Working Group on Girls of Schenectady, Inc.
Schenectady, New York
Helping girls to develop their strengths and believe in their voices.
Working Group on Girls of Schenectady, Inc. (WGGS) helps girls build meaningful connections for healthy relationships and successful futures. WGGS provides social and emotional support to girls in middle school and high school by providing safe spaces for them to develop their own voices.
WGGS’ programs cover a range of topics, from building healthy relationships to addressing real-life issues for the girls like systemic racism and institutional racism. It also provides a safe forum to have difficult conversations about inequality, racism, cruelty, and injustice, as well as conversations about how to remain safe from sexual exploitation.
Calendar of Women – May 2022
1 | Anne Marie Jarvis
Anna Marie Jarvis was the founder of the Mother’s Day holiday in the United States. The woman who devoted herself to the creation of a national holiday to honor overworked, underappreciated mothers later devoted herself to fighting the commercial juggernaut it became.
2 | Nannie Helen Burroughs
Nannie Helen Burroughs, was a Black educator, orator, religious leader, civil rights activist, feminist and businesswoman in the United States. Her speech “How the Sisters Are Hindered from Helping,” at the 1900 National Baptist Convention in Virginia, instantly won her fame and recognition. In 1909, she founded the National Training School for Women and Girls in Washington, DC.
3 |Maryam Mirzakhami
Maryam Mirzakhami was an Iranian mathematician, a professor at Stanford, and the first woman to ever earn the prestigious Fields Medal, the most important award in mathematics. Maryam’s undergrad work was in Iran. She came to the US to work for her Ph.D. from Harvard. Her research topics included Teichmüller theory, hyperbolic geometry, ergodic theory, and symplectic geometry.
4 |Clara Barton
Clara Barton was a pioneering nurse who founded the American Red Cross. She was a hospital nurse in the American Civil War, a teacher, and patent clerk. Nursing education was not very formalized at that time and Clara did not attend nursing school, so she provided self-taught nursing care.[ Barton is noteworthy for doing humanitarian work at a time when relatively few women worked outside the home.
5 | Sr. Barbara Ford
Sr. Barbara Anne Ford died May 5, 2001, in Guatemala City. Sister Barbara, a longtime resident of Guatemala, was shot in what appeared to be a carjacking turned violent. Suspicions have been raised about political motives, based on her work with the Sisters of Charity.
6 | Mary McLeod Bethune
Mary Jane McLeod Bethune, the daughter of former slaves became one of the most important Black educators, civil and women’s rights leaders and government officials of the twentieth century. The college she founded set educational standards for today’s Black colleges, and her role as an advisor to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave African Americans an advocate in government. Bethune opened a boarding school, the Daytona Beach Literary and Industrial School for Training Negro Girls. Eventually, Bethune’s school became a college, merging with the all-male Cookman Institute to form Bethune-Cookman College in 1929. It issued its first degrees in 1943.
7 | Eva Peron
Eva Peron was born in the rural village of Los Toldos, in the Pampas. In 1934, she moved to Buenos Aires. She met Colonel Juan Perón in 1944 during a charity event. The two were married the following year. Juan Perón was elected President of Argentina in 1946; during the next 6 years, Eva Perón became powerful within the pro-Peronist trade unions, primarily for speaking on behalf of labor rights. She also ran the Ministries of Labor and Health, founded and ran the charitable Eva Perón Foundation, championed women’s suffrage in Argentina, and founded and ran the nation’s first large-scale female political party, the Female Peronist Party.
8 | Phyllis Wheatley
Born in Senegal/Gambia in about 1753, poet Phillis Wheatley was brought to Boston, Massachusetts, on a slave ship in 1761 and was purchased by John Wheatley as a personal servant to his wife. The Wheatleys educated Phillis and she soon mastered Latin and Greek, going on to write highly acclaimed poetry. She published her first poem in 1767 and her first volume of verse, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, in 1773. Having been freed from slavery, she later married and struggled financially, with Wheatley unable to find a publisher for her second volume of poems. She died in Boston on December 5, 1784.
9 | Septima Poinsette Clark
Septima Poinsette Clark was an American educator and civil rights activist. Clark developed the literacy and citizenship workshops that played an important role in the drive for voting and civil rights. Clark is quoted as saying, “Knowledge could empower marginalized groups in ways that formal legal equality couldn’t.”
10 | Maggie Kuhn
Maggie Kuhn was an American activist known for founding the Gray Panthers movement, after she was forced to retire from her job at the then-mandatory retirement age of 65. The Gray Panthers became known for advocating nursing home reform and fighting ageism, claiming that “old people and women constitute America’s biggest untapped and undervalued human energy source.” She dedicated her life to fighting for human rights, social and economic justice, global peace, integration, and an understanding of mental health issues.
11 | Mercedes Lopez
Mercedes Lopez was brought up working in the fields and working with her mother, who was a midwife and healer. In 1963, Mercedes immigrated to the United States with her children searching for a better way of life. She worked with her husband in the vineyards and orchards of California and cared for others’ children as well as her own. Lopez continued to work to keep the Mexican culture alive among immigrants, creating beautiful piñatas, sewing traditional costumes, showing the children at local schools the art of paper cutting, as well as teaching them traditional songs, and making recipes that she learned as a child. She teaches the children in hopes that the Mexican culture will continue through them. Lopez is also known in her community for her work as a folk artist.
12 | Florence Nightingale
Florence Nightingale, OM, RRC, DStJ was an English social reformer and statistician, and the founder of modern nursing. She came to prominence while serving as a manager of nurses during the Crimean War, where she organized the tending to wounded soldiers. She gave nursing a highly favorable reputation and became an icon of Victorian culture, especially in the persona of “The Lady with the Lamp” making rounds of wounded soldiers at night.
13 | Mothers and Nurturing Women
We miss the point of womanhood when our understanding is handcuffed to matters of culturally based stereotypes, mere biology, or procreative abilities. Women have a capacity for nurturing beyond a mother/child relationship. Aunts, cousins, sisters as well as others that touch lives nurture and influence the people each of us are becoming.
14 | Marjory Stoneman Douglas
Marjory Stoneman Douglas was an American journalist, feminist, and environmentalist known for her staunch defense of the Everglades against efforts to drain it and reclaim land for development. Her most influential work was the book The Everglades: River of Grass (1947), which redefined the popular conception of the Everglades as a treasured river instead of a worthless swamp; its impact has been compared to that of Rachel Carson‘s influential book Silent Spring (1962). Her books, stories, and journalism career brought her influence in Miami, which she used to advance her causes.
15 | Digna Ochoa
Digna Ochoa was a civil rights attorney in Mexico. At the time of her death, she was involved in the defense of peasant ecologists in Guerrero. Digna Ochoa was killed October 19, 2001 in Mexico City. Her body was found in the law office where she worked. A note was found by her body, warning the members of the human rights law centre where she had recently worked that the same thing could happen to them. Digna Ochoa was awarded Amnesty International’s “Enduring Spirit Award”. She received The Ludovic Trarieux International Human Rights Prize, an international human rights award given annually to a lawyer for contributions to the defense of human rights posthumously.
16 | Sr. Margaret Ann Cusack
Sr. Margaret Ann Cusack was the founder of Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace. Sr. Cusack was the author of over 200 works which included biographies of the saints, and pamphlets on social issues. The profits from her writings went to support relief during the Potato Famine in Ireland. She raised and distributed £15,000 in a famine relief fund. Sr. Cusack was an outspoken Irish patriot, publishing The Patriot’s History of Ireland. Sr. Cusack’s novels include Ned Rusheen, or, Who Fired the First Shot? (1871); and Tim O’Halloran’s Choice (1877).
17 | Theresa Czervionke
Teresa Czervionke was educated at Ss. Peter and Paul’s School in Mankato, Good Counsel Academy, and Mankato State Teachers College in Minnesota. She came to Freeport in 1939 to work as a secretary and receptionist for the Rt. Rev. Msgr. Philip L. Kennedy, administrator of St. Vincent’s Orphanage -St. Joseph’s Home for the Aged. Czervionke left to raise her family but then returned to work for over 20 more years until her retirement in 1981. She helped set up the first Girl Scout Troop at St. Vincent’s Home and continued to help for many years.
18 | Ida Bell Wells
Ida Bell Wells was a Black journalist and leader in the Civil Rights Movement. Wells was a Georgist, which is an economic philosophy holding that, while people should own the value they produce themselves, economic value derived from land (including natural resources and natural opportunities) should belong equally to all members of society. Ida Wells was one of the founders of the NAACP in 1909. As a journalist, Wells shined a spotlight on the lynching of Black people in the South, writing “Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases.”
19 | Lorraine Vivian Hansberry
Lorraine Vivian Hansberry was the first Black woman playwright to have a play performed on Broadway. Her best known work, the play A Raisin in the Sun, highlights the lives of Black Americans living under racial segregation in Chicago. Hansberry’s family had struggled against segregation, challenging a restrictive covenant and eventually provoking the Supreme Court case Hansberry v. Lee. The title of the play was taken from the poem “Harlem” by Langston Hughes: “What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?”
20 | Sr. Rose Hawthorne
Sr. Rose Hawthorne is most known for having founded the Dominican Congregation of St. Rose of Lima, later renamed the Servants of Relief for Incurable Cancer. The daughter of author Nathaniel Hawthorne, she also had literary leanings, eventually publishing a book of poetry called Along the Shore. During this period of her life, Hawthorne befriended poet Emma Lazarus, who was afflicted with cancer. Hawthorne was deeply affected by her friend’s illness, and after separating from an alcoholic husband, Hawthorne trained as a nurse to cancer victims, opening a refuge for cancer patients in New York.
21 | Mitsuye Endo
Mitsuye Endo was a plaintiff in the landmark lawsuit that ultimately led to the closing of the concentration camps and the return of Japanese Americans to the West Coast in 1945. Very little is known about the woman behind the case because she was a very private person–she granted only one interview during the course of her life. Even her own daughter only learned about her mother’s legacy when she was in her twenties.
22 | Judy Chicago
Judy Chicago, a feminist artist and writer, is best known as the creator of “The Dinner Party,” a mixed media piece of art with place-settings for 39 notable women, from ancient goddesses to Georgia O’Keefe. Amid controversy for the piece, which used essentialism images, she raised questions in mainstream society about gender roles. She began the Feminist Art Program at the California Institute of the Arts. She has also concentrated her art on issues ranging from childbirth to masculinity to the Holocaust.
23 | Concha Ortizy Pino
Concha Ortizy Pino came from a family involved in New Mexican politics. In 1936 she became the sixth generation of her family to serve in the New Mexico legislature. Her father, Jose Ortiz y Pino, spent 10 years in the state House of Representatives. In 1941, at age 30, she became Democratic majority whip, the first woman to hold such a position in state government. President Kennedy appointed her to the National Council of Upward Bound. Ortiz y Pino founded the state’s first educational program dedicated to traditional crafts, the Colonial Hispanic Crafts School.
24 | YWCA (Young Women’s Christian Association)
The World Young Women’s Christian Association (World YWCA) is a movement working for the empowerment, leadership and rights of women, young women and girls in more than 120 countries. The members and supporters include women from many different faiths, ages, backgrounds, beliefs and cultures. Their common goal is that “by 2035, 100 million young women and girls will transform power structures to create justice, gender equality and a world without violence and war; leading a sustainable YWCA movement, inclusive of all women”. The World office is currently based in Geneva, Switzerland.
25 | Forugh Farrokhzad
Forugh Farrokhzad is considered to be the first Iranian poet to write from a woman’s perspective. She gained recognition for simple, fluid verses and subject matter. Farrokhzad rebelled against traditional social values and the traditional style of poetry by daring to express the hidden feelings and emotions of Iranian women. As she grew as a poet Farrokhzad began to try to understand society within her poetry, while still concentrating upon the sacredness of womanhood and the ugliness of social injustice that faced so many women. Sadly she died in a car accident at the age of 32, while at the height of her creative power.
26 | Mary Ellen Butcher
Mary Ellen Butcher was born in Ottumwa, Iowa and received her B.A. degree from Rosary College, River Forest, Illinois, in 1958 and her Ph.D. from Catholic University in 1969. Butcher was a trustee of Rosary College from 1977-1985 and served in that capacity of Providence College, Rhode Island, in 1990.She was on the Board of Directors of the Washington Area Community Investment Fund in 1988, a board member of the interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility in New York City in 1989, and is a member of the American Economic Association.
27 | Rachel Carson
Rachel Carson was a marine biologist, who turned her attention to environmental issues in the early 1950s, especially some problems that she believed were caused by synthetic pesticides. The result was the book Silent Spring (1962), which brought environmental concerns to an unprecedented share of the American people. Although Silent Spring was met with fierce opposition by chemical companies, it spurred a reversal in national pesticide policy, which led to a nationwide ban on DDT and other pesticides. It also inspired a grassroots environmental movement that led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Carson was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Jimmy Carter.
28 | Julia Ward Howe
Julia Ward Howe was an American poet and author, best known for writing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”. She was also an advocate for abolitionism and was a social activist, particularly for women’s suffrage.
29 | Jehan Sadat
Jehan Sadat, a human rights activist, is the widow of Anwar Sadat, and was First Lady of Egypt from 1970 until Sadat’s assassination in 1981. Jehan played a key role in reforming Egypt’s civil rights laws during the late 1970s. Often called “Jehan’s Laws” new statutes advanced by her granted women a variety of new rights, including those to alimony and custody of children in the event of divorce.
30 | St. Joan of Arc
Joan of Arc, nicknamed “The Maid of Orléans”, is considered a hero of France for her role during the Lancastrian phase of the Hundred Years’ War. She fought to bring Charles VII back to the throne as King of France. During subsequent missions, she was captured by the Burgundians, British sympathizers, but on trial and accused of heresy. She was burned at the stake.
31 | Elizabeth Blackwell
Elizabeth Blackwell was a British-born physician, notable as the first woman to receive a medical degree in the United States, as well as the first woman on the UK Medical Register.