Women’s History Month inspires morning announcements

Women's History Month inspires morning announcements

Grace Taylor Photography - used with permission

Jilliane Mortimer

March was Women’s History Month, and one student at Abington High School, Jilliane Mortimer, used the morning announcements to celebrate the occasion. Each day of the month, she gave a daily quote from a famous woman in history.

Many students thought these quotes were inspirational, while some others thought they were a waste of time. We thought we would interview Mortimer (also a staff writer for the Green Wave Gazette) so we could share her experiences and opinions on these opposing views. 

March was Women’s History Month; what gave you the idea to give a profile and quote from influential women in the morning announcements?

Someone mentioned to me that March was Women’s History Month, and within the past year I have become very interested in feminism. I never understood what it was about until about a year ago, and since then it has driven me to be passionate about the important roles women have had in history. I thought this was a perfect opportunity to apply this new understanding to our school. I asked a bunch of teachers what they thought of it, and I got overwhelmingly positive responses. I came up with a list of quotes and got them approved by Principal Sullivan, and here I am.

Can you give us a quick definition of what feminism is?

Feminism is the belief that all people are entitled to freedom and liberty. Feminism is the equality of the sexes. Much like humanitarians, feminists believe that discrimination should not be based on gender, sexual orientation, skin color, ethnicity, religion, culture or lifestyle.

What was the selection process for your list of inspirational quotes?

I started off with a couple quotes that I personally love, then I looked at various websites, went through a bunch of quotes and found the ones that I thought would suit the school the best. Some may have noticed that the quotes were very general. None of them discriminated and they didn’t only talk about women. They talked about humans and humanity as a whole.

Who is your favorite woman in history?

That’s a tough one. Personally, I love art. So, I would have to say Frida Khalo. Not only was she an incredible artist, she was an amazing person who overcame a lot of struggles in her life. Actually, one of my favorite quotes came from her. “I am my own muse; I am the subject I know best, the subject I want to know better.” I thought this was a really important point to make because it emphasizes self-love.

Do you have a favorite painting by her?

Her self-portrait “Dedicated to Dr. Eloesser,” done in 1940. It was oil on board. I think she looks truly beautiful. Everyone has a different definition of beauty, and that can start a lot of turmoil between people. But, I think this truly captures the essence of her beauty, not only as a painter, but as a being. The flowers on top of her head, just the colors – they all work in harmony. In her paintings she channeled how she felt about herself through how she painted herself.

Women’s issues have been very prominent in the news lately with the growing popularity of feminism. What are your opinions on this?

I think it’s great. Like I have said, I have only really understood it for a little over a year now. I think it’s a wonderful thing that it has spread across the media. I think it’s incredible that many celebrities have come forward and advocated for feminism, like Beyoncé, because it’s changing the connotation of feminism. There are still some people who are turned off by the idea, don’t understand it, and think of it as something unnecessary. But, it’s totally necessary for everybody. Feminism is for everybody; men are allowed to feel vulnerable, and they don’t have to be manly men all the time. And, girls don’t have to be girly girls, but they can if they want to be. The point is they have the choice of who they want to be.

We heard there was some negative feedback about your feminist quotes, that some thought it was a “waste of time.” What would you like to say in response to that?

It’s honestly really sad. I feel bad for the people who said that because they are living life with a closed-mind. It shows me that I need to keep doing what I am doing because there are people that still need a wakeup call, a push for an open mind. Women’s history is not just important to women; it’s important to everyone. These women helped to form our society; they contributed to the medications that exist, that help people get through the day, the artwork you see in museums, the books you read, anything. Women have helped in so much.

What does the feminist movement really mean to you since you’ve gotten into it in the past year?

It has changed my life drastically; I’ve never thought of myself as an outgoing person, until about a year ago. I used to feel oppressed by everybody around me. That was because I felt afraid. I felt judged, even if someone didn’t do anything to make me feel that way. I felt it.

Feminism helped me realize that I needed to have confidence in myself. Everybody has a genius thought, and the ones who are the geniuses are the ones who have the confidence to speak up and share what they are thinking. I realized that I have wonderful ideas, and great things to offer. I have so much love to give, and the only thing holding me back was myself. It’s helped me to appreciate everybody, and keep my mind open about opinions on everybody. I look at people and think “they’re being just as I am, and deserve a chance to be heard.” Feminism helped me realize all that, and I’m thankful for it.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

One thing that I think is really powerful is that since I’ve been open about my feminism and expressed my views, I’ve really found out who the most sincere people in my life are, the most sincere friends I have. The people who don’t agree with what I have to say, I’ll just have to explain better, and help them to understand. I wouldn’t be where I am today without feminism.