By Gayle Converse and Pat Miller
Whether caring for the sick and wounded during the American Civil War, helping during the 1918 influenza pandemic or building airplanes during World War I, Alexandria’s heroines have been on the front lines for more than a century. They are not alone: Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Alexandria’s current generation of women have been making their own history.
This month contains the somber one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic and National Women’s History Month, two observances that reflect a year of exceptional numbers of local heroines working and volunteering an incredible number of hours. Among countless efforts, women have delivered mail and packages, ensured the city’s food supply, taught Alexandria’s children and cared for local health and safety.
“Women make up nearly nine out of 10 nurses, nursing assistants, most respiratory therapists, a majority of pharmacists and an overwhelming majority of pharmacy aides and technicians. More than two-thirds of the workers at grocery store checkouts and fast food counters identify as female,” The New York Times reports.
The current risk to women and their families remains high. A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study looked at all cases of coronavirus infection contracted by members of the U.S. healthcare community. Women comprise 73% of those cases.
The White House acknowledged on Jan. 20, 2021, “Millions of Americans, many of whom are people of color, immigrants and low-wage workers, continue to put their lives on the line to keep the country functioning through the pandemic. They should not have to lie awake at night wondering if they’ll make it home from work safely the next day, or if they’ll bring home the virus to their loved ones and communities.”
To honor women who have gone above and beyond during this crisis, Alexandria Celebrates Women is proud to host the first Celebrate Women Awards on March 29. The event will help support the Alexandria Domestic Violence Program and the Domestic Violence Safehouse, a place of refuge for many impacted by the pandemic that serves the needs of women who have lost their jobs. Many are single mothers.
The free, online event will recognize five women who live, work or volunteer in Alexandria – individuals who have placed themselves in harm’s way to sustain our city and its residents during the pandemic.
The Celebrate Women Awards event is not the only way to celebrate or commemorate the contributions of women this month. To the left of this article are a few events that will honor Women’s History Month and the actions of heroines throughout history.
The writers are founders of Alexandria Celebrates Women, a nonprofit that is highlighting influential women throughout the city’s history. Contact them at AlexandriaCelebratesWomen@gmail.com.