AS I SEE IT: Women History Month: Let’s recognize the woman behind the man

Welcome to Women’s History Month!  Women’s History Month is a celebration of women’s contributions to history, culture and society and has been observed annually in the month of March in the United States since 1987.

The San Jose Job Corps’ Diversity Committee spearheaded a celebration of Women’s History Month in the Gym last week (March 24).  It was a fun event with the Name that Tune game (identifying the title of the song and who is the female artist who sang said song) participated in by students and staff, according to Center Director Davina Hernandez.

While there’s a saying “Behind every successful man, is a woman” when interpreted means Behind every successful man there is a woman, but the recognition is for the man, not for the woman. This time, during the Women’s History Month celebration, we will be celebrating the achievements in life of women… the woman behind the man.

The expression Behind Every Great Man Is A Great Woman originated sometime in the first half of the 1900s. People used it to try to give recognition to the wives or mothers of successful men. This is because the women often helped the men in their lives a lot, but… their work went unrecognized.

Hence, the phrase “behind every successful man is a woman” became a popular saying that suggests that a man’s success is largely due to the support and sacrifices of the women in his life, typically his wife or mother.

In the message of Job Corps National Director Rachel Torres, she recognized the efforts of women leaders in supporting Job Corps. Former Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins helped drive the creation of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), the program that later inspired the creation of Job Corps.

“Without the groundworks laid down by women like Secretary Perkins, we wouldn’t have programs like Job Corps, which has helped serve almost 3 million men and women since its inception in 1964,” Torres commented.

Torres explained: “I share that piece of history to recognize those women who came before us and worked hard to instill change, so that we could continue to shape our world. As educators and mentors, it’s so important to remind the next generation of the work that was done for us. And the work we still need to continue to do to make sure every Job Corps student has the opportunity to break boundaries like the alumni retired WNBA Star Nakia Sanford.

Sanford testified that her career – first as a professional basketball player in the WNBA, and now as an investment advisor – wouldn’t exist without Job Corps. Her mom, Jackie, attended the program and was able to create a stable financial future for her family.

Among the women who succeeded in life on their own effort was Florence Nightingale. She said her success depends on being discreet and persevering.  “I attribute my success to this: I never gave or took an excuse.”

Nightingale was an English social reformer, statistician and the founder of modern nursing. She came to prominence while serving as a manager and trainer of nurses during the Crimean War, in which she organized care for wounded soldiers at Constantinople. (Wikipedia).

From a very young age, Nightingale was active in philanthropy, ministering to the ill and poor people in the village neighboring her family’s estate. By the time she was 16 years old, it was clear to her that nursing was her calling… her divine purpose. In late 1854, Nightingale received a letter from Secretary of War Sidney Herbert, asking her to organize a corps of nurses to tend to the sick and fallen soldiers in the Crimea. Nightingale rose to her calling and quickly assembled a team of 34 nurses from a variety of religious orders and sailed with them to Crimea and superbly did their job as ordered.

For Estee Lauder, always in the know about fashion trends, and founded her namesake brand at a time when Givenchy, Chanel, Dior, Balenciaga and other designers were shaping the latest fashions, was an American beautician and business executive who started a beauty company with a skin cream developed by her chemist uncle.

She attributed her success to hard work. “I never dreamed about success. I worked for it,” she said. She was an iconic American entrepreneur. Estée Lauder was an American beautician and business executive who started a beauty company with a skin cream developed by her chemist uncle.

In 1985 she published an autobiography, Estée: A Success Story. It described some of her basic strategies: opening the Estée Lauder counter at each new store in person, offering free promotional items, and remaining personally involved with the company.

As to Helen Keller, an American author, disability rights advocate, political activist and lecturer, she lost her sight and her hearing after a bout of illness when she was 19 months old. Keller overcame the adversity of being blind and deaf to become one of the 20th century’s leading humanitarians. She was an advocate for the blind and deaf and co-founder of the ACLU. Stricken by an illness at the age of 2, Keller was left blind and deaf. Beginning in 1887, Keller’s teacher, Anne Sullivan, helped her make tremendous progress with her ability to communicate, and Keller went on to college, graduating in 1904. During her lifetime, she received many honors in recognition of her accomplishments. (Wikipedia)

Keller is known for her quote: “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement.”

Judy Garland was an American actress and singer. While critically acclaimed for many different roles throughout her career, she is widely known for playing the part of Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz. She was one of the brightest, most tragic movie stars of Hollywood’s Golden Era. (Wikipedia)

She is most remembered for her principle: “Be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.”

Yuri Kochiyama’s principle in life was: “Life is not what you alone make it. Life is the input of everyone who touched your life and every experience that entered it. We are all part of one another.”

Kochiyama was a Japanese American political and civil rights activist. During World War II, the U.S. government forcibly removed her and her family to an incarceration site for Japanese Americans. For fifty years, Kochiyama spoke out about oppressive institutions and injustice in the United States Yuri. Influenced by her Japanese-American family’s experience in an American internment camp, her association with Malcolm X, and her Maoist beliefs, she advocated for many causes, including black separatism, the anti-war movement, reparations for Japanese-American internees, and the rights of political prisoners.

Shirley Chrisholm was better known for her principle: “You don’t make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas.”

Chisholm became the first African American to run for a major party’s nomination for President of the United States in the 1972 U.S. presidential election, making her also the first woman ever to run for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. Shirley Anita Chisholm was an American politician who, in 1968, became the first black woman to be elected to the United States Congress. Chisholm represented New York’s 12th congressional district, a district centered on Bedford–Stuyvesant, for seven terms from 1969 to 1983. (Wikipedia)

Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm’s motto and title of her autobiography—Unbought and Unbossed—illustrates her outspoken advocacy for women and minorities during her seven terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. Chisholm retired from Congress in 1983; taught at Mount Holyoke College and co-founded the National Political Congress of Black Women. In 1991 she moved to Florida, and later declined the nomination to become U.S. Ambassador to Jamaica due to ill health. Of her legacy, Chisholm said, “I want to be remembered as a woman … who dared to be a catalyst of change.”

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel,” Maya Angelou said. She was an American memoirist, popular poet, and civil rights activist. She published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, several books of poetry, and is credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning over 50 years. Maya Angelou was a civil rights activist, poet and award-winning author known for her acclaimed 1969 memoir, ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,’ and her numerous poetry and essay collections. (Wikipedia)

Women’s contributions to the world are great! Let’s honor them, as them, not the woman behind the man!

(ELPIDIO R. ESTIOKO was a veteran journalist in the Philippines and a multi-awarded journalist here in the US. For feedbacks, comments email the author at