In celebration of Women’s History Month, it is fitting to draw our attention to some inspirational women who have dedicated their lives to advancing education. Looking at the impact of these three women reminds us of the important role of women in education and United States history over the last century.1
Maria Montessori (1870-1952)
There are many different philosophies of education and pedagogy, but one that still is a part of the culture of education today is Montessori education. Maria Montessori developed the Montessori Approach which is used by both public and private schools around the country. Her pioneering of this method focuses on the early learning of children through development of intrinsic motivation, tailored learning experiences and freedom in academic choices.
Montessori schools often include mixed-age level classrooms during early childhood and allow students the opportunity to learn through discovery with less focus on direct instruction. Students are encouraged to learn using manipulatives that foster natural learning and independence.
Her work as a woman in history in education paved the way for new teaching methods and opportunities for students to explore learning experiences in different ways from typical classroom experience.
Mary Jane McLeod Bethune (1875-1955)
Known as “The First Lady of The Struggle,” Mary Jane McLeod Bethune was raised by former slaves and demonstrated the perseverance to overcome adversity. She was inspired to give back to humanity. She opened a boarding school for African American girls that later became. As a champion of racial and gender equality, she organized voter-registration drives to promote equitable voting. 2
She was named Director of Negro Affairs of the National Youth Administration by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and her efforts were towards ending discrimination for youth. In 1940 she was named Vice President of the NAACP, which is a role she held throughout her lifetime. She was integral part of the founding conference of the United Nations, representing the only woman of color. There is a postage stamp and memorial statue for her in Washington, D.C.
Dr. Hayat Sindi (1967- Present)
Cambridge University accepted Dr. Hayat Sindi as the first Saudi born woman to study biotechnology. She had been inspired to the field because she was seeking out a better way to communicate with other cultures and effect change for a better way of living. She later became the first Saudi woman to complete a doctoral degree. 3
As an advocate for education, she encourages research, play and innovation. She co-founded a non-profit, Diagnostics for All, that helps provide devices in developing countries to diagnose disease. Her work in promoting education for girls in the Middle East has earned her a role as good will ambassador with UNESCO. Dr. Sindi also served as a visiting scholar at Harvard University and was a part of a documentary promoting science education among young people.
These are just a few women who preserved under adversity to affect long-lasting real change in education. While we look to these women for inspiration within history in education, we know as we take efforts to join the field of education, we can impact others as well. We do not know how far our reach will go and we can start by taking one step at a time.
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1Cudoo, Female educators who changed the world, in March 2021.
2National Women's History Museum, Mary McLeod Bethune, in March 2021.
3National Geographic, Explorer Profile: Hayat Sindi, Biotechnologist, in November 2019.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University.