• Heather Hoffman

Women's History Month: Celebrating North Dakota Women

The goal of Women’s History Month, like any other month dedicated to history, was created on the foundation of raising awareness for the work of women of the past and present, while also opening the mind to accept the role women will play in the future.

Women’s History Month takes place throughout the month of March every year. A month honoring women was proclaimed by former President Jimmy Carter in 1980 and was initially only one weeklong, lasting from March 2-8. Shortly after it’s declaration, Congress approved the week as a federally recognized holiday.

Each year, the celebration of historical women is dedicated to a certain theme. For 2017, the theme was “Honoring Trailblazing Women in Labor and Business,” and 2020’s was “Valiant Women of the Vote.” This year’s theme is “Our History is Our Strength,” a lesson we may need to learn now more than ever.

All the women we recognize this time of year possessed strength.

Frequently, the discussion of women’s history focuses on famous women like Maya Angelou, Jane Addams, Susan B. Anthony, Amelia Earhart, Queen Elizabeth, Frida Kahlo, and Hedy Lamarr — scientists, philanthropists, authors, figureheads, and so much more. Strength and bravery in historic women are not limited to those who are world renowned.

There are historic women within every location, race, and culture. Why not shine the spotlight on some of North Dakota’s own historic women?

The writing on the photo reads “Hazel Miner has perished March 16, 1920 and saved the lives of a younger brother and sister.”

Hazel Miner is notorious for her heroism. Miner was only 16 when she gave her life for her younger brother and sister. We know how bad North Dakota winters can be, but winters were especially striking in the 1920s.

The Miner family was on their way home when their wagon was overturned by the winds of a harsh blizzard. Her father ventured home to bring help and left Miner with the task of keeping her two younger siblings warm and alive. She covered Emmet, age 11, and Myrdith, 8, in blankets and laid herself on top of the blankets to keep the snow from blowing in on the children.

She proceeded to talk with and jab at the children to ensure they were okay throughout the night. When morning came and the search party found them, Miner had passed due to the extreme cold. Her bravery, selflessness, and strength cost her life but spared the lives of her two siblings nestled underneath her. She did as she was told — ensuring they stayed warm and alive.

Dr. Anne Carlsen was born without forearms or lower legs, but also had a passion for helping those with mental and physical disiblities to achieve growth and independence.

Another strong, impactful North Dakota woman was Anne Carlsen. Carlsen is an inductee to the National Teachers Hall of Fame at Fullerton College, recipient of the Theodore Roosevelt Roughrider Award, recipient of the President’s Trophy as Handicapped American of the Year, recipient of the W. Clement Stone Foundation Endow-a-Dream Award, appointed vice-chair of the President’s Committee on Employing the Handicapped, recipient of the L.B. Hartz Professional Achievement Award, and recipient of the Helen T. Graven Award for Outstanding Christian Lay Work.

Despite being a quadruple congenital amputee, she became a high school teacher, principal, superintendent, and so much more. Carlsen’s goal was to provide treatment and a home to children who were handicapped, autistic, and in need of rehabilitation services.

During her life, she was able to dedicate the majority of her time to helping children, raising funds, teaching, and rehabilitating students under her care. Even after her death, she continues to help many children through the Anne Carlsen Center.

The Anne Carlsen Center provides services to those with severe multiple disabilities and also contains a pool where physical and social therapies are administered. The campus contains several units for living based on individual needs. The center has many programs including, but not limited to, a gardening program, in-home programs, solarium projects, art programs, and recreational and educational programs.

Despite her own disabilities, Carlsen never let them slow her down. In fact, she used them to fuel her passion for providing help to those like her. Little did she know the impact she would have on future generations and the hope she would inspire for a normal life.

It doesn’t take a woman of extraordinary measure to do extraordinary things. You don’t have to be the most educated, the strongest, the wisest, the most able bodied, fit a certain physical description of hair/skin/or eye color, be a certain age, or gender.

These women were brilliant successes, not because their lives were easy or that they were given the opportunity to be successful. They became successful because they took the time to care for others before themselves; they stood in the doorway of adversity and propped it open for everyone that followed in their footsteps. They elected to consistently keep pushing themselves to do and be the best they could be.

Extraordinary women are not designated to only exist in the past — there are many women making their mark on history today. Women of today are the future. When people look back on history decades and centuries from now, what will they say you have done? Who will they say you were? What mark did you leave on this world? Be bold, be brave, be strong, be kind, be tolerant, be confident, be YOU, and make history!


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