Wednesday, November 25

IWM 2019: Remembering 2 Unsung Women Who Worked for Better Balance in their Society

The 2019 International Women’s Month (IWM) is currently running under the theme of “Balance for Better.” in this post, we will be remember 2 notable women who worked bravely and tirelessly during their era, to ensure a better future for the people in their respective society.

The resistance of these women against the norms, policies and/or oppression prevalent at the time they took radical actions, are not as well-mentioned in history books. Catherine J. Ross of contributes this guest post to refresh accounts of how these women contributed to changes that worked for the better; lest the significance of their valuable actions in the past eventually disappear into obscurity.

Alice Coachman
The First African-American Woman to Win an Olympic Medal

Alice Coachman was born and raised in Albany, Georgia, at a time when US states were permitted to pass laws implementing racial segregation. Born in November 1923 to a family saddled with 10 children, Alice grew up as a teener aspiring to train and compete in organized sports events. Since the state racial segregation laws posed as deterrents, the young Alice devised crude methods for developing and strengthening her potentials as a track and field athlete.

Her training improvisations included running barefoot across fields, and using sticks and ropes to improve on her high jumps. Her relentless efforts paid off. The turn of succeeding events that transpired thereafter, saw Alice broke high jump records whilst barefoot in various track and field competitions, including the Amateur Athlete Union (AAU) national championship.

Her feat in the 1948 Olympic Games gave inspiration to many African-American athletes of forthcoming generations. Prior to her demise in 2014, Alice Coachman had spent her time providing support to Olympic athletes, young and old, aspiring or retired, under the auspices of the Alice Coachman Track and Field Foundation.

Wu Zetian (624-705) -China’s Only Female Emperor

In a country that used to designate women to a lower stature than men, it is surprising to learn that a woman named Wu Zetian rose to power as an emperor during the Tang dynasty. Even more surprising is that Wu’s early beginnings is that of a 13-year old concubine.

Apparently, her beauty, charm and intelligence outshone those of about a hundred other concubines in Emperor Tai Tsung’s court. After the emperor’s death, the emperor’s son and successor to the throne Kao Tsung, not only made Wu Zetian his concubine but also his empress.

Healthwise, Kao Tsung was said to be a weak emperor, and that Wu Zetian was the real ruler behind Kao Tsung’s reign. Upon his death, Wu declared herself as the emperor, which many ancient Chinese historians accounted as a reign of terror and divisiveness.

Through centuries, it was widely believed that Wu Zetian proved the very reason why China’s dynastic principles considered women as unfit rulers. After Wu, no other woman assumed power as emperor, but the evidences of her success as ruler were intentionally destroyed

However, 21st century archaeologists and historians searched for evidences and artifacts that will shed more light into Wu’s supposed reign of terror. Ancient statues, jewelries and hieroglyphs discovered by the modern-day fact finders revealed important information left out by ancient Chinese historians.

Miniature statues of women depicted that under Wu’s rule, they had better rights and freedom to live as they please. Remains belonging to commoners wore jeweled headdress, which suggested that wealth was enjoyed not only by the nobles and aristocrats.

As historians painstakingly reconstructed the past based on, ancient inscriptions, artifacts and hieroglyphics, they came to learn that ancient China, under Wu Zetian’s regime, experienced a period of stability and prosperity, whilst giving women higher recognition and privileges as citizens.