Women deserve continued recognition


North Wind Staff

Against a backdrop of the #MeToo movement, the third Women’s March and a record number of women in Congress, this year’s Women’s History Month is more significant than ever.

As we approach the halfway point of a month devoted to spotlighting contributions of women to the progression of history and the evolution of society, we want to pause to feature some notable women in the history of NMU and their triumphs, which often get overlooked.

Lydia M. Olson, the valedictorian of the first two-year class to graduate from Northern State Normal School in 1899, is an early example of women attaining positions of influence on campus. She served as the first secretary of NMU before leaving to continue her studies. After returning to Marquette, she served as NMU’s longest serving librarian (1908-1941), advocating for literacy and expanding the library. In 1951, Olson was the first alumna to have building named in her honor.

Despite not having the right to vote, Olson held a position of leadership and facilitated scholarship. The library continues to be a reminder of her feats in a time of inequality.

Judith I. Bailey, NMU’s 11th and only female president, symbolizes the struggle women have faced and continue to navigate in securing positions of power over men, especially in academia. Bailey served from 1997 to 2003 and was granted president emeritus status by the NMU Board of Trustees in 2003.

In addition to the women highlighted here, countless women faculty and employees have had a vital role in the development of our university community. Today, we encounter their impacts, but their contributions are not overtly honored.

March is an annual testimony to women instrumental to our lives, but our appreciation of them shouldn’t end on the 31st. While naming buildings and streets after them is a symbolic recognition, more could be done. Let’s install a statue of an influential woman, or paint a mural of the faces who fought for their own rights and secured ours.

Surrounding women with the memories and lives of inspirational and courageous women is necessary to inspire the future generation of female leadership.