Honoring Our Mothers

Honoring Our Mothers
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On Mother's Day each year, we honor our mothers. These are the women who gave birth to us, raised us and helped launch us as adults. Mothers throughout history have done these important jobs -- and so much more. They fought for the rights and privileges that we enjoy today as U.S. citizens. I recently put together an exhibit on amazing moms through history. Check it out here. The classroom experience that accompanied it can be viewed here. Let's find out more about some of these mothers, all of whom have been inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.

Our first mother is Abigail Adams, who would become First Lady. Abigail had six children in 10 years with her husband, our second President, John Adams. While John was tending to his law practice in Boston, or traveling around the colonies or to England, Abigail was running the farm and raising the children. They corresponded by letter throughout their marriage. In one very important letter on March 31, 1776, Abigail wrote to John encouraging him to "Remember the ladies." Abigail asked him to give women their rights -- that women were not interested in being bound by laws in which they had no voice or representation. John's response was that he had laughed at her saucy letter. Abigail knew of what she wrote; women would not get the right to vote until almost 150 years later.

Our next mother was a member of the Shoshone tribe. Sacagawea served as a guide and interpreter for the Lewis and Clark expedition for 1805-1806. This expedition was undertaken to map the portion of the U.S. that had been bought through the Louisiana Purchase. The expedition was to map the territory, identify the plants and animals which they came across and establish trade with the various Native American tribes. Because she carried her infant son on her back, the native peoples whom the expedition met along the way were reassured that the expedition came in peace. Sacagawea was an important resource for the expedition, using her knowledge of plants and animals to help them find food.

We now move to mothers in the 20th century. Coretta Scott King was a force for change. She passionately fought for civil rights and human rights in the U.S. and around the world. Her determination and persistence shone through when she insisted that women needed to be heavily involved in those movements. She said "Women, if the soul of the nation is to be saved, I believe that you must become its soul." The mother of four children, Coretta Scott King spent the four decades after the death of her husband (1968), Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., advancing social programs, justice and peace around the world. She was known around the world for her dedication to human rights for all.

A mother who served in the U.S. Congress, Patsy Mink represented the State of Hawaii. Elected as the first woman of color to the House of Representatives and the first Asian-American woman, she worked to eradicate the gender and racial discrimination that she had experienced. Mink had wanted to study medicine, but was rejected by all medical schools to which she applied. Instead, she studied law, and was the first woman of Japanese-American heritage to practice law in Hawaii. She is deemed to be the major force behind the passage of Title IX (1972) and championed the rights of immigrants, women and children during her years in Congress. Mink's daughter became an educator and author whose focus was labor and women's issues.

Our final mother is Linda Alvarado, who serves as President and CEO of Alvarado Construction. When she was 39, Alvarado became the first woman (and the first Hispanic-American of either gender) to successfully bid for ownership of a major league baseball team; today she is still a co-owner of the Colorado Rockies, which was awarded a franchise in 1991. She has been selected as one of the 100 Most Influential Hispanics in the U.S. Alvarado grew up with five brothers in a home without indoor plumbing and no central heating. In addition to serving on major corporate boards, Alvarado's philanthropy helps others achieve their dreams. The mother of three says:

I believe the American Dream is one without gender or race. I still hope for and long for the day when people will be judged on their ability, rather than their background or their gender. We can't let go of that dream. America is a country of immigrants and our nation's success is built not on everybody being alike, but on our diversity.

These mothers are among the many amazing women profiled in the book Her Story: A Timeline of the Women Who Changed America. As we honor our mothers on Mother's Day, let us remember the many accomplishments of women through U.S. history on whose shoulders we stand.

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