“Well-behaved women seldom make history” proclaimed Pulitzer Prize winning historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. This quote has since become a battle cry for women who have refused to stay silent in the face of injustice or adversity. March is Women’s History Month and to celebrate, the Wei Lab was inspired by this quote to honor five women who refused to “behave.”
Anna Arnold Hedgeman
Anna Arnold Hedgeman didn’t stay silent when it came to civil rights issues. Over six decades, she was a persistent advocate for civil rights and fought for equality for minorities and the poor in New York. Her advocacy led her to becoming a prominent consultant on racial issues with several companies. Hedgeman was also the only woman to be a lead organizer of the 1963 March on Washington.
Mary Tape didn’t behave when it came to fighting for her daughter’s right to education. In 1885, she made history in the case Tape v. Hurley where the Supreme Court of California ruled that her Chinese-American daughter couldn’t be barred from attending public school. Tape fought to end school segregation and made headway before Brown v. Board of Education.
Jo Ann Robinson
Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, but Jo Ann took on the entire Montgomery bus system, making her a key player in the U.S. Civil rights movement. Almost immediately after Parks’ refusal to move, Robinson singlehandedly organized a boycott of the Montgomery Bus system by creating and distributing fliers. Her boycott was successful; continuing over a year despite her facing intimidation and threats from police officers.
Switzer didn’t abide by marathon entry rules. In 1967, determined to prove her male coach wrong who said marathons were too much for a “fragile woman,” she trained and completed the Boston Marathon. At that time, and for five years since her historic run, women were not allowed to compete in the race. Though marathon official Jock Semple tried to physically remove her as she ran, she persisted and finished in 4 hours and 20 minutes.
Ida B. Wells
Wells saw injustice and refused to stay silent. As a journalist in Mississippi in the 1980s, she documented and proved that lynching in the Southern United States was used to control and punish Blacks. She was also one of the founders of the NAACP and was active in women’s rights, include the women’s suffrage movement. Her work has left an ongoing legacy, especially among Black feminist activists.