History Month & Mentoring
Matilda Raffa Cuomo and Louisa Efua Essandoh
recently as the 1970s, women’s history was a topic rarely discussed
in classrooms. In March of 1978, an Education Task Force of the
Sonoma County, California Commission on the Status of Women initiated
a Women’s History Week. The purpose of the week was to enlighten
school children and the public about the role of women in history.
Within a few years, several schools planned special programs and
activities for Women’s History Week. In 1981, in answer to the
request of women’s organizations, President Jimmy Carter instituted
the first National Women’s History Week. Six years later, in response
to a petition by the National Women’s History Project, the United
States Congress declared March to be National Women’s History
The role of American women in history and the present is one of
great importance. Women such as Mary McLeod Bethune, Susan B.
Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Maya Yin Lin, Hillary Rodham
Clinton, Maya Angelou, Sojourner Truth, Condoleezza Rice, Dolores
Hureta, Mother Theresa, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Geraldine Ferraro,
Dr. Rita Montalcini and others have made contributions to the
growth and development of our nation and the world. We want to
encourage everyone to visit the National Women’s Hall of Fame
located in Seneca Falls, New York State. Your visit is sure to
be exhilarating, motivating and educational.
This year the theme for Women’s History Month is “Women Sustaining
the American Spirit.” American women are of every culture, class
and ethnic background. They have been leaders in the forefront
of every major progressive social change movement. Women past
and present have been concerned about social issues and the welfare
of others. Mentoring is one of the greatest and beneficial social
movements of the 21st century. It is no surprise that
women make-up the majority of our nation’s volunteers. Mentors
are dedicated volunteers who tirelessly and consistently give
of themselves to children. Over 50 percent of the volunteer mentors
at Mentoring USA are women. As mentors, these women give of their
time, energy, and love to the children they mentor. The relationships
that develop are precious and long-lasting.
A few years ago, to promote the recruitment of mentors for MUSA
and to express appreciation for the volunteerism of these caring
dedicated people, I compiled and edited the collection of essays
called “The Person Who Changed My Life.” There are 78 celebrities,
women and men of every political persuasion who tell us about
their unforgettable mentors. The mentors range from parents, grandparents,
teachers, neighbors, friends and family members. I was fortunate
to have the cooperation and enthusiasm of Senator Hillary Rodham
Clinton, who offered to do the foreword to the book.
The month of March is dedicated to the myriads of extraordinary
women past and present. We must all use Women’s History Month
to honor and appreciate the mothers, grandmothers, sisters, aunts,
nieces, teachers, friends and leaders. We thank you for encouraging
the next generation of great females to aspire toward greatness,
for they are to be the leaders of tomorrow.#
Cuomo is the former first lady of NY and founder and Chairperson
of Mentoring USA.
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