Women’s History Month celebration held at Austin High School

Published 1:26 pm Monday, April 3, 2023

By Carolyn Bogott

“Did you ever believe in something so much you were willing to do go to jail, and even go on a hunger strike, to help people realize you were right? Well, I did,” said student Haylie Meyer, portraying the part of a suffragist Alice Paul, at the 17th Annual Women’s History Assembly at Austin High School last Thursday morning.

Haylie later held up a funnel with a hose attached, explaining how Alice Paul was force-fed while incarcerated for demonstrating for women’s equality. 

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These were just two dramatic moments from five wonderfully presented, well-costumed and well-acted monologues of figures in the fight for equal rights for women done by Austin High School students. The whole audience was rapt and silent as these student actors commanded the stage.

Kalli Potter was stern and strident, playing Elizabeth Cady Stanton as she unfurled the Declaration of Sentiments from the first women’s rights convention in 1848. Afi Adjowui, as Frances Harper, brandished a book as she told about being the first African American woman to publish a book in the United States and then going on to fight for the rights of all races of women to vote.  

Ellen Ekins strode about the stage depicting the fictional “Rosie the Riveter” and telling how women eagerly and competently took the places of men during World War II and then were sent home to be housewives when the men returned from war.  

Lisa Deyo, filling in at the last minute, became Betty Friedan for those few minutes, telling of her surveys of women who were unhappy to be shut out of the workplace, and confined to homemaking in the 1950s, which led to her famous book, “The Feminine Mystic.” 

A forceful and informative introduction and wrap-up was done by student Gabriella Nack, reminding the audience that the fight for the equality of women continues.  AHS drama coach, Kim Potter, directed this production with help from Lisa Deyo, AAUW member. 

AAUW Austin Branch realized in 2005 that younger people did not know about the hard-fought battles women have had and continue to have to achieve equal rights. That was the start of sponsoring an AHS celebration each March for Women’s History Month. 

In addition to the assembly, Austin AAUW Branch also sponsors a women’s history project contest in cooperation with a history teacher at the high school. Dennis Schwab is the current teacher cooperating on this project. 

Winners in this year’s contest were presented cash awards at the end of this assembly. They were Nawras Zacky with “Women’s Restrictions & the Suffrage Movement,” Grace Anderson with “Life for Women from the 1920s to the 1940s,” Julie Nesvold, Ayla Gullickson, and Marcos Castro with “Life for Midwestern Women in the 1970s.”