You Go Girl: Inspiring the Women in Our Lives
The Many Reasons We Celebrate Women’s History Month
It’s easy to look at the world around us and figure that women have always been an integral part of the operation of society. Today, women hold high positions in business, government, medicine, academics, sports and entertainment, and we no longer think of it as “women” doing these things but rather just people. Unfortunately, these positions weren’t always available to women. It took many years in America for women to gain full access to the same opportunities and benefits enjoyed by men.
This year during Women’s History Month, we’re celebrating three women whose impact on health and medicine spoke to us and aligned with our goal of helping Nevadans live healthier and happier lives.
Gertrude B. Elion (b. 1918, d. 1999)
Elion was a pharmacologist who lived in an era when medicine was dominated by men. That didn’t hold her back. She and colleague George W. Hitchings developed a variety of new drugs to treat leukemia, autoimmune disorders, urinary tract infections, gout, malaria and viral herpes. Certain of these developments earned Elion, Hitchings and another colleague the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1988.
The daughter of immigrants, Elion earned a biochemistry degree in 1937 but couldn’t land a graduate research position because she was a woman. Instead, she found work as a lab assistant, an assistant organic chemist, a physics and chemistry teacher, and a research chemist.
In 1944, she went to work at Burroughs Wellcome Laboratories (today GlaxoSmithKline), where she and Hitchings developed their drugs using groundbreaking research methods that focused on the biochemical differences between healthy human cells and cells that made up cancer, bacteria and viruses. The drugs they formulated attacked the cells of a pathogen without damaging the host’s healthy cells.
Shannon Miller (b. 1977)
During her career as an artistic gymnast, Miller collected seven Olympic medals at the 1992 and 1996 Olympics, nine world championship medals and scores of medals from other competitions. Her greatest fame came when she and her teammates, dubbed “The Magnificent Seven,” won America’s first Olympic team gold medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
In 2011, Miller was diagnosed with stage 1 A mixed germ cell ovarian cancer, a rare form of this cancer that is the fourth-leading cause of cancer death among women. She underwent three cycles of chemotherapy. With that and with plenty of hard work on her part, she remains disease-free today.
A year before her diagnosis, Miller launched Shannon Miller Lifestyle, a website dedicated to fitness, nutrition and healthy living. The site now includes much about Miller’s advocacy for early cancer detection and encouragement to those battling the disease.
Marie Curie (b. 1867, d. 1934)
A well-known pioneer in the field of medicine, Polish-born Marie Curie developed the theory of radioactivity, leading to her directing research into using radioactive isotopes to treat neoplasms. She was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the first person to win it twice and the only woman ever to be awarded the prize two times.
Curie grew up in Russia-controlled Congress Poland and moved to Paris in 1891, where she studied under leading physicists and eventually earned high honors in mathematics and the physical sciences. She is noted for her discovery of the elements polonium and radium and her invention of X-ray technology and use of it during World War I.
She founded the Curie Institutes in Paris and in Warsaw, both major medical research facilities today. Curie died in 1934 from leukemia, which was caused by the radiation she had worked closely with for many years.
Let’s not forget that “average, everyday women” are doing some pretty amazing things all around us right now.
Taking a Look at the Women Around Us
Women’s History Month is a good time to not only remember famous women but also acknowledge and celebrate the women we encounter every day. It’s true that women have accomplished amazing things and turned the tides of history, but let’s not forget that “average, everyday women” are doing some pretty amazing things all around us right now.
As we celebrate Women’s History Month this year, let’s take time to reflect on the women who have made significant differences in our lives—women such as:
A mother who loves you like no other
A sister who is always there for you
A grandmother who believes you can do no wrong
A friend who has your back in good times and bad
A teacher who brings out the best in you
A boss who motivates you by her own example
A neighbor who always brightens your day
Of course, we should appreciate the important women in our lives all year long, but the widespread celebration of Women’s History Month can provide a special reminder of how much better our world is because of some of the women in it.