The Feminist History of December

In the lead up to Christmas, it’s easy to be consumed with the excitement of presents, food and spending time with your loved ones. However, it is also important that we as women remember what previous generations have endured in order to give us the lives that we have today. 

Although there are hundreds that deserve a mention, I’ve whittled it down to eight events that occurred during the month of December that have increased gender equality through the awareness of the gender gap in the last few centuries.

 

December 1st 1955 

Perhaps the most notable event with regards to segregation in the United States, Rosa Parks’ arrest for not giving a white person her seat on a mixed public bus inspired women to participate in the modern civil rights movement. 

Rosa’s actions accelerated the legal changes that eventually took place, with the Supreme Court ruling segregation illegal on the city bus system on December 21st 1956.

 

December 3rd

Annually, this date marks the Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, specifically in Canada. This annual event has been set up in recognition of women who have experienced gender-based violence.

 

December 7th 1941

In the military, the Purple Heart Medal is presented if the personnel has been wounded or killed in combat by an enemy of the US. 

It was first awarded in 1932, but it was not until 1941 that Captain Annie Fox became the first woman to receive the medal. Her valiant service at Pearl Harbour earned her the medal, even though she wasn’t actually injured. She was the head nurse of the station hospital during the heaviest part of the bombardment and showed the great bravery of the women involved in the Second World War. 

 

December 10th 1869 

In the mid-19th century, Wyoming passed America’s first women’s suffrage law, allowing woman to vote and even hold office. Wyoming was the first territory to enact this kind of legislation, with women not having the right to vote in the entirety United States until 1920! 

However, in several Southern states, this right was granted only to those women with racial privilege: although they were legally entitled to vote, black women were essentially denied this right for decades after. It wasn’t until later on in the 20th century that that suffrage in America extended to all women.

 

December 16th 1775 

This date marks the birthday of Jane Austen, best known as the author of Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility.

Jane is often labelled as one of England’s most notable authors in terms of feminine narrative and gender in Britain. Her novels are considered classics, and are still studied in schools, colleges and universities to this day!

 

December 17th 1993 

On this day, Judith Rodin was appointed as President of the University of Pennsylvania. It was the first time that a woman had been the head of an Ivy League institution, so this was a pretty huge deal for university women all over the world!

 

December 25th 1821 

Perhaps overshadowed by Christmas celebrations, 25th December is also the birthday of Clara Barton. As well as founding the American Red Cross and being nicknamed the Angel of the Battlefield, Clara is one of the most honoured women in American history because of her bravery during the civil war. 

Like Annie Fox, she acted as a nurse who supported the troops on the battlefield. This inspired her eventual founding and presidency of the Red Cross, through which she aimed to protect the sick and injured, regardless of their backgrounds.

December 26th 1898 

On Boxing Day 1898, Marie Curie announced that she had isolated radium. This lead to her eventually winning two Nobel Prizes – she did so in two different sciences, and is the only person to ever do so to date! 

Not only did she add two elements to the periodic table, but there is also a hugely successful charity under her name which raises hundreds of thousands of pounds every year in aid of those with terminal illness

 

From these eight examples alone, it is apparent that advances in gender equality have been greatly accelerated by important women throughout history. As powerful women ourselves, we must recognise this, especially during reflective times in the year like Christmas! Happy holidays everyone!