It’s Women’s History Month! Despite all women have done for centuries, the first official celebration of women’s history wasn’t until 1982. Originally lasting just a week, the National Women’s History Project lobbied Congress to make the event a month long, succeeding in 1987 when the first “Women’s History Month” was celebrated.

This year’s theme is “Women Who Advocate for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion,” recognizing women who understand that we need to eliminate bias and discrimination entirely from our society and institutions.

To celebrate Women’s History Month, here are a few women who had a positive impact on Illinois:

Ida B. Wells: Ida B. Wells-Barnett was a journalist, activist, and researcher who battled sexism, racism and violence. After being forced to leave Memphis, TN, for being outspoken against lynching, she moved to Chicago. During the suffragist movement, she outwardly confronted white women who were apathetic about violence toward the Black community. Because of this stance, she was often ridiculed and ostracized by women’s suffrage organizations. Nevertheless, she remained active in the women’s rights movement and was a founder of the National Association of Colored Women’s Club which was created to address issues dealing with the intersection of women’s suffrage and civil rights.

Georgia Louise Harris Brown: Georgia Louise Harris Brown was an architect and engineer. She was the first Black woman to graduate from the University of Kansas with a degree in architecture and engineering and later she earned her architecture license in Illinois which made her the second Black woman to be a licensed architect in the U.S. During her career. Brown developed structural calculations for many well-known reinforced steel and concrete buildings that populate the Chicago skyline.

Dr. Margaret Taylor Burroughs:  Dr. Margaret Taylor Burroughs moved to Chicago when she was three. She was an activist through her art which focused on the idea that “skin color is just an over-emphasized minor difference among people.” One of her most famous poems was called “What shall I tell my children who are Black.” She was committed to education and prison reform and was able to combine these two passions by working in prisons for over 30 years helping the prisoners transform their lives through art and writing education.

Despite systemic hardships and setbacks, women have accomplished so many great things. Speaking out for civil rights, defying expectations by getting an education and bringing art and education to incarcerated people. This month, take the time to learn about how women have made history.