Even though few people can name Rutherford B. Hayes as the 19th president of the United States, it’s pretty cool to say I’m a direct descendant of his. Yes, it’s true. I’ve been related to a president my whole life, though it hasn’t come with any perks.
Oh here’s one. Being a relative of a POTUS means I’m also a relative of a first lady; in this case Lucy Hayes. And yea, for a young woman like me who has an education, a career and a boat-load of spunk, I’m pretty proud just to be able to say that my relative Lucy Hayes was an incredibly courageous woman, too.
Lucy, who was born in 1831, totally kicks butt because she was the first presidential wife to graduate college. She graduated at the age of 18 from Wesleyan Female College in Cincinnati, Ohio. These days, it’s not unusual to hear about women graduating from college. The current First Lady Michelle Obama attended Princeton University and Harvard Law School. That’s impressive.
Dare I admit that in my four undergraduate years of college, it didn’t really cross my mind that once upon a time it was unusual for a woman to further her education? I was too busy keeping up with my work load to stop and realize – and appreciate (and I have a degree in women’s studies!). However I have continually been aware that it takes work to take charge of my own life, my own destiny, and I’m not sure what my boldness and resilience would have been like if you dropped me into the mid-1800s as a woman. Like going to college, many of my accomplishments in life were no doubt far less daunting because women like Lucy went first. It makes me wonder if Lucy was positively smitten with her life?
If you want more information on what made Lucy Hayes so great – you can just Google it. (You’ll learn that Lucy was “widely heralded for her simplicity and good sense,” according to the Encyclopedia Britannica.) You don’t have to be related to her, or anyone well-known for that matter, to be inspired. I could spend all day talking about women like Lucy who paved the way for each of us to do amazing things with our lives.
In fact, now that it’s March and Women’s History Month, a month highlighting the contributions of women across the globe to events in history and contemporary society, I hope that you do take some time to spread the word about women from the past who you are positively smitten with.
Who inspires you from history?