One of my favorite things about living in Peoria is its beautiful history. This city has been the hometown of many successful and impactful women. With Women’s History Month upon us, it is the perfect time to shed light on a few of these inspirational women. Here are three women who I personally have deep admiration for.
- Lydia Moss BRadley
Lydia Moss Bradley came to Peoria at the age of 31. She was a pioneer in healthcare, education, business and philanthropy. After the death of her husband and six children, she became the first female member of a national bank board, and she was the first woman to ever write a prenup agreement for her assets when she remarried. Already achieving things most people could never do in a lifetime, Lydia didn’t stop; she provided land to build what is now OSF St. Francis Medical Center, and built a care home for widowed women. And, of course, Lydia is also the founder of Bradley University.
- Eleanor jack gibson
Eleanor Jack Gibson was a Peoria-born woman who pushed her way through sexism in higher education. She attended Smith College where she studied psychology and later studied at Yale in the 1930s to pursue her PhD. She attended Yale because she had strengths and interests in scientific research where she could work with animals. However, after approaching Robert Yerkes, a research professor, he denied her into his lab saying “I have no women in my laboratory.” This did not deter Gibson, as she continued working even harder to pursue science. Despite constant gender barriers, she ultimately did receive her PhD in 1938, was given tenured professorship at Cornell College, and was awarded the National Medal of Science in 1992.
- Betty Friedan
Betty Friedan was also a Peoria-born woman who published what is known as one of the most influential books of the twentieth century: The Feminine Mystique. Friedan was a big activist in movements that campaigned against racism and sexism in the 1940s and 1950s. She wrote a lot about the freedom and independence women had in the 1920s, unlike the 1950s “suburban housewife” expectations. Furthermore, she directly opposed the writers during her time who were emphasizing that women in higher education were ruining their duties as traditional mothers and wives. She appealed to thousands of women through this groundbreaking writing. Friedan came to cofound the National Organization for Women in 1966, helped develop the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws, was an advocate during the second wave of feminism, served as a faculty member at various higher education institutions, and received two honorary degrees.