Earlier this month, the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York, announced the nine women to be inducted for 2021. Inductees include former first lady Michelle Obama, soccer icon Mia Hamm, NASA’s first African American female engineer Katherine Johnson and PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi.

NWHF’s mission is “Showcasing great women ... Inspiring all!” Presently, more than 275 women have been inducted into the Hall. Anyone in the general public can nominate an American citizen for induction. Information about nomination criteria and forms is available at www.womenofthehall.org

WHY IS NWHF IN SENECA FALLS?

The NWHF was created in 1969 by the women and men of Seneca Falls. They believed the contributions of American women deserved a permanent home in the place where the Women’s Rights Movement started in 1848.

The movement began on a summer day in 1848 in upstate New York when a small group of women met for tea with Lucretia Mott, well-known abolitionist. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a young housewife and mother, was one of the women invited for tea. When the conversation turned to the role of women, Stanton, an intelligent woman with an interest in public affairs, poured out her discontent with the limitations of women. Surely, the contributions of women could be of benefit to society if they only had an opportunity.

Out of this meeting came a call for the first Women’s Rights Convention, the first public women’s meeting to be held in the history of western civilization. It was held July 19 and 20, 1848, in Seneca Falls. Elizabeth Cady Stanton used the Declaration of Independence as the framework for writing a “Declaration of Sentiments,” 12 resolutions which included that women should have the right to vote.

The struggle for women’s rights had begun.

Winning the right to vote meant convincing an entirely male government to share power with women. It was 72 years, 1920, before the 19th amendment to the Constitution of the United States which gave women the right to vote was passed.

The NWHF is the nation’s oldest membership organization dedicated to recognizing and celebrating the achievements of great American women. There are several levels of membership ranging from Senior/Student to Lifetime. All members receive unlimited admission to the Hall’s gallery and research center.

NWHF 2021 INDUCTEES

Inductees include women from all walks of life: authors, athletes, artists, business leaders, mathematicians, military leaders, and women’s rights activists.

First lady Michelle Obama, the first African American woman to serve in that role, is an author, a lawyer and one of the most influential women of the 21st century. As first lady, 2009-2017, she was a strong advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world. Since leaving the White House, she has continued to have an impact through her memoir, “Becoming.”

Octavia Butler (1947-2006): In 1995, Butler became the first science-fiction writer, and one of the first African American women, to receive a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship grant. Her life and works have had a great influence on science fiction.

Joy Harjo, a poet, playwright and painter, is a member of the Myskoke Nation. Her poetry reflects the need to remember ancestral lands and culture through language and song. She is the author of nine poetry books and two memoirs. She is the 23rd poet laureate of the United States and the first Native American to hold this position.

Mia Hamm is considered a soccer icon. She retired from professional soccer in 2004 after 17 years, two World Championships and two Olympic Gold Medals, all while serving as the face of not merely one sport but a generation of female athletes. She has maintained an active presence within the soccer community and has served as an outspoken advocate for Title IX and gender equality.

Judy Chicago is a feminist artist as well as an author and educator whose work spans 50 years. Her most well-known work is “The Dinner Party” produced with the help of hundreds of volunteers and housed in the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum.

Indra Nooyi, a business executive and the former chairman and CEO of PepsiCo, has been ranked among the world’s most powerful people. Under her leadership, PepsiCo grew its net revenue by more than 80%, and the total shareholder return was 162%. She was also the chief architect of PepsiCo’s pledge to do what’s right for the business by being responsive to the world.

Katherine Johnson (1918-2020) was a NASA mathematician, pioneer in racial and gender equality, and contributor to one of our nation’s first triumphs in spaceflight. In 2016 she was portrayed by actor Taraji P. Henson as the lead character in the film “Hidden Figures.”

Rebecca “Becky” Halstead achieved two historic milestones in the U.S. military in 2004. She became the first female in U.S. history to command in combat at the strategic level when she was promoted to senior commanding general for logistics in Iraq, and she became the first female graduate of West Point to attain general officer when she was promoted to brigadier general.

Emily Howland (1827-1929), a Quaker and an ardent abolitionist, is remembered for her activism and interest in education equality, women’s rights and the Temperance Movement. She was a spokesperson for women’s suffrage at the 1894 New York State Constitutional Convention and the United States Congress.

NWHF 2021 INDUCTION CEREMONY

The NWHF will celebrate the inclusion of the 2021 inductees with an in-person induction ceremony on Oct. 2, 2021, at 2 p.m. EST. They will also host a live virtual streaming of the ceremony which will be free to the public. Registration for the virtual event will be available as the date draws closer. Archived videos of past induction ceremonies are available on the NWHF website.

Information about Elizabeth Cady Stanton is from the National Women’s History Project publication “Living the Legacy,” 1998. Information about the National Women’s Hall of Fame is from www.womenofthehall.org and used with the permission of the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

Guest columnist Katherine Wolfe is a retired media coordinator from Wayne County Public Schools and a member of the Goldsboro Writers’ Group.