NAACP Salutes Women’s History Month
Posted on March 12, 2012 by Joi C. Ridley, Communications Staff, NAACP
Since the NAACP created in 1909, women have played an integral role of the organization success. In fact, many of the association’s notable efforts, including the anti-lynching movements, school integration, and voter empowerment were female-led.
“Throughout the history of the NAACP, our efforts have been enriched by the contributions of women,” stated NAACP Chairman Roslyn M. Brock, the youngest person to chair the Association’s Board of Directors. “From Mary White Ovington to Ida B. Wells, Jane Addams to Mary Church Terrell, Margaret Bush Wilson to Hazel Dukes, the women of the NAACP have brought their unique perspectives to the fight for social justice and equality. For an organization committed to diversity, it is so important that we celebrate the exemplary ways that women educate and empower their peers.”
In 1919, Mary White Ovington became organization’s first female chairman of the board of directors. She served in this capacity until 1934. Forty years later, Margaret Bush Wilson became the first African American woman to be elected chairman in 1975. When Myrlie Evers-Williams, widow of slain NAACP Field Secretary Medgar Evers, was elected to the position of chairman in 1995, she became the third woman of the NAACP to head the board.
The Association also holds a rich history of women in senior staff leadership. In 1984, Enolia P. McMillan became the first female elected president of the NAACP, serving until 1990. She was followed by Rupert Richardson, the last female to lead the NAACP as the organization’s president.
In recent years, female leadership has expanded and excelled within NAACP. Women make up forty percent of the Association’s 64-member Board of Directors and serve as leaders in several departments throughout the organization, Including the Executive Office , Finance, Human Resources, Events Planning, Heath, Education, Climate Justice, and Legal.
Attorney Kim M. Keenan is currently the youngest attorney and second woman to hold this position in the organization’s history. The NAACP also employs female leadership at the helm of its education, environmental and health program areas.
“Women in leadership reflect the forward movement of our Association in selecting the best and the brightest to lead without regard for color or gender,” said NAACP General Counsel Kim M. Keenan. “Whether silently or in the lead, women have always been an integral part of our mission to eradicate racial prejudice.”
NAACP’s Women in the NAACP (WIN), an official committee of the organization, holds a national theme of “outstretched hands and open hearts to women and children.” WIN was established to “enhance the leadership role of women; to serve as an advocacy vehicle for issues affecting women and children; to advocate for the positive development of children; and to support the on-going work of the NAACP and its units, especially civil and cultural activities to enhance membership.”
“Women were the backbone of the NAACP. The movement gained momentum in the Black church and it was there that women gathered young people together and organized them for civil disobedience through marching and filling up jail cells and demonstrations on college campuses,” says Brock. “Women were the invisible power source that supported and stood behind the men who were in leadership.”
Women’s History Month is meant to raise awareness and highlight the contributions of women throughout history, as well as in today's society. Women’s History Month began with the first International Women’s Day in 1911, followed by a co-sponsored the Joint Congressional Resolution proclaiming a "Women's History Week" in 1981. In 1987 Congress expanded support for the celebration to last for an entire month. State departments of education then began to encourage celebrations of National Women's History Month to promote equality among the sexes in the classroom. This year’s national theme is "Women's Education - Women's Empowerment"Tweet