Today in the Women’s History Month series, let’s shine a light on lesser known women.

In the spirit of the month, here are links to articles drawing attention to women you may not have heard of—and the awesome things they are doing today.

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Just in time to celebrate International Woman’s Day, Catherine Eng contributes this blog post that celebrates a medical solution to family planning that many take for granted and yet remains out of reach 52 years later to millions of women around the world.

Country music legend Loretta Lynn was known for lyrics that bluntly addressed issues in the lives of many women. She believed no topic was off limits, as long as it spoke to other women.

In 1975, Lynn released The Pill, a single considered to be the first song to discuss birth control. The song tells a story of a wife who is upset about her husband getting her pregnant year after year, but is now happy because she can control her own reproductive choices. The song’s frank discussion of birth control was unprecedented at a time when many would have considered contraception a risqué subject matter. Some radio stations refused to play her song on these grounds.

“There’s gonna be some changes made right here on nursery hill…‘cause now I’ve got the pill.”

Be sure to click on the video link below to listen and laugh.

In an interview later in life, Lynn recounted how she had been congratulated after the song’s success by a number of rural physicians, telling her how The Pill had done more to highlight the availability of birth control in isolated, rural areas, than all the literature they’d released.

Fifty-two years after the inception of the pill in America, conservative newscaster Rush Limbaugh felt free to call Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown university student who asked her university to cover hormonal birth-control, a prostitute and a whore. His ignorant comment reminds us that there still exist widespread misconceptions and stigmas surrounding contraception. Let’s take the opportunity on International Women’s day to clear up any misconceptions, to examine the many social benefits of contraception and family planning.

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You can now find me on ForbesWoman.com. My first post will tell you why it took me so long to get started. And now that I’ve jumped into the deep end of the pool, I want to share what I think is the Next Great Leap for women. I’d love to know what your thoughts are. Victoria Pynchon has already weighed in with an amazing piece about sponsorship.

Because my book, No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power, came out officially in paperback on Leap Day—a perfect day for a book about women’s relationship with power, no?—I’ve been thinking hard about what the next great leap forward for women should be. So I thought I’d better check out the history of the every-fourth-year calendar adjustment that gives us February 29.

Watch Out, Men

Leap Day inspired a leap of vision and blazing hope for women in 5th Century Ireland when St. Bridget persuaded St. Patrick to declare a woman could do the unthinkable: ask a man to marry her.

At a time when a woman was, for all practical purposes, owned first by her father and then by her husband, marriage meant not love but economic survival for her and her children. No doubt many seized their one chance to override gendered power norms and choose their own fates.

The tradition continued, with merry belittlements to remind women how little power they had the rest of the time. Men had to pay a fine or give a silk dress if they refused marriage proposals. Women on the prowl for husbands sported red petticoats as warning so poor beleaguered men could dash in the other direction. Haha.

You may be laughing because Leap Day privilege now seems an amusing anachronism. Not only do the majority of men and women think it’s perfectly fine for a female to propose marriage, the End of Men has been proclaimed, Women’s Nation declared, and New York Times columnist Nick Kristof dubs women “Mistresses of the Universe.”

But such puffery masks how far women have yet to go to achieve genuine parity. The next norm-changing leap must be women creating and earning wealth that places the female 51 percent of the population into power balance with their male counterparts.

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If women want any rights more than they got, why don’t they just take them, and not be talking about it.

— Sojourner Truth, 1797-1883. Former slave, abolitionist,
women’s rights activist, Methodist minister.

Truth’s admonition seems archaic now. Why are we still “talking about it?”

Is women’s history of struggle for equal rights relevant in a world where women have outpaced men in earning college degrees, equaled their numbers in the workplace, and snatched the family purse to make 85% of consumer purchases?

Since “The End of Men” has been declared and women dubbed “Mistresses of the Universe” shouldn’t young women today, at least those in the industrialized world, feel powerful enough to be and do anything they want?

And shouldn’t more sympathy go to men these days, as the current efforts to gain acceptance for a men’s rights movement have suggested?

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February is Black History Month and March is Women’s History Month. This post by Catherine Engh ties the two together in historical context with links to some amazing but little-known women’s stories. Wow. Feel free to add stories of other such women in the comment section.

And be sure to check back here often as I continue my annual Women’s History Month tradition of highlighting many amazing women—some well known and others not—who have shaped our history. And as you know, No Excuses Power Tool #1 is “Know your history and you can shape the future of your choice.”

Janell Hobson, blogger, social critic and professor of women’s studies, spotlights the lives of various fierce black women throughout history this February on Ms. Magazine’s blog. Hobson’s fascinating posts take as subject black female vocalists, vanguards of the second-wave feminist movement, jazz-age expatriates in Paris, fugitive slaves, civil rights organizers and contemporary environmental justice advocates.

Who knew about Sookie, a slave woman who resisted rape by pushing her master into a soapbox filled with boiling water?

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The Golden Globe Awards this week featured the most gorgeous dresses I’ve ever seen (yes, I confess to being a fashion watcher) and Meryl Streep winning her 9th Golden Globe, for her extraordinary portrayal of the British rock-ribbed Conservative former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the first and only woman ever to serve in that post.…

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“Men, their rights and nothing more; women their rights and nothing less.” ~ Susan B. Anthony, 19th Century Women’s Rights and Suffrage Leader

In celebration and in reflection of Women’s Equality Day, this week’s Round Up collects some wonderful reading about it. Not only about the time when women achieved the right to vote via the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution on August 26th, 1920 but also frank and honest discussions about where women are today in this journey and about the work ahead. Here’s a great timeline from the Susan B. Anthony Center for Women’s Leadership, headed until her untimely death last week by my friend and dedicated leader for women’s equality, Nora Bredes.

PANELPanel at the University of Rochester’s Susan B. Anthony Center for Women’s Leadership. With Susan B. and Elizabeth Cady Stanton pictured in the background, and the late Nora Bredes at the podium moderating panelists Jennifer Lawless (Director of the American University Women and Politics Institute), Allida Black (Founder of the Eleanor Roosevelt Project) and me (in my Susan B Anthony costume–she always wore black with a red scarf) in October, 2010.

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NOW Womens Equality Day invitationNote: This is posted today as a Women’s Media Center Exclusive

The invitation to today’s Phoenix-Scottsdale National Organization for Women (NOW) “Equality Day Feminist Convergence” depicts a quaint sepia photo of suffragists picketing the White House. It telegraphs “old.” After all, the event celebrates the 91st anniversary of the date in 1920 when women’s right to vote entered the U.S. Constitution.

But, remember, in the decades at the beginning of the 20th century those purple and white sashes and those picket signs wielded by (purposefully) demurely dressed women were new media in action.

Fittingly, attendees at the Arizona event will have a contemporary victory to celebrate, one involving media activism squarely in the suffragist tradition. But this one is powered by e-mail and concerns itself with very modern day attire. Tight jeans to be exact…

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July 19th was the 163rd anniversary of the Seneca Falls Women’s Rights Convention that is generally regarded as the start of the women’s movement in the U. S. So this week’s roundup has to be about power tool #1: Know your history and you can create the future of your choice.

Astronaut Sandy Magnus

Sandy Magnus and three other (male) NASA astronauts returned to earth early Thursday morning aboard the final flight of Atlantis. Magnus, 46, is an engineer and a veteran in space exploration since joining NASA in 1996. She now has the distinction of being the last woman ever to fly on a NASA space shuttle which is being retired after three decades of service. And she has a sense of history, and the historic nature of her own work.

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I’ve been delighting as I’ve reviewed the rich and inspiring Women’s History Month guest posts here on 9 Ways and invite all 9 Ways readers to read or reread them to get the full spectrum.

Thank you Beverly Wettenstein, Kathy Groob, The Population Institute, Kathy Korman Frey, Anna North, Emily Jasper, Bonnie Marcus, Emmily Bristol, Deborah Siegel, Suzan St. Maur, Sara Messelaar, Liz O’Donnell, Linda Brodsky!

Read on and enjoy each tasty morsel…

A huge “thank you” shout out to each generous contributor–you know who you are, so please take a virtual bow.

Some of the guest posts give new insights about women you’ve heard of, while others tell stories of women neither famous nor infamous, but whose lives touched the writers in profound ways. Enjoy each tasty morsel of women’s history! And as always, please share your thoughts in the comments section below. Or just check in to say “thanks” for a story that moved, inspired, or surprised you.

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