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The past, present and future is female.
In honor of Women’s History Month, MSNBC anchor Yasmin Vossoughian recently sat down with a group of girls from Harlem Village Academy in New York City to highlight some of the extraordinary women who broke barriers and paved the way for the next generation of leaders.
They also discussed their future dreams, gender equality, standing up to bullying and the value of role models.
Vossoughian began by telling the students that the first women’s day celebration was held in New York City more than a century ago. Then, after Congress commemorated Women’s History Week in 1981, it eventually expanded to the entire month, “so everybody could learn about the amazing things women have accomplished,” she explained.
She then showed the girls flashcards of historic women, some familiar and some less known.
Vossoughian explained Amelia Earhart was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, paving the way for other women to become pilots. She encouraged the girls to stop in the cockpit and meet their pilot the next time they’re on a plane.
On another flashcard was Madam C.J. Walker, the first African American female self-made millionaire who started her own line of hair products. The students had recently learned about Walker in school. “She was an orphan and created something out of nothing,” Vossoughian explained
Gertrude Ederle, the first woman to swim 35 miles across the English Channel, was also included. Vossoughian shared an important part of her accomplishment: She beat every swimmer – including the men – who completed it before her.
The conversation then transitioned to which students wanted to swim as far as Ederle someday, and who would like to go on to the Olympics like Ederle did in 1924. “You can go to the Olympics too,” Vossoughian encouraged the young students.
The flashcard game also paid tribute to Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American woman elected to Congress and Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani activist and youngest Nobel Prize laureate.
Later, the students shared what they want to be when they grow up. The jobs included ballerinas, doctors, lawyers and even a “funny YouTuber.” They also discussed gender equality in their own homes and the importance of leading by example.
Vossoughian also read “Mae Among the Stars,” by Roda Ahmed, the story of a young girl whose dreams about being an astronaut were fully nurtured by her parents, but discouraged by her teacher. This story, inspired by the life of Mae C. Jemison, the first African-American woman to travel in space, opened up a discussion about female empowerment and the importance of speaking up when something is unfair or wrong.
With Vossoughian, the girls repeated a very important moral of the story: “If I can dream it, if I can believe in it and if I can work hard for it, anything is possible.”