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SMC honors influential women

Caitlin Housley | Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Saint Mary’s Student Diversity Board (SDB) is hosting Women’s Appreciation Week to honor history’s influential women, chair of Women’s Appreciation Week Brittani Hradski, a sophomore, said.

“This week is to appreciate not only women that have changed history, especially for our gender, but also to acknowledge our own capabilities. … It is to recognize and celebrate our strengths and power as strong, independent young women,” Hradski said.

History professor Jessica Weaver kicked off the week with a lecture Monday titled “Professionalization of Womanhood: Women as Doctors and Nurses in the 19th Century.”

The lecture discussed the lives of Florence Nightingale and Elizabeth Blackwell, and their struggles for admittance into the health care field.

According to Weaver, both women understood the importance of independence, but also the importance of a woman’s entry into the healing profession.

Nightingale and Blackwell lived in a time when there was an ideal description that fit all women, that varies from today’s standards.

“A woman marries a man, becomes a mother … partakes in feminine hobbies and is a good hostess,” Weaver said.

However, Weaver said both Nightingale and Blackwell used this feminine ideal to reinforce their idea that women belonged in the field.

“Healing requires feminine virtues,” Weaver said, “and women were already maintaining the health of their family. Women’s modesty can [also] only be retained with female physicians.”

Both women set precedents for the role of women in today’s medical field.

Mona Rodriguez, a junior biology major, said the talk was enlightening but also pointed to larger issues facing women in the medial field.

“The lecture showed me that we haven’t come full circle. The health field is still severely lacking women doctors and nurses. Work still needs to be done,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez also said the lecture was particularly important for students of a women’s college.

“Saint Mary’s creates independent women,” Rodriguez said. “Lectures like this are empowering in order to know where we’ve come from, as well as to instill in us a fundamental understanding of where we need to go.”

In addition to Weaver’s lecture, two more events will highlight this theme.

SDB will show “The Women” at 8 p.m. in Carroll Auditorium Wednesday.

The board will host an open house with the Belles Against Violence Office (BAVO) Thursday. This event will take place in the Women’s Resource Room on the second floor of the Student Center.

Board members will also be in the Student Center during lunch and dinner handing out chocolates and inspirational quotes to “highlight the sweetness in all of us,” Hradsky said.

At the end of the week, SDB plans to make a donation to the YWCA of South Bend.

All events are free and open to the public.