Ed. note: This was originally posted on the blog for the Corporation for National and Community Service.
Service has been a productive venue for women to make their mark on this nation and inspire others to follow in their footsteps. During Women’s History Month, it is fitting for us to remember that those who serve, also lead.
Our women have always risen to the challenges our nation has faced. When battles were fought, our sisters tended to the wounded. When factories needed help in wartime, women left the home to bolster the workforce and keep supply lines stocked.
Meanwhile, as a testament to our great multitasking abilities, American women, from Susan B. Anthony to Rosa Parks, continued to improve educational opportunities and work to make sure every citizen has an equal and fair chance at success. Search history and you can find women pioneers serving in our government, with faith-based groups, and almost anywhere people need help.
One of my favorite examples is Clara Barton, who left her position in the U.S. Patent Office to support sick and wounded soldiers during the Civil War and founded the American Red Cross, a cause that would define the last 23 years of her life. Barton would not be the first woman to “lean in” to make her mark through service – there are countless other women who saw a need in their communities and stepped up to make a difference.
I was fortunate to discover this message at a young age. Even when I was a Girl Scout, I began to understand the value of service, and I learned lessons that I would take with me to high school and college about the influence good works can have on the people in my community and our nation.
Those lessons formed my life and career as I kept service at the forefront of my vocational goals and career decisions. Through service at the United Way and as the leader of the Florida Governor’s Commission on Volunteerism and the Florida Park Service, I have seen volunteers brighten disaster survivors’ faces during some of the lowest points in their lives by putting an arm around them and asking, “What can do to I help?”
Women are strong leaders in national service whether they wield chainsaws with AmeriCorps NCCC or mentor youth as Senior Corps Foster Grandparents. Wherever I look, I see women standing shoulder-to-shoulder as sisters in service to take on some of our nation’s greatest challenges by making communities better places to live and more compassionate to those in need.
As the first woman confirmed by the Senate to lead the Corporation for National and Community Service, an agency devoted to national and volunteer service in America, I am proud to stand with them to improve lives and transform our communities.
It is my hope that we remember the stories of women who have done – and continue to do – great things through service, and use them as inspirations and role models to strive toward even-greater heights in the future.
Our history books are incomplete if women are not a part of the narrative. omen’s history is American history, and I salute all the women who are leading by serving and making our nation a better place for all.
Wendy Spencer is the CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency that engages millions of Americans in service through AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, and the Social Innovation Fund, and leads the President’s national call to service initiative, United We