Women’s History Month: Three People Who Made an Impact | Columnists

This year marks the 35th anniversary of Women’s History Month, celebrated each March. From sports to medical science to the military, here are the stories of three women whose contributions have had a special impact.

Naomi Osaka

The Women’s Tennis Association ranked Naomi Osaka No. 1 two years ago, and she continues to make her mark on the sport.

Osaka, 24, is one of the highest paid tennis players. She was born in Osaka, Japan and is the first Asian player to hold the highest singles ranking. Her father is Haitian and her mother is Japanese. Her family moved to the United States when Osaka was 3, and she has spoken of her struggles with being biracial and the ignorance she encountered.

Osaka was not afraid to protest and speak out. While some of her counterparts have focused solely on sports, she considers it her responsibility to speak out publicly on many topics.

Naomi Osaka has won four Grand Slam titles and she has used her platform to speak out against police brutality, racism and ignorance. She is a role model for aspiring athletes around the world.

— Abi Longbottom Naches Valley Secondary School, Grade 11

Miss Henrietta

Even though Henrietta Lacks died over 70 years ago, she still has an impact today. In 1951, Lacks was diagnosed with cervical cancer and died aged 31 that year. While his battle with cancer was short-lived, studying his cells was not.

After observation in the laboratory, scientists found that his cells could survive and reproduce in a way that typical cells do not. Due to the human papillomavirus, Lacks cells mutated in a way that allowed them to reproduce indefinitely under specific conditions.

The “HeLa” cell line of Lacks’ own cancer cells is still alive today and was the first immortalized human cell line. Named after the first two letters of his first name and last name, the HeLa cell line is arguably the most important cell line in medical history.

With major contributions to the poliomyelitis vaccine and experiments with human cells in weightlessness, Lacks cells have contributed to the development of science in more ways than one. Because his cells have this “immortal” characteristic, scientists have been able to use them for many trials and experiments. As such, she deserves the greatest respect and credit for her contribution to the future of science and medicine.

However, over the past 70 years, there have been controversies surrounding the management of Lacks cells. Today, HeLa cells are sold for between $400 and thousands of dollars.

In addition to questions about the financial benefits of the cells, there have been arguments about the ethical reasoning behind the discovery of the immortalized cell line. At the time, Lacks was unaware of the research being done on his cells. For this reason as well as the lack of consent, many arguments suggest that HeLa cell line studies are unethical. It has been debated whether his family should have legal rights over them. Due to the delicate timeline of events, there is no single owner of the cell line.

Without the cells of Henrietta Lacks, important medical research and development would not have taken place. His legacy deserves attention and respect.

— Abi Longbottom Naches Valley Secondary School, Grade 11

Cathay Williams

Cathay Williams, who lived from 1844 to 1893, managed to pass as a man in order to join the army in the years following the Civil War.

Although a source notes that many other women had done the same before, Williams holds the distinction of being the first known black woman to serve in the US military.

Williams spent the first years of his life as a slave on a plantation in Independence, Missouri. During the Civil War, when Williams was a young woman, Union forces occupied the town and she ended up working as a laundress and cook for the Army, which is when she got her first taste of military life. . Eventually, after the war ended, the 22-year-old Williams decided to get in on the action by posing as a man and enlisting in the army in 1866 under the alias “William Cathay”. .

“I wanted to make a living and not depend on connections or friends,” Williams told the St. Louis Daily Times later in life.

During her tenure with the 38th U.S. Infantry Company A, an all-black Army regiment that later became known as the “Buffalo Soldiers”, she usually acted as some sort of guard or patrol. All the while, most of her fellow soldiers were oblivious to the fact that Williams was, in fact, a woman.

Unfortunately, his identity was revealed during a visit to the doctor, which led to his discharge from the service in 1868. Curiously, despite having lied to enter the army, as well as the intense prejudice at the time against blacks and women, sources say Williams’ superior granted her an honorable discharge.

Today, it can be said that Williams not only paved the way for future people of color to join the military, but also for women of all races. For this reason, his heroic legacy deserves recognition beyond Black History Month. Williams’ subversion of expectations is both a fascinating and inspiring example of what it means to overcome injustice, challenge societal norms and serve selflessly on behalf of one’s country.

—Natalie Keller, Selah High School, Grade 11