Women’s History Month -became a national celebration when Congress passed a law in 1981. That same year, Sandra Day O’Connor was nominated to be the first female Justice to serve on the United States Supreme Court. Justice O’Connor’s inspirational career cemented her place in history and paved the way for future generations of women.
I celebrated Women’s History Month in an extraordinary way. First, I interviewed Justice O’Connor during lunch at a restaurant in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. We talked about her career and her current projects. Click here to read our Q&A. Then, I traveled to the National Constitution Center (NCC) to tour the museum’s interactive exhibits. They are all designed to teach visitors about the Constitution and inspire acts of citizenship. Finally, I attended a talk given by Justice O’Connor about the Supreme Court, its history and her new book, Out of Order: Stories from the History of the Supreme Court.
Celebrating Women in History
While many people are familiar with Justice O’Connor, there are many unsung women heroes in American history. The NCC was a wonderful place to learn more about the struggles and triumphs of women who worked to gain equality as citizens. At the museum, I learned about many of these women for the first time.
One of my first stops at the NCC was the American National Tree, a towering display of touch screens that show photos and stories of 100 people that made an impact on our constitutional history. Here, I was introduced to the life of Dr. Mary Walker, one of the country’s first female physicians. She later disguised herself as a man and volunteered to serve the Union Army in the Civil War. Today, she remains the only woman to receive the Medal of Honor.
The NCC also features a wall that tells the story of our Constitution with a timeline that reminds visitors that our history is shaped by millions of individual actions. The exhibit is encased in reflective glass to remind us that “We the People” will chart future history. Here, I discovered Alice Paul, one of the important leaders who helped pass the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.
A special temporary exhibit called American Spirits covers the rise and fall of Prohibition, when the Constitution was amended to outlaw alcohol. Later, the amendment was repealed. Here, I learned about Assistant U.S. Attorney Mabel Walker Willebrandt. In that role, she was the highest-ranking woman in the federal government. Some called her the “First Lady of Law” because she handled tens of thousands of cases during the Prohibition era.
“It’s critically important that everybody understand how government works and how we’re part of it,” Justice O’Connor told me. Her words struck me when I explored the individual acts of citizenship displayed at the NCC. I have always been inspired by Justice O’Connor, but the best part of my experience was learning that there are so many additional role models out there for young girls.