March 10, 2010


March is officially Women's History Month and it gives us an opportunity to remember and pay special tribute to the many contributions that women have made to our state and to our nation.   From civil rights leaders to medical pioneers, from American patriots to religious leaders and environmentalists, Maryland women have made enormous contributions to our nation's history, progress and knowledge.


As we approach the bicentennial celebration of the War of 1812, it's fitting that we remember the contribution that Mary Young Pickersgill made to our nation.   Mary was the flagmaker who made the famous banner that was hoisted over Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore.   Her flag was immortalized by Francis Scott Key's words: " Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight, O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming … Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave."


Maryland also has a canonized saint. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton became the first native born American woman to be canonized by the Catholic Church in 1975.    In the early part of the 19 th Century, she established in Baltimore the first free Catholic school in America .   She also went on to establish two orphanages and founded the American Daughters of Charity, which was the first female religious order native to the United States .  


During the Civil War, Barbara Frietchie of Frederick , at age 90, waved a Union flag in the middle of the street to block Stonewall Jackson's troops as they passed through Frederick in the Maryland Campaign.   John Greenleaf Whittier immortalized the event in an 1864 poem entitled: Barbara Frietchie.  


We also pay special tribute to Harriet Ross Tubman, who was born into slavery in Dorchester County but escaped to become a leader of the anti-slavery resistance network know as the Underground Railroad.  


Dr. Helen Brooke Taussig was a 20 th Century medical pioneer.   She is credited with being the founder of the subspecialty pediatric cardiology.   In 1944, as a Johns Hopkins Hospital pediatric cardiologist, she developed a special shunt to treat "blue baby" syndrome, a life-threatening congenital heart defect.


Montgomery County 's Rachel Carson is credited with founding the modern environmental movement.   Her 1962 book, Silent Spring, detailed how synthetic chemicals accumulated in water, soil, fish and animals, and her findings led to the domestic ban on the sale of DDT in 1972, an action that many credit with saving the bald eagle from extinction.


Finally , Bea Gaddy was known as the Mother Teresa of Baltimore for her work with the homeless.   In the 1970s, she distributed food and clothing from her home.   She went on to found the Bea Gaddy Family Center , a homeless shelter.   Every Thanksgiving, she and her volunteers fed thousands of Marylanders.   She died in 2001, but was inducted into the Maryland Hall of Fame in 2006.