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Women Making History

FY19 President of the Society of Women Engineers Penny Wirsing shares her experiences at the Women Making History Awards in Los Angeles.
Women Making History

Women Making HistoryOn Saturday, September 15, I had the opportunity to attend the Women Making History Awards at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles. The National Women’s History Museum (NWHM) and its Los Angeles Regional Council hosted this event to commemorate women’s achievements and generate awareness of the importance of preserving women’s history, highlighting the need for a national women’s history museum on the National Mall in Washington, DC.

Women Making History
Helen Gahagan Douglas is featured on the cover of the Women Making History Awards booklet.

It was pointed out that only 14% of the figures in US history books are women and, reinforcing the importance of a museum devoted to women, we were reminded that “if we can’t see it, it’s a lot harder to be it.”

NWHM currently has a virtual presence (, and has grown to one of the nations most visited online US museums, with more than 1 million website visitors annually and almost 500,000 Facebook followers. Their “museum without walls”’ provides over 250 interactive educational programs and resources for teachers, students and history buffs. Fundraising and advocacy efforts continue in order to eventually establish a physical presence in Washington DC.

The Women Making History Awards recognize and honor a select group of women who have made a significant contribution to their field and serve as an inspiration to women everywhere. I certainly found their stories compelling!

Here are this year’s awards recipients, and some of my favorite quotes from/about them:

  • Gabrielle Union, actress, activist and author – when asked who her role model was, she recounted growing up poor, and replied “my mom… she turned shit into shinola… she saw education as a way out…”
  • Kathy Bates, actress, director and ambassador for LE&RN, the Lymphatic Education & Research Network – was introduced with the comment “she teaches by being who she is…”
  • Kristen Bell, actress, activist and mom – was introduced as “the kind of person we all want to be our friend…”
  • Patrisse Cullors, artist, organizer and co-founder of the Black Lives Matter Global Network, was described as “both an organizer and a disrupter, an educator and a listener… she is a living example of ‘change begins with me’…”

I had the pleasure of chatting with the other attendees, including some who are bringing attention to the fact that the 19thAmendment giving women the right to vote will be celebrating its 100thanniversary in 2020 (a fitting topic given NWHM’s focus!), and several women who started a residential outdoor science school near Big Bear, California. Some of the young girls who were featured in the 2015 public service announcement for the NWHM were also on hand (and now much taller!) to reiterate the importance of a museum focused on women’s history.

I also picked up a great #historymaker tee shirt, available at Overall it was a gorgeous day in Southern California and the Beverly Hilton was a fabulous place to spend a few hours recognizing some incredible women!

Note about the cover photo from the awards booklet: Helen Gahagan Douglas was not only a notable actress, but she was also a formidable politician. She became the first Democratic woman to be elected into the U.S. Congress from the state of California. She ran for a seat in the Senate, but she was defeated by Richard Nixon.


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