Women's History Month, March 2002
Women's History Month: FIT Collegewide Committee on Diversity
Thursday, March 21, 2002
It gives me great pleasure to welcome you today...As part of FIT's celebration of women's history month. You know, it seems we have been marking women's history month for a very long time now. But in fact, it has not even been 25 years. historians and biographers have ignored women because, they said, we led such private lives...Such silent lives. We were too far from the centers of power to be of much interest. Oh, there were some exceptions: Joan of Arc...Madame Curie...Maybe even Madonna...But the rest of us were deemed dull, unaccomplished, unworthy.
However, in 1978, a small California commission on the status of women went out on a limb and declared the first women's history week, a week designed to shed some light on a topic that was virtually unstudied until that time. The idea caught on, and before long, we were celebrating national women's history week, and as of 1987, national women's history month. Ten years ago, we even had a year of the woman.
I suggest that we now take a cosmic view and declare the 21 history millennium. That way, we would have the time to tell the whole story—the glorious as well as the grim.
Actually, it would be nice to think that we did not need a women's history month. It would be nice if women, who make up more than half of the human race—and are 66 percent of the world's poor and illiterate—had an equal and valued place in the pantheon of history. Clearly, and st century the women's amazingly—even today, even in this country where we have made such impressive progress—we do not.
Here at FIT, 80 percent of our students are women. We also have more than 1000 students, male as well as female from around the world. We are a dynamic and diverse community, attempting to "recognize the whole gamut of human potentialities..." As Margaret Mead once put it ...We are attempting to "weave a social fabric in which each diverse human gift will find a fitting place." I say this as a point of pride.
We not only value cross-cultural learning in our classrooms, where a global perspective is required, but we value cross-cultural communication on our campus. We represent a multitude of religions, races and ethnic groups. These bonds strengthen us, as a community, as a people.
Today, as we honor the diverse and interlocking stories of women, we have the excellent opportunity to learn more about our sisters in Afghanistan. Sadly, for many of us, the plight of these women has been overshadowed until these past wrenching six months of war.
I am grateful to the college wide committee on diversity, to Dr. Valerie Steele and our distinguished panelists for presenting this important program.
If you believe as the historian Gerda Lerner does...That "women's history is the primary tool for women's emancipation"...Then this time we spend together today, as we gain insight into the lives of these women, gives us the opportunity to offer support for the on- going battle for respect, for tolerance...For justice..For all women. thank you.