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LIFE-HUMAN-COMPUTER-JOHNSON-100-2-NN (copy)

FILE — Katherine Johnson, the former NASA Langley "human computer"who went from hidden figure to national celebrity, is shown on her 100th birthday in 2018.

History has not always been kind to women, regardless of their talents, education or successes. This is a tragedy that will not be erased overnight. However, opportunities to applaud women who make a positive contribution to our lives and our communities are a welcome change.

March is Women’s History Month, which is celebrated as an opportunity to highlight sometimes overlooked contributions of women in American and world history.

Movies like “Hidden Figures” and even classic tales like “Little Women” give us tools to re-examine the important role women have played in history and society. They also allow us to see blind spots in our understanding of history and of the experiences of women in ways that can further advancement.

For more than 20 years, the YWCA in St. Joseph has hosted a Women of Excellence Awards Luncheon, recognizing the positive contribution of individual women from all backgrounds in our community. Women in the workplace, women in volunteerism and women who are making an impact as entrepreneurs are honored at this event every year in a way that sheds light on contributions that are often too easily overlooked. Following a couple of years of pandemic-related disruptions, it was refreshing to see this event return for a full house at the Civic Arena.

Furthermore, this event and the other emphases and outlets already mentioned are outstanding opportunities for children in our community to find new role models. These female role models can assist children in making key decisions about their future and the impact they hope to have on our community, on our nation and in our world.

Of course, young women can find great encouragement from these role models. At the same time, though, boys also can be inspired and encouraged by women who overcome many obstacles to make an impact locally and globally. Honoring women of excellence in any context provides more role models for all of us, regardless of age or gender.

Finally, as we celebrate women who have made a public impact, we also can take time to highlight unsung heroes in our neighborhoods, workplaces and even our households, women of excellence who go about their days without much recognition. Their contributions also make an impact on generations of us, and we should find creative and meaningful ways to honor them, as well.

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