Bernardine Watson – The Washington Post – Wednesday 28 August, 2013 (originally published 27 August)
Do you know the names Pauli Murray, Anne Braden or Septima Poinsette Clark? Most people don’t. Neither did I until, prompted by the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom I did some in-depth reading about the civil rights movement. These women were all critical to the civil rights battles of the 1950’s and 60’s. But like thousands of other women, their contributions have been largely overlooked.
Civil rights scholars acknowledge that women were the backbone of the movement. “There is a Chinese saying, ‘Women hold up half the world’, civil rights pioneer Julian Bond once commented to NBCNews.com. “In the case of the civil rights movement, it’s probably three quarters of the world.” Many argue that it was primarily women who laid the ground work for the movement. Writer Lynne Olson says that black woman activists in Montgomery, Alabama had already been fighting bus segregation for years by the time Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat in 1955. She writes that hundreds of women volunteered behind the scenes to push the Montgomery Bus Boycott after Park’s act of defiance. Olson makes clear that Parks was not just a tired seamstress, but a long-time activist who planned to be arrested. . .