Celebrate Women's History Month With These 2 Powerful Hero Stories

This March CARD is taking the opportunity to honor the incredible women on our team and celebrate female history, justice and empowerment.

As we license card art, CARD forms relationships with artists and brands all over the country. Our goal is to represent as many communities and interests as we can. 

This month our card gallery features a selection of card art highlighting influential female figures and centering female artists. Choose from cards depicting iconic women like Marilyn Monroe, Betty Boop, and Frida Kahlo, or check out cards designed by female artists like Martina Pavlova and Fluff

Keep in mind that this designated time of reflection and learning known as Women’s History Month is not the only time we should be celebrating women. In fintech (and every industry), the push towards gender inclusion and equality should be a constant priority. 

Despite having always been an important part of history, women have been systematically overlooked and discriminated against. That’s why we at CARD are using our platform to open a discussion about female excellence past and present.  

Researchers and historians have found that despite making up 50% of the world’s population, women’s stories only occupy .5% of documented history. In particular, female scientists throughout history have not been named or awarded for their own research (with credit for their discoveries given to male peers). 

 According to a recent Pew Research study, 42% of women in the American workforce report experiencing gender discrimination at their job. Discrimination comes in many forms, and women reported being treated as less competent and being regularly passed over for important projects and promotions. 

 As of 2020, women are only paid 84% of what men are paid for the same job. The gender pay gap has remained relatively stable for the last 15 years, although the gap is smaller in younger demographics. It would’ve taken 42 extra days of work for a woman to earn the same amount of money as a man in 2020. 

These facts are anything but trivial – they represent the reality of the female experience in America. Keep in mind that feminism is intersectional, meaning it is inseparably connected to other issues of racial, sexual, and economic injustice. 

Feel unsure about the term “feminism” and what it means in practice today? Check out this Forbes article that addresses some common misconceptions.  

In the spirit of learning and justice, CARD put together some research on the origins of the Women’s History Month celebration. Read on for a bit of valuable history and two spotlights on female heroes past and present… 

Important origins: Women’s Day

Women’s History Month has been officially celebrated in the United States since the 1980s. However, like many recognition holidays, it took decades of activism and bravery to make it a reality.

Almost five decades before Women’s History Month was recognized, there was National Women’s Day (also called “National Working Women’s Day”). 

In contemporary times this holiday is more focused around Instagram posts and branding. For its founders, it was about radical socialist justice. 

In the early 1900s while the women’s suffrage movement was gaining momentum in the US and in Europe, Theresa Malkiel was serving on the women’s committee of the Socialist Party of America in New York City.  

At the time, feminist movements were deeply (intersectionality) intertwined with labor activism and pre-war socialist movements. 

Women working in a garment factory, circa 1914

Malkiel was a Jewish Russian refugee, journalist and organizer who wanted to carve out a larger role for women in the American socialist movement. Her labor activism stemmed from her experiences in the brutal working conditions and struggling unions of the garment factory industry.

In 1909 Malkiel declared February 23rd to be “National Women’s Day” and the idea immediately caught fire. Over 2,000 people showed up in New York to meet, march and celebrate women that year.

Women’s Day in Europe

Female socialist feminists in Europe took note. In 1910 at the International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen, German socialist leader Clara Zetkin proposed a holiday when every country could celebrate women and organize to push their agenda. 

 The conference chose March 8th as their “International Women’s Day” because it aligned with

the 40th anniversary of the Paris Commune (a revolutionary French socialist movement from the 1870’s). The holiday continued to gain momentum, and soon evolved into an important date for female-led anti-WWI protests. 

 In 1917 International Women’s Day helped kick off the Russian Revolution

On March 8th, 1917, when thousands of women gathered in Petrograd, Russia to protest food shortages and WWI casualties, the demonstration quickly evolved into a massive strike. 

 Within a few days over 150,000 male and female workers had joined the feminists in a labor strike. Four days later the Russian army joined the protests, the Czar was overthrown, and the Russian Revolution was in full swing.

Women’s history education in the United States

Huge social movements like the Russian Revolution in Europe and the profound effects of the World Wars made the 20th century a time of rapid social change. 

In 1920 the American Suffrage Movement won its 100 year long battle for women’s right to vote. 

The 19th amendment was ratified on August 18th, 1920, and millions of women voted for the first time in the presidential election that November. 

Women’s studies in schools

The battle for true gender equality in the US was far from over.  As women gained more social and political 

efficacy over the following decades, female historians started to bring awareness to how women’s history wasn’t being taught in schools or taken seriously in academia.

It wasn’t until the late 1960’s that the first women’s studies programs were introduced to colleges and universities around the country.

In fact, in 1963, leading feminist historian Dr. Gerda Lerner was forced to cancel her women’s studies course at The New School. The class had not met the minimum enrollment of 10 students.  

However, by the 1970s women’s studies university students began to graduate. They emerged into a country largely unaware of all they had learned. 

Women’s History Hero Spotlight:
Founder and education pioneer Molly MacGregor

24-year-old Molly Murphy MacGregor was teaching an 11th grade history class in 1972 when a student asked her “what is the women’s movement?” 

When she turned the school’s history textbook, she found herself unable to find an answer in its pages. Determined to come up with a satisfying answer, MacGregor went back to college and graduated from the brand-new women’s studies graduate program at Sonoma State University in California. 

By the late 1970s MacGregor was putting together slideshows about famous women from history for her students at Santa Rosa Junior College. The school administration tried to discourage MacGregor from teaching a women’s history class claiming that there “wasn’t enough information” to fill a 6-week course.  

However, she watched students of all genders come away from her presentations invigorated and eager to learn more about American female heroines like Harriet Tubman and Rachel Carson. MacGregor knew she had more work to do.

Transforming women’s history education in Sonoma County, CA

In 1977 MacGregor joined the Commission on the Status of Women’s Education Task Force. The organization was founded in 1975 to enforce compliance with the newly passed Title XI education laws in Sonoma county schools.  

Along with fellow Sonoma State graduates Paula Hammett and Bette Morgan, MacGregor came up with a solution to the lack of women’s history education in her area: The first Women’s History Week. They decided to kick it off on March 8th, 1977, in honor of the International Women’s Day holiday. 

Inspired by other school event weeks like “Ocean Week” where students focused on specific topics, Women’s History Week featured themed events and a curriculum put together by MacGregor and her colleagues. 

According to MacGregor, the project’s original funding was $23 and five pounds of cookie dough for a bake sale. 

To create the groundbreaking curriculum, MacGregor used UC Berkeley research (including the works of Dr. Gerda Lerner). 

Undeterred by critics who called MacGregor and her colleagues “man haters,” Sonoma County’s Women’s History Week became a smashing success. 

Hammett, Morgan and MacGregor were able to secure a grant through the Women’s Educational Equity Act and expand the curriculum. They also helped appoint a board of female historians of color to make sure the focus wasn’t solely on white women. 

In March of 1978 and 1979, Women’s History Week overflowed into a community-wide celebration with a parade through downtown Santa Rosa, CA. 

The country catches on

In 1980, MacGregor attended an event at Sarah Lawrence College and spoke about the success of her Sonoma County women’s history education efforts.  

She was met with an outpouring of support and was flooded with calls from educators all over the country eager to start their own programs. 

MacGregor and her friends rode the wave of success and founded the National Women’s History Project (now called the National Women’s History Alliance). 

A call from the White House

That same year, 1980, MacGregor got a call from the White House. 

On the phone was special assistant to President Carter, Sarah Weddington (who had defended “Jane Roe” in the landmark Roe v. Wade case). The administration had caught wind of MacGregor’s speech at Sarah Lawrence. 

Weddington informed MacGregor that President Carter was interested in establishing a nationwide Women’s History Week. 

And he did just that! 

Carter signed a presidential proclamation in 1980 declaring March 2nd-8th as National Women’s History Week, and in 1981 Congress formalized the holiday with a bipartisan bill. 

The celebration only grew, and by 1986 several states had taken MacGregor’s brainchild a step further and established the entire month of March as Women’s History Month. 

Following the states’ lead, Congress passed a joint resolution in 1987 that cemented the entire month of March as the Women’s History Month we know and love today.

No celebration without MacGregor

In 2019 Molly MacGregor told the Los Angeles Times she was planning on retiring as executive director of the National Women’s History Alliance in 2020 (on the 100-year anniversary of women winning the right to vote in America). However, as of March 2022, she’s still in charge.  

MacGregor is officially recognized by Congress as one of the founders of Women’s History Month along with her friends Hammett and Morgan.  

 It is clear that without MacGregor’s tireless efforts, women’s contributions to history would not have been brought to the forefront with such vigor and grace. By trying to better her small, northern California community she revolutionized how America educates students on women’s history. 

In her own words

Macgregor had this to say in a 2021 op-ed for ABC News: 

“Our goal was to give students and teachers alike an opportunity to discuss issues related to women’s lives. We were accused of being self-promoters who hated men and wanted to destroy the family.

What we did want to destroy was the notion that history was boring and unimportant. We wanted to show the relevance and inspiring power of history, especially multicultural women’s history.” 

Women’s History Hero Spotlight:
Finetch Leader Peggy Alford

Research from Delloite’s Alliance for Board Diversity shows that women are gaining representation on the boards of major companies, but progress remains slow.  

 According to Nicole Sanchez, CEO of Vaya consulting, less than 1% of tech leaders are Black, Native American and Latin women. 

 The nonprofit Ascend Leadership Foundation found that between 2007 and 2015, the representation of white women in leadership roles increased by 17% while Black, Asian, and Hispanic representation percentages all declined.

 With this in mind, CARD wants to bring female fintech leaders of color into the forefront this Women’s History Month. 

 Meet Peggy Alford, current Executive Vice President of Global Sales for fintech giant PayPal. 

Alford's headshot from her PayPal "who we are" page

Peggy’s fintech journey

Alford told Black Enterprise in 2020 that her first job was at a “Big Al’s” burger joint in a shopping mall in St. Louis, MO. She worked there as a cashier and ice-cream-cone dipper. 

Alford’s mother Dr. Mary Abkemeier was a professor of mathematics and computer science at Fontbonne University in St. Louis, Missouri and her father was an electrical engineer. 

 Alford would go on to attend the University of Dayton where she received a BS in accounting and business administration. 

 She received her CPA license in 1997 and held multiple positions over 10 years at early e-commerce company eBay and its subsidiary Rent.com. 

 Starting in 2011 she spent 6 years at PayPal where she acted in various leadership roles. However, in 2017 she left PayPal to become the CFO and Head of Operations at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, a philanthropic organization founded by Mark Zuckerber and his wife Priscilla Chan.

Breaking fintech glass ceilings

In 2019, Alford became the first female African American (and only the second African American) to be appointed to Facebook’s board of directors. Soon after her nomination she rejoined PayPal as an EVP where she oversees some of the company’s most lucrative markets. 

Alford’s leadership roles in billion-dollar companies like PayPal and Facebook are groundbreaking on the basis of both her womanhood and her African American heritage. 

The efforts and successes of female heroes like Peggy Alford are pushing us towards equity and equality in corporate America, but there’s still plenty of work to be done. Women (especially women of color) shouldn’t have to work twice as hard to earn the recognition they deserve. 

The bottom line: Ladies, don’t stop dreaming and don’t stop advocating for change. 

Recap

We hope you enjoyed these inspiring stories to close out Women’s History Month 2022! 

 Looking to donate to women’s rights organizations this March? Check out Charity Navigator’s list of highly rated charities and nonprofits fighting for female equality, equity and empowerment.

From the CARD family to yours, happy Women’s History Month! 

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