By Ida Tyree Hyche © 22 March 2011

We are empowered by the strength and leadership of pace-setter women. Their triumphs fuel our destiny. Their breakthroughs form our history. Their formulation of our history propels us as wind beneath wings, daring us to allow its knowledge to strengthen us. Notable women whose strength and leadership combined purpose and passion to successfully move mountains are why we celebrate Women’s History Month.

Year after year women vote in local, state and national elections, and run for political offices. We are building on the historical strength of the Nineteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Ratified on August 18, 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment prohibits denying any U.S. citizen the right to vote based on sex. This amendment was a culmination of the Women’s Suffrage Movement, which fought at both state and national levels to achieve the right to vote for women. Laying a foundation of strength for future female generations, the leaders of the Women's Suffrage Movement were crucial in changing public perception of voting rights for American women.

The revolutionary success of women’s rights advocate, abolitionist and ex-slave, Sojourner Truth, radiated when she stood tall and boldly proclaimed, on behalf of all women of color, “Ain’t I a Woman?!” Over a century later, a quiet young lady, Vivian Malone, gathers the strength of a Sojourner Truth and boldly stands tall, facing adversity, to become the University of Alabama’s first African American woman to enter its institution.

The pioneering success and forthright leadership of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of former President Franklin D. Roosevelt, transformed the conventional role of White House First Lady from social hostess to visible, active participant in the presidential administration. Advocating women’s rights, political, and social justice, historians regard First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt as one of the most active First Ladies in White House history. Her evolving vision for the role of First Lady gave strength to subsequent First Ladies, building on Eleanor Roosevelt's precedent.

The civil rights activism, mentoring and leadership development successes of Dr. Dorothy I. Height serve as building blocks for our strength as women. We remember Dr. Height for her ability to encourage and help women reach greater levels of achievement. Dr. Height's leadership strength toward integration of the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) paved the way for diversity in Executive leadership within the YWCA USA today.

Through the tenacity of a female congresswoman from Massachusetts, who introduced a bill to enlist and appoint women in the Army of the United States, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the bill establishing the Women's Army Corps (WAC). Through that act, women’s history took another successful step. From this history reaped the strength of America's first female four-star general, General Ann E. Dunwoody, who serves as head of The Army Materiel Command, the Army’s premier provider of materiel readiness, now relocating from Fort Belvoir, VA to Redstone Arsenal, Alabama.

Our history serves as the base from which we build our potential. Through its study, history gives us directions. Those same ideals that carried our predecessors and gave them hope now become our strength to move forward. Our history as pace-setting women is certainly our strength.

Author's Bio: 

Ida Tyree Hyche, J.D., is historian, researcher, writer, and advocate for professional development of young people through knowledge sharing. She conducts leadership development and professional seminars on social issues affecting youth and young adults through her non-profit organization. Ida is an Army Reserve Chief Warrant Officer, and resides in Birmingham and Huntsville, Alabama.