I look forward to the day when Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day are no longer necessary because the inherent worth of more than half of the human population will no longer be taken for granted. This is also my feeling about Black History Month and Hispanic Heritage Month and all of the other “Months” on the calendar. Eventually we’ll reach a point where it’ll be self-evident, right? RIGHT?
Until that day, I will mark these months and days that are there to remind us of how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go. As often as I can, I will mark them with running.
I’m lucky because the Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York, is not far from my house. The Finger Lakes region — from Rochester to Watkins Glen and northeast again — was a hotbed of radical thought during the 1800s. Anti-slavery advocates like Frederick Douglass lectured at any public event that would have him. Suffragettes came to town to strategize with Elizabeth Cady Stanton. There was a sense that the tide would soon turn to favor equality for all in deed as well as in lip service.
I don’t know that the women and men who gathered in Seneca Falls in 1848 to hold the very first Women’s Rights Convention would recognize how far society has come over the intervening 150+ years — or how far it still needs to go. I do know that they certainly would be stunned by the Right to Run 5k/19k that is held there in July annually (whenever there isn’t a pandemic). All of those bare legs! All of those people running just for fun!
And before you point it out, yes, 19k is an odd distance. It makes total sense when you think about the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which is the one that gave women the right to vote. Earning that right was a challenging journey, much like training for and running any race is. This distance is a reminder that we can do things that seem impossible if we work together.
Plus, run a 19k and you’re guaranteed a PR.
The race winds through Seneca Falls itself. It starts next to the Erie Canal, which is historic in its own right. You run past Cady Stanton’s House and a statue depicting when Cady Stanton met Susan B. Anthony. After the race, you can take your sweaty self up the small hill to the Women’s Hall of Fame and the wonderful (and pocket-sized) national park behind it.
I know not everyone can travel to Seneca Falls to celebrate their right to run. But what most American mother runners can do is volunteer some time with Girls on the Run. (And if you know of any international programs like GOTR, please drop ’em in the comments.)
While the program is about much more than running a 5K — with lessons on self-image, teamwork, and perseverance — race day really drives home how powerful girls can be. To see hundreds of girls go from not knowing if they can achieve a big goal to being certain that they can is a boost for both runners and mothers. To say nothing of how that knowledge changes the way we see our place in the world.
Maybe by the time the kid in the picture above is the age I am now we won’t need quite so many “Months.” Until then, I’m exercising my right to run and bringing any women with me who want to join the fight.
How have you marked Women’s History Month?
Adrienne Martini writes about more than running. Her most recent book is Somebody’s Gotta Do It: Why Cursing at the News Won’t Save the Nation but Your Name on a Local Ballot Can.