection of many women’s stories, they will be found on the shelves in the collective biographies with a Dewey number in the 920-929 range.

A few years ago, students were assigned to read a biography of a famous woman and do a class presentation. The staff enjoyed helping the students by picking biographies of women not so well known so that the students learned about a wide range of women and their accomplishment rather than the same old standards.

Even though this year’s Women’s History month is nearing an end, it is never too late to learn something new about the women of yesterday and today.  The Darlington County Library System challenges you to read the story of a woman and expand your horizons.

March 23, 2015