In America, women are frontliners of change

In America, women are frontliners of change
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They say that “Behind every successful man, there is a strong woman.” They’re wrong. The truth is, behind any successful community — any successful people, or any successful nation — there are countless unheralded and unnamed strong women.

All of us have witnessed women standing in the gap and on the front lines, molding and shaping the moments of our lives. As Women’s History Month unfolds, we should pause to consider how women in America have helped to shape our history, individually and as a nation. 

I think about my grandmothers. Both were sharecroppers who lost their husbands at an early age. They spent their lives picking other people’s cotton and cleaning other people’s houses. Despite their constant struggles, they managed to raise their own children, their grandchildren — and other people’s children.

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My grandmothers were frontliners of change.

I think about my mother working two jobs for most of my childhood, never letting us see her worry about making ends meet. She just gave it all she had and put the two ends together at the end of the month, hoping they would meet — and they did. 

She never went to college but she could spell, which was a step beyond most of her parents’ generation. And she made sure we had opportunities that she never had, opportunities her parents never could have dreamed of.

My mother was a frontliner. 

I think about my sister, now the principal of the high school from which she graduated, a school that my mother attended and one that told my grandmother her kids and anyone who looked like her would never be able to attend … while my grandmother quietly washed their windows and scrubbed their floors.

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My sister is a frontliner.

No one gave my grandmother a medal, and there were no public accolades for my mother. No one has published an article about my sister holding together a community during the pandemic through her sheer force of will. They’re just ordinary women who decided to stand on the front lines because they know that’s how progress is made.

And my family’s women are not alone in this aspect.

History is full of such “ordinary” women. Take, for example, Sarah Mae Flemming, a 21-year-old domestic worker in Columbia, S.C., who had the audacity in 1954 to take the only available seat on a city bus. She was humiliated and assaulted by the bus driver before being tossed onto a downtown sidewalk.

That happened nearly six months before Rosa Parks took her stand in Montgomery, Ala., fighting back by refusing to give up her bus seat to a white man. With the help of some dedicated lawyers and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, she set in motion the Montgomery Bus Boycott and history-making changes in civil rights. 

Many others — such as Barbara Jordan, Shirley Chisholm, Dorothy Height, Fannie Lou Hamer, Ida B. Wells-Barnett and countless more strong, Black women — have taught us that it is okay to “color outside the lines” because that’s how history is made. 

Not only are Black women one of the most active voting blocs in America, driving both of Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaEmergency infrastructure needed to keep Americans safe: Public media Kavanaugh conspiracy? Demands to reopen investigation ignore both facts and the law Congress is to blame for the latest ruling on DACA MORE’s victories with a 75 percent turnout in 2008 and 74 percent in 2012, but their registration, organization and mobilization efforts were the critical components in Joe BidenJoe BidenHouse Republican calls second bout of COVID-19 'far more challenging' Conflicting school mask guidance sparks confusion Biden: Pathway to citizenship in reconciliation package 'remains to be seen' MORE’s victory in November. 

Simply put, because of frontline women, many whose names we’ll never know, Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisWill Pence primary Trump — and win? Kavanaugh conspiracy? Demands to reopen investigation ignore both facts and the law 'CON laws' limit the health care competition Biden aims to deliver MORE today is vice president, Lauren UnderwoodLauren UnderwoodBiden's midterm strategies start to come into focus Biden aims to build support for jobs and families plan in Illinois Hollywood goes all in for the For the People Act MORE serves as the youngest Black woman elected to Congress, Stacy Abrams is nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, and poet Amanda Gorman’s words and voice can bring a nation to tears. 

Every major movement in this nation has been charged by young people, African Americans and women. Women standing on the front lines is nothing new, nor is Black women shaping American history. But recognizing their contributions is relatively new — and so is saying “thank you” to all of them.

Antjuan Seawright is a Democratic political strategist, founder and CEO of Blueprint Strategy LLC, a CBS News political contributor, and a senior visiting fellow at Third Way. Follow him on Twitter @antjuansea.