By Robert Lisiecki
March marks the time for us to celebrate Women’s History Month. During this month, we’ll remember and celebrate the various women throughout history who have made lasting impacts on the world as we know it today. And boy, there are a lot of women to celebrate.
The women we recognize come from different eras and backgrounds—each presenting her own unique story. When thinking about the uniqueness that each story presents, I began thinking about some of our resources. Each resource is crafted and created to provide a unique functionality and utility to tell its own story.
Today, I’d like to reflect on five different women from five different resources, highlighting some high-level information. Some women are more well-known while others, to me at least, are less. I hope this post can serve as an example on how different resources can impact research. Let’s go.
Five Impactful Women from Five Different Resources
Delilah Beasley from U.S. History in Context
Delilah Leontium Beasley is not a name I would have recognized before today. Up to this point, I admittedly had never heard of her before. I happened to come across her name in a post from the National Women’s History Project. This particular post highlights 2015 honorees for national women’s history month. Delilah Beasley was a historian and newspaper columnist, and the first African-American woman to be regularly published in metropolitan newspaper. How fascinating!
To try and learn more about her, I turned to U.S. History in Context without any idea about whether or not she would show up in the results. Luckily for me, she did. I was able to find an article about her that talks about her history.
According to the article, she aimed to show the commingling of black history and white history. She recognized some gaps in the combined histories, and she intended to fill gaps and build pride. In 1919, after her first major work was published, she became a regular columnist for the Oakland Tribune. The piece goes on to talk about her early life, how her work was perceived, and how she made it to that point (she started off as a masseuse). It also suggests pieces for further reading.
In the context of U.S. history, Delilah’s story is a huge deal. Regardless of how it was perceived at the time, she become a voice for a population that was still quite voiceless. Being a woman and a minority presented her with quite the challenge, but she persevered and broke through anyways. The fact that she became a columnist speaks volumes for her accomplishments. The paper employed her and continued to publish her. Think about the doors she opened!
Cleopatra from World History in Context
Admittedly, I’ve never been a history buff. It was usually my worst subject in school growing up. That being said, later down the road I found myself interested in Roman and Greek history, which brings us to Cleopatra. While Cleopatra didn’t really impact our history, her historical impact is undeniable. She is arguably one of the more recognizable female names from the Roman Empire.
To learn more about Cleopatra, World History in Context felt like the natural choice. Bingo. A search for Cleopatra led me to a robust, intuitive topic page. It’s filled with featured content, reference material, multimedia content, and more. For the sake of this post, I looked at her overview.
From what I can remember, Cleopatra was in a lot of history, influential in a lot of history, and a part of a lot of rulers’ histories. According to the overview, Cleopatra was known for her beauty, which makes a lot of sense. What I didn’t realize, though, was how crafty and persistent she was. For instance, she actually had herself rolled up in a rug and smuggled into Julius Caesar’s quarters, which amused Caesar and provided her with an introduction. While her beauty was the initiator, her intelligence was her captivator. She’s remembered as a counterpart to Julius Caesar in both intelligence and education, which is no small comparison.
The overview gives a lot of good background information about Cleopatra’s early years and many marriages. I knew she had to be interesting based on what I’d already known, but the depth of her complexity is interesting to learn more about.
Oprah Winfrey from Biography in Context
Switching gears to more recent times, it’d be tough to have a list of notable women without mentioning Oprah. When people reference you by a singular name, you know you’re doing something right. Oprah has been a household name for as long as I can remember. She’s always been someone who I have found to be incredible. Not only was she able to create a long-lasting talk show empire, which eventually lead to her own (no pun intended) station, but she become one of the most powerful and affluent individuals in America—all while breaking barriers along the way.
For Oprah, I went to Biography in Context. Similar to Cleopatra, Oprah has her own topic page filled with information. Her page contains quite a few more pictures than Cleopatra, though. For the sake of diversity, I wanted to look beyond the overview when looking up Oprah. So, I went to the Academic Journals section to see what I could find.
To me, Oprah has always been a role model because of her grit and persistence. I think that much is obvious. I’ve also appreciated her willingness to give back. Sometimes I wonder if celebrities give back for the notoriety. I’ve never questioned Oprah’s intentions. I truly believe in her desire to help people build a better tomorrow. One article I found in the Academic Journal section talks about a donation one community college received from Oprah. It was the largest the college had ever received up to that point. Thanks to her donation, the college was able to continue a scholarship program that helps students who can’t afford college continue their education. Oprah’s influence on our history hits from multiple angles.
That article is just one bit of information about Oprah. I don’t foresee a Women’s History Month in the near future that is without Oprah. Biography in Context offers an intuitive place to learn more about her story.
Sappho from Gale Artemis: Literary Sources
While I previously wrote about being into Roman and Greek history, to some extent, I hadn’t heard of Sappho more than in passing before today. I came across her name when I was doing some research for Women’s History Month. I chose to mention her because she is Greek, a woman, and a poet. That’s a pretty big triple threat.
I wasn’t positive where I could go to find more about her. From my basic knowledge, I know she is a famous female Greek poet. I initially considered World History in Context, but that wouldn’t follow the theme of this post. Since poetry falls under the umbrella of English and literature, I decided my best bet would be Gale Artemis: Literary Sources. I made the correct choice.
Searching for Sappho in Gale Artemis: Literary Sources yielded thousands of results—all organized by type of result, like literature criticism, biographies, topic & work overviews, reviews, and more. Since I am pretty unfamiliar with her, I decided to click on the top result in the biographies portion. According to this article, Sappho was a known as the tenth muse and lived from 625 B.C. – c. 570 B.C. She was an active participant in what was often known as the Lyric Age of Greek. Many critics consider her to be the greatest female poet of the classical world—both in the sense of accomplishment and influence. What’s particularly interesting to me is that she’s so well renowned and yet very little of her work remains. Her poetry is recognized for its emotional intensity, directness, simplicity, and revealing personal tone.
The reason she is an important figure to recognize during Women’s History Month comes at the end of the introductory paragraph: one expert believes nearly every thought in her fragments has been used in some way, shape, or form by ancient Greeks and Romans and some modern poets across the lands. The article I chose offers much more detail, and I’d highly encourage anyone interested to look further into her because she’s definitely an interesting study.
Clara Barton from GVRL
The final woman I chose to highlight in this post has made a long-standing impact that many people may not realize. Clara Barton founded the American Red Cross, an organization that is well-known and thriving today. I actually just donated blood to the Red Cross a few weeks ago, but I’ve never thought about the founder before this point. It’s been an entity that has coincided with my existence. Clara Barton is an absolutely important figure, though, since this entity that I’ve grown to know wouldn’t be existent without her.
For my final search, I turned to GVRL to learn more about Clara Barton. A basic search for her in GVRL yields over 600 results. For the sake of time and ease, I could the first article in the results, which comes from The Encyclopedia of the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars: A Political, Social, and Military History
While I don’t know too much about Clara Barton, I think I can make some fairly accurate assumptions about her based on the knowledge she founded American Red Cross. I think it’d be safe to say she was involved in or was interested in the medical field and she most likely enjoys helping people. I know, deduction abilities are on point. This article describes Barton as a nurse, philanthropist, and humanitarian. Originally a schoolteacher, Barton cared for both Union and Confederate soldiers in the Civil War. She was hailed as the “Angel of the Battlefield” for her devotion and skills. Her work on the battlefield propelled her journey towards founding the American Red Cross. It’s incredible to consider how difficult it must have been to help both sides. The Civil War brought such polarity to America, yet Barton only cared about caring for people, regardless if she agreed with them or not. That’s a trait not many people boast.
Further reading shows that Barton was an advocate for Cuban independence and was a part of the Central Cuban Relief Committee to aid victims of the Spanish reconcentration. I’d be curious to learn more about her life and what she did, and what role her upbringing played in her humanism. What I’ve found is just the tip of the iceberg.
Well, we made it. I feel like I just wrote a long report and yet I’ve only just begun to scratch the surface (if that). This post goes to show there are plenty of women to remember and praise this month, and there are plenty of resources to help you do just that!
Robert is a left-handed person living in a right-handed world. He is showing English majors that it is possible to get a job in the “real world” with an English degree. He likes giant carrots.