Women's Innovation Center

Local Women’s History Comes Alive

Dr. Elizabeth Palmer-Johnson, Maribeth Bersani, Rotary chapter leader, and Jane Plitt at the Feb. Rotary meeting (Photo: Lucelle O’Flaherty)

Alexandria, VA – March is Women’s History Month, and the National Center of Women’s Innovations (NCWI) will be front and center showcasing, talking, and building recognition of amazing women innovators who have tangibly changed our world.

But, full disclosure, we won’t limit our efforts to just March! We plan to celebrate these women monthly in schools, stores, and civic events. Look for our smiling faces and fun interactive opportunities linked to STEM-related work while listening to the forgotten stories of these women’s accomplishments.

We welcome your invites and tips on where we might pop up. Look for the opportunity to buy NCWI shirts and bags to help promote the effort. Consider joining our ambassador corps and help spread the word. Just call 757-656-9870 or email [email protected].

An already inspired Washington School for Girls student. (Photo: Washington School for Girls)

Last month, we mentioned a partnership with Rosie Riveters to develop the Gladys West GPS Challenge, aligning GPS-themed STEM activities with the awesome story of Dr. West, GPS enabler. That relationship has grown! I’m delighted to share that the DC-based Washington School for Girls (3rd-8th grades) will be the first school in late Spring to benefit from our unique approach to combining storytelling with hands-on STEM exposure.

School President Dr. Beth Reaves says, “Washington School for Girls is excited …. for our students to explore STEM innovations while learning about an important woman in history. We know that young girls need to see women’s accomplishments to dream of their own for the future, and this partnership provides that exposure.” Amen! We can’t wait to bring the program to Alexandria. Help us find a home for it! [email protected]

We are thrilled this project has gained the endorsement of Mayor Justin Wilson, City Council members, Heather Peeler from ACT for Alexandria, and other public leaders.

Jane Plitt in Rochester, NY, greeting Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony (Photo: Jane Plitt)

In March, Jane Plitt, NCWI founder and Board chair, will speak a lot. Hear her at 1:00 PM on March 10 at The Lyceum (201 S Washington St, Alexandria) on “Forgotten Women Who Changed the World of Healthcare.” Learn about the role women played in developing cataract surgery, the COVID-19 vaccine, and Ozempic, curing sickle cell anemia and leprosy, to name a few. Learn the juicy details of how men tried, and momentarily succeeded, to take credit for these women’s pathblazing work.

On March 20, Jane will speak to the Fairfax Public Access group. On March 27, she will discuss the evolution of creating the National Center of Women’s Innovations to At Home In Alexandria (AHA) members (athomeinalexandria.org). For a glimpse at the story, check out Womanaround Town (www.womanaroundtown.com)

Dr. Elizabeth  Palmer-Johnson, Assistant Governor for Area 7 District, 7610 Rotary International, is arranging for Jane to speak at several Rotary chapters during the month. Jane talked to an enthusiastic crowd at the Alexandria Rotary chapter’s February 13 meeting, thanks to Alexandrian Maribeth Bersani.

To celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8, the Ten Thousand Villages store (915 King Street) will showcase our group. NCWI will benefit from the sales that day. It will be a chance to do good twice for women– for the store and NCWI! See you there.

Featured Volunteer – Charleen Smith -Riedel

Charleen Smith-Riedel (Photo: Charleen Smith-Riedel library)

The National Center of Women’s Innovators is building the most comprehensive file of all women innovators in the US (past and present). Our file will enable youngsters, adults, students, and scholars to access the list for research purposes, inspiration, and strategic contacts. Such an undertaking is enormous and could not be accomplished without the dedicated effort of our skilled, determined, and passionate volunteers. Charleen Smith-Riedel, a retired Microsoft/Nuanced Communications software engineer, is heading that effort. She has designed our data file, and with her help, we obtained a Microsoft grant for the file to be stored on the Azure cloud.

Before she devoted herself to NCWI, Folklore and the Smithsonian published Charleen’s stories.

After Charleen met NCWI founder Jane Plitt and heard about NCWI, she eagerly volunteered to apply her folklore degree with her writing and research skills to bring to light the accomplishments of these women. Helena Bailey (who was featured last month) and Charleen delight in uncovering forgotten women innovators. They think you, too, will marvel at these women and their momentous innovations. Already, we have nearly 1,000 such women, but there are thousands more. NCWI considers itself mighty fortunate to have such talent in our volunteer corps. Join us! www.womensinnovations.org

ICYMI: Alexandria Choral Society Performs Requiem by Gabriel Fauré March 9

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