Social issues dominate in Women’s Hall of Fame’s new class

Crenshaw, 63, helped develop the academic concept of critical race theory, the idea that racism is systemic in the nation’s institutions.

SENECA FALLS, N.Y. (AP) — A new group of National Women’s Hall of Fame inductees includes social justice pioneers, groundbreaking physicians and women who have championed Jewish feminist theology and the financial well-being of Native Americans, the institute announced Wednesday.

“When I was a young girl, I wanted above all to be popular. By the time I was 35, I decided I would rather be useful than popular,” inductee Peggy McIntosh, an activist known for her explorations of privilege, said by email after the honorees were announced.

Kimberle Crenshaw speaks during the ‘Reconstruction: America After Civil War’ panel during the PBS. (Photo by Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP, File)

She and the other living inductees — Kimberlé Crenshaw, Judith Plaskow, Loretta Ross and Allucquére Rosanne “Sandy” Stone — have helped drive issues of white privilege, systemic racism, reproductive justice, transgender studies and feminist theology into the public discourse.

Three women will be inducted posthumously: Dr. Patricia Bath (1942-2019), an early pioneer of laser cataract surgery and the first Black woman physician to receive a medical patent; Dr. Anna Wessels Williams (1863-1954), who isolated a strain of diphtheria that helped in its treatment; and Elouise Pepion Cobell, known as “Yellow Bird Woman” (1945-2011), who started the first bank established by a tribe on a reservation in Browning, Montana.

Located in Seneca Falls, New York, the site of the first Woman’s Rights Convention in 1848, the National Women’s Hall of Fame inducts a new class every other year to recognize women’s contributions in fields like the arts, sports, education and government.

“In the five decades since its first Induction Ceremony in 1973, the Hall has continued to lift the voices and stories of exceptional women who changed the world,” Jennifer Gabriel, executive director of the National Women’s Hall of Fame, said in a news release.

McIntosh, 88, has written widely about privilege, including in her 1989 essay, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” in which she described “an invisible package of unearned assets” that white people, but not necessarily Black people, can count on in everyday life.

“I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed. … I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race,” she wrote.

Crenshaw, 63, helped develop the academic concept of critical race theory, the idea that racism is systemic in the nation’s institutions. The academic framework dates back to the 1970s, but the phrase has become a political flashpoint in recent years as parents and politicians debate how race and American history should be taught in public schools.

FElouise Cobell poses for a photo outside the law offices of Kilpatrick & Stockton on Dec. 8, 2009, in Washington. Cobell, known as “Yellow Bird Woman” (1945-2011), started the first bank established by a tribe on a reservation in Browning, Montana. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

Plaskow, 76, is regarded as the first Jewishfeminist theologian for calling out an absence of female perspectives in Jewish history.

“We must render visible the presence, experience and deeds of women erased in our traditional sources,” she wrote in her groundbreaking 1990 book, “Standing Again at Sinai: Judaism from a Feminist Perspective.”

Ross, 69, founded the National Center for Human Rights Education in Atlanta. The Smith College professor and 2022 MacArthur Fellowship recipient has drawn on her experiences as a survivor of rape and nonconsensual sterilization to advocate for reproductive justice — a theory she helped to create — especially among women of color.

Stone, a transgender woman born in 1936, is considered a founder of the academic discipline of transgender studies and is founding director of the Advanced Communication Technologies Lab at the University of Texas at Austin. She came to academics after a career as a sound engineer for Jimi Hendrix, the Grateful Dead and other musicians in the 1960s and 1970s. She is the station engineer for radio station KSQD in Santa Cruz.

Inductees are nominated by the public and judged by a panel of experts across the nominees’ fields, according to the National Women’s Hall of Fame. The induction ceremony is scheduled for Sept. 30.

“This wonderful recognition by the National Women’s Hall of Fame honors what the Hall sees as lasting usefulness,” McIntosh wrote. “I admire the values of the Hall in this year’s inductees. Each of us eight women tried to be of use, starting from where we were.”

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