MARCH -- NATIONAL WOMEN'S HISTORY MONTH
Women’s Education – Women’s Empowerment
PASSHE Names 1st Women President of Edinboro University of Pennsylvania
Dr. Julie Wollman
PASSHE Names 1st Women President of Edinboro University of Pennsylvania
Dr. Julie Wollman
Just before the dawning of 2012, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education’s Board of Governors concluded a six-month national Edinboro University search by naming Edinboro’s 17th president, and the first woman to lead the region’s largest and most comprehensive institution of higher education, Dr. Julie Wollman.
Wollman, currently the vice President for Academic Affairs at Boston’s Wheelock College, will begin her duties at Edinboro June 1, succeeding Dr. James Moran, who was appointed interim president last June.
President-select Wollman, who has already made several visits to campus to prepare for her administration, found the Edinboro community “warm, friendly and engaging.”
Recognizing the Pioneering Leadership of Women and Their Impact on the Diverse Areas of Education.
•Emma Hart Willard (1787–1870) - Women Higher Education Pioneer
•Charlotte Forten Grimke (1837 – 1914) - Freedman Bureau Educator
•Annie Sullivan (1866 – 1936) - Disability Education Architect
•Gracia Molina de Pick (b.1929) - Feminist Educational Reformer
•Okolo Rashid (b.1949) - Community Development Activist and Historical Preservation Advocate
•Brenda Flyswithhawks (b. 1950) - American Indian Advocate and Educator
Emma Hart Willard (1787–1870) - Women Higher Education Pioneer
Self-taught in areas of study reserved for men, she went from being a student to being a teacher, and at the age of 20 became the principal at the women’s academy in Middlebury, Vermont.
Two years later she married physician John Willard, and because it was considered improper for married women to work, she retired to the home, rearing her husband’s four children from his first marriage and bearing a child herself.
But neither her “retirement” nor the work of running a large household kept Willard from advancing her studies. She borrowed college textbooks from a male relative, and her eyes were opened not only to advanced learning, but also to the world of the mind denied to women.
When her husband was struck with financial troubles, Willard opened a school in their Middlebury home, but met with opposition there to her belief that women deserved an education on a par with men. She criticized the finishing school curriculum directed to young women, noting that “the education of females has been exclusively directed to fit them for displaying to advantage the charms of youth and beauty ... [and] though [it is] well to decorate the blossom, it is far better to prepare for the harvest.”
Seeking a more hospitable location for her school, she moved with her family to New York State, and approached state legislators with her “Plan for Improving Female Education”—a document she had to submit in writing, as women were not allowed to address the legislature in person. In it she wrote that “ reason and religion teach that we [women] too are primary existences...the companions, not the satellites of men."
While her ideas did not meet with universal acceptance, the Governor of New York, De Witt Clinton, was impressed. The booming industrial city of Troy raised taxes to endow the Troy Female Seminary, and families across the country sent their daughters to be educated according to the philosophy of Madame Willard. The real education of American girls had begun.
On the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Troy Female Seminary it was named the Emma Willard School, and continues today to provide a first-rate education to young women from all over the world. In 1895—twenty-five years after Willard’s death—a statue in her honor was erected on the campus of her groundbreaking experiment. Its inscription reads in part:
HER MOST ENDURING MONUMENT, [is]
THE GRATITUDE OF EDUCATED WOMEN.
Charlotte Forten Grimke (1837 – 1914) Freedman Bureau Educator
When her financial situation demanded that she find paid employment, Forten became the first Black woman to teach white children in Massachusetts, at the Epes Grammar School of Salem. During this time she also began publishing poetry, much of it activist in theme.
But with the coming of the Civil War,Forten’s determination to participate in the education of liberated slaves brought her to South Carolina, where slave-owners had fled the Union army. She left the north under the auspices of the Philadelphia Port Royal Relief Association and taught on the island of St. Helena—the first black woman to do so.
Her activist spirit and idealistic determination are evident as she contemplates the challenge she has taken on: "The long, dark night of the Past, with all its sorrows and its fears, was forgotten; and for the Future—the eyes of these freed children see no clouds in it.”
The physical and emotional stress finally took its toll on Forten, and she left St. Helena after two years. But she had achieved one dream, and had years ahead to achieve still more. She had national impact on education in the United States when she worked for the U.S. Treasury Department in Washington, D.C. recruiting teachers. At the age of forty-one, Charlotte Forten married Presbyterian minister Francis Grimké, himself a freed slave, and nephew of the famous Grimké sisters, who were abolitionist activists. Charlotte supported his work at his Washington D.C. church, where she organized a women's missionary group, and continued to work with and for the black community.
Scholar, teacher, abolitionist, crusader, Charlotte Forten Grimké is remembered and read today as a writer whose careful documentation of her varied life is a testament to the racial experience of 19 th century America.
Annie Sullivan ( 1866 – 1936) Disability Education Architect
Annie was sent to the state almshouse and orphanage in Tewksbury, Massachusetts, where she spent four years, and underwent two unsuccessful eye surgeries. But her life was transformed when the state board of charities chairman, Frank Sanborn, visited Tewksbury; reportedly Annie, who was never known for either restraint or polite behavior, threw herself in front of him crying, "Mr. Sanborn, I want to go to school."
So, at the age of fourteen, Annie Sullivan became a student at the Perkins School for the Blind in Boston, where she learned to read and write—and from which she graduated as valedictorian of her class. While at Perkins, she had several operations that restored a significant amount of her vision. She also learned to use a form of manual alphabet that allowed her to “talk” with a friend who was both blind and deaf.
After Annie’s graduation, the director of the Perkins Institute was asked to suggest a teacher for an Alabama family whose daughter was also blind and deaf. He suggested Annie Sullivan—and thus began a near fifty year relationship that would end only with Sullivan’s death. Annie Sullivan, who had struggled so to be educated herself, took on the education of Helen Keller, an uncontrollable child trapped in a world of dark silence.
Starting with the hand-spelling of “doll,” which Sullivan had brought as a present for Helen, it took more than a month before the girl understood the relationship between object or idea and the movements of her teacher against her hand—but at that point, education set Helen Keller free.
Sullivan took Helen to the Perkins School for several visits when her pupil was ready to benefit from the resources there, and, thirteen years after Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller first met, they went to Radcliffe College—Helen as the student, Sullivan as her translator. Only Helen Keller received the diploma, but Annie Sullivan had also been educated beyond her wildest dreams.
Sullivan and Keller lived, worked, and travelled together until Annie Sullivan’s death. They lectured, appeared in vaudeville performances, and appeared in a silent film called Deliverance, which was the life story of Helen Keller. But their work turned to more serious business as they collaborated with the American Foundation for the Blind as advisors, fundraisers, and advocates for change. Both received honorary degrees from Temple University in Philadelphia.
Annie Sullivan was a pioneer in a kind of education that was in its infancy. And if a student’s gratitude is a teacher’s greatest award, then Sullivan was richly rewarded. When Keller died in 1968, thirty-two years after the passing of her teacher and friend, Keller’s ashes were placed in the Washington National Cathedral next to Annie's.
Gracia Molina de Pick (b.1929 Feminist Educational Reformer
Molina de Pick’s community organizing skills developed in high school, where she was involved in post-World War II peace movements and political efforts to get women the right to vote in national Mexican elections. By 16, she founded and led the youth section of the Partido Popular, the only political party at the time that advocated women’s voting rights.
Molina de Pick moved to California in 1957, and there earned two degrees in Education. She remembers that in her early days of teaching in a school where seventy percent of the students were Hispanic, children whose only language was Spanish, were placed in classrooms for those with developmental disabilities. She was appalled by the number of Mexican students who were in those classes, and were—in her words—“Failing miserably, miserably.” She said “No way, no way”—and thus began a crusade for change.
Realizing the critical relationship between parents—especially mothers—and their children’s education, Molina de Pick built library resources and created reading opportunities to engage the whole family. On the faculty at Mesa College, she founded and wrote the curriculum for the first Associate’s Degree in Chicana/Chicano Studies, which appeared in the Plan de Aztlan, the 1970 blueprint for Higher Education for Mexican Americans. She was the founding faculty of the Third College (now Thurgood Marshall College) at the University of California San Diego, where she developed the undergraduate sequence for Third World Studies.
Molina de Pick is the founder of several organizations that bring together her passionate work on behalf of women’s equality, native communities, labor and immigrants’ rights—among them IMPACT, a community organization fighting for the civil rights of Mexican Americans in San Diego; and the Comisión Femenil Mexicana Nacional, the first national feminist Chicana Association. She also served on the National Council of La Raza, the first Civil Rights Advocate group for Mexican American Civil Rights.
The tireless Gracia Molina de Pick, now eighty three years old, whose early philanthropy was in the giving of her time, intelligence, and spirit has turned in later years to giving financial resources as well. “I don’t have a lot of money,” she says, “but I’m rich in so many other ways. Everything I have, I give to the causes.” Such has been the impact and inspiration of her generosity and passion that her advocacy for improved education as a key to equality was honored on January 12, 2010 by the designation of Gracia Molina de Pick Day in San Diego, California.
Okolo Rashid (b.1949) Community Development Activist and Historical Preservation Advocate
But her experience as an educator began almost by accident, and produced an amazing outcome. How many people would imagine that the one and only International Museum of Muslim Cultures in the United States would be found in Jackson, Mississippi? That fact is the result of Okolo Rashid’s vision—a vision that comprises activism and an inclusive world view where human dignity and individual worth are central values.
In 2000, Rashid had what she describes as an “activist moment” when she saw a TV promotional program for an exhibit on Spain to be hosted by the Mississippi Arts Pavilion. As she watched, she noted the utter absence of any reference to Islam and its contributions to Spanish culture. Rashid decided that she would organize an exhibition that would allow visitors to learn the full scope of Spanish history—not by producing a counter-exhibit, but rather by providing a supplementary experience for museum-goers.
With only five months to prepare, Rashid drew upon her background in community organizing and in just four months, the IslamicMoorish Spain exhibition opened; it was visited by nearly 25,000 people during its first six months.
The exhibit was scheduled to close on September 30, 2001—but then history happened. Jackson community leaders, including Christian ministers, were successful in keeping the exhibit open—permanently. They saw the profound need for Americans to understand Islam, and thus the exhibit became a museum, of which Okolo Rashid is now Executive Director.
The Museum’s Mission Statement reflects Rashid’s goals of using education to promote tolerance and understanding, even in the most difficult times; it asserts that through its work, the Museum “strives to facilitate multicultural and interfaith tolerance, reducing religious and racial bigotry and advancing religious and civic dialogue.”
Moving in the concentric circles of the local, the national, and the global, Okolo Rashid has used the lessons of her education and her experience to create a most unexpected, much-needed center of learning for Americans of all cultures.
Brenda Flyswithhawks (b. 1950) American Indian Advocate and Educator
Dr. Flyswithhawks, one of the first women of the Cherokee Nation to receive a Ph.D., might best be described as an activist teacher/learner. As a psychologist, Dr. Flyswithhawks works as an advocate for the American Indian community to help ensure that their cultural values are respected. She works within and across cultural circles in support of both mutual understanding and cultural home-coming.
Dr. Flyswithhawks has taught in the Department of Behavioral Sciences at Santa Rosa Junior College in California since 1989, and from that position her impact on education has radiated throughout the United States. In 1995, she initiated and implemented the SEED (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity) Project on Inclusive Curriculum at Santa Rosa Junior College, and is now Co-Director of the national SEED Project based at the Center for Research on Women at Wellesley College in Massachusetts. Through that role she has affected the lives of thousands of children here and abroad by “training the trainers”—preparing other educators to create professional development seminars on issues of diversity and equity for their colleagues. SEED promotes discussion focused on ways to make school climates and curricula more gender-fair and more inclusive of all cultural perspectives. Participants are invited to examine not only contemporary educational scholarship, but also “the textbooks of our lives” in order to create a coherent sense of the human experience for all the human beings in a classroom.
In a 1996 article in the Holistic Educational Review entitled “The Process of Knowing and Learning: An Academic and Cultural Awakening,”Flyswithhawks contends that “genuine learning cannot avoid the discovery of the ‘truth’ and reality of one’s self and one’s culture,” and notes the joy of watching her students make that discovery:
"As I encourage [them]” she notes, “I become encouraged. As I lift them up, they lift me up. As I believe in them, they believe in me. As they are transformed, I become transformed.”
Winner of the 2007 Elizabeth Carlson Award for Significant Contributions that Advance Awareness of Women’s History, lauded by her colleagues for her grace, compassion, courage, and integrity, Dr. Brenda Flyswithhawks is both an exemplary educator and a model learner.