So my philosophy exam is coming up, and as I’ve mentioned before, we don’t get to study about a lot of women for that class. One of the women that is talked about in my syllabus, is Rachel Carson. In my previous post I assumed people knew who she was – but it turns out that this is not the case. Allow me to enlighten you.
In the early 20th century, when Rachel was born, industry, science and technology were booming – leaving most people in utter awe, but others in strong disapproval. Rachel was part of the latter group. She observed that mankind was getting rather bold – factories rose, weaponry was made at an astonishing rate, the working class suffered horrible working conditions and even worse living conditions. Yet there was something that bothered Rachel even more: mankind felt like they were stronger than nature.
Carson was an ecologist before people even knew what that term meant – in her most significant work, Silent Spring, which was published in 1962, she warned mankind about exploiting nature and the consequences this would eventually have. Rachel Carson was one of the people who laid the foundations for the many strong discussions about ecology that are still so very relevant today, and she has a place at the very basis of many contemporary environmental movements.
Not only did she warn people in Silent Spring – she also had the guts to ask the harsh questions. Why did humans feel like they had the right to control nature? Why did they feel entitled to decide what could live and what had to die? Where did they get the mere idea that they had the right to destroy nature for their own profits? Rachel Carson soon came to be perceived as a social revolutionary, and had to suck up an awful lot of criticism – yet it never stopped her for speaking up about and standing up for the nature we were destroying.
Rachel Carson passed away in 1964, but she left an extremely influential legacy behind, that still to this day has a great impact on ecological and environmental debates, groups and protests.
A while back a friend asked me if I had ever heard of Artemisia Gentileschi, and though I pride myself on my knowledge of art history, I had to say no, I had not. She told me Artemisia was a female painter from “the 17th century or something,” and that she thought she was pretty cool. Consequently, I had to find out more.
Coretta Scott King is famously known as “Martin Luther King Jr.’s wife”, and even though it is true that she played a huge role in King’s activism, she was a lot more than just her husband’s main source of support: Coretta was a civil rights activist of her own, not only standing up against race crimes, but also holding strong feminist values and condemning wars all over the world.
Mary Jane McLeod Bethune is one of the many women that are not talked about at all, yet was the source of many significant changes mostly in the USA. Not only did she single-handedly help improve education for all minorities in the USA, but she also played a very significant role in the USA’s battle for equal civil rights for all.
Bethune was born in July 1875, and grew up with 16 siblings. Her parents were slaves, and most of her siblings were born into slavery too. As she helped her mother deliver white people’s wash to their homes, she was sometimes allowed into the nursery of white children – that’s where she first came across a book. However, she was told that she’d never be able to read it by one of the children that lived there, and they took the book away. That’s when Mary Jane decided she would start to study.
And study she did. She first attended Trinity Mission School, and after one of her teachers helped her get a scholarship for college. Mary Jane first wanted to become a missionary in Africa, but she was told black missionaries were not needed, so she decided to settle on a career in education, especially focusing on educating minorities in the USA. She succeeded greatly in her plan: she eventually founded what is now known as the Bethune-Cookman College, one of the few colleges back then where African-American men and women could get a college degree.
She didn’t stop there: in 1924, Mary Jane became the leader of the National Association of Colored Women, and also started the National Council of Negro Women in 1935, which goal was to advance the opportunities and the quality of life of African-American women. Besides that, she aided several presidents, who often asked her advice regarding child welfare and minority affairs. She was personal friends with F.D. Roosevelt and his wife. She worked with the NAACP, and became the director of the Division of Negro Affairs of the National Youth Administration.
In short: Mary Jane McLeod Bethune influenced not only education, but several civil rights movements – she made an actual difference for the African-American minority in the USA. Wonder what became of that kid that took her book away from her and told her she’d never be able to read?