Women Who Helped Pave The Way

By Jordan Upton

In 1980, the week of March 8th was declared International Women’s History Week by President Jimmy Carter. This historic week was established to honor the great female leaders who fought for the rights of women and for equality for all such as Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, and Sacagawea. This historic week was eventually extended to the entire month of March and new additions of great women who impact our society are written in the history books daily.

AGAPE of N.C. would not be as successful as it is today without the help of some truly inspiring women who helped pave the way for advancements in foster care, adoption, and counseling services. Here are three women who played vital roles in altering the landscapes of these areas for not only women but for everyone involved in them.

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Edna Gladney, born in 1886, was an advocate for children’s rights and the improvement of conditions for disadvantaged children. Edna and her husband helped establish the Texas Children’s Home and Aid Society in 1910 and she would be the superintendent until 1961. The Texas Children’s Home would later be renamed the Gladney Center for Adoption. In 1936, Mrs. Gladney lobbied in Texas for the removal of the word “illegitimate” from children’s birth certificates, removing a long-standing stigma placed on children placed into adoption. Gladney would also successfully campaign for adopted children to receive the same inheritance rights as biological children as well as the recognition of being legally adopted as opposed to the children being “under long-term guardianship”. Edna Gladney fought her entire life for the rights of disadvantaged and adopted children and she radically changed the face of the field.

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Melanie Klein was an influential psychologist who dramatically changed the field of child psychology. Klein, born in 1882 in Austria-Hungary, worked as a peer to Sigmund Freud and was a lead in psychoanalysis theory, becoming the first person to use this kind of therapy with children. Klein’s direct work with children helped disprove some controversial theories some psychologists, like Freud, had of children. Thanks to Klein’s work, we are better equipped to understand the needs and wants, emotionally and mentally, of children in far more ways than we were previous to her groundbreaking work. Not only did Klein alter the face of children’s psychology, but of psychology as a whole.

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Edith Cowan was born in Australia in 1861. Cowan had a turbulent and unpleasant upbringing and because of this, she would dedicate her life to the rights of women and children. Cowan helped establish the Karrakatta Club in Perth, Australia in 1894, making it the first women’s club in the country. This club helped women find their own voices to lobby against the injustices they felt were being perpetrated against women and children. She also helped to form the Women’s Service Guilds in 1909 and was a co-founder of Australia’s National Council of Women. Later, Cowan helped to establish the Children's Protection Society and devoted her time to advocate against children being tried as adults in the court system. Her role dramatically influenced the implementation of children’s courts in Australia, and Cowan would serve on the bench for eighteen years, making her one of the first female Justices of the Peace ever. In addition to her role in the role of children in the judicial system, she also strongly advocated for educational reform in order to advance and emphasize the importance of knowledge in children.

While there are countless other women who have influenced the various areas that AGAPE of N.C. focuses on, these three women deserve to be lauded and showcased. We here at AGAPE we applaud strong and courageous women and are indebted to all who advocate for the rights and equality of all.