March is Women’s History Month, and we at Peekapak want to recognize Women Leaders in the Education Space by highlighting the accomplishments of women throughout history. Every woman is a champion in our eyes but we have highlighted four key women that have made a large impact on the education space, paving the way for others.

Lucy Wheelock, Kindergarten Advocate

Lucy Wheelock was raised in Cambridge, Vermont during the mid-late 1800’s. She was fortunate to be raised in a household passionate about education, and had a variety of opportunities to learn. The introduction of kindergarten was a huge question for debate in the 20th century – do we expand education to 5 year olds? With the idea of kindergarten being introduced in Germany, educators were unsure what type of instruction should be introduced in North America. The idea of introducing play-based learning was foriegn and unknown. They needed a leader to bridge the gap between over-structured learning, and play based learning. Lucy stood up to the challenge and facilitated psychological learning for educators and took educators to Germany to witness their transformed kindergarten classroom. As the president of the International Kindergarten Union, she continued to co-author a groundbreaking report that created a middle ground between traditional and soon to be modern kindergarten. Wheelock’s efforts combined with her charming personality helped transform kindergarten through play activities. 

Savitribai Phule, First Female Teacher in India

Savitribal Phule is known for her astonishing role as the first female teacher in India. Her story begins growing up in the small village of Maharashtra in 1831. She was married at the young age of nine to Jyotiba, unable to read or write. Her husband strongly believed in education and eliminating social inequalities, so he taught her how to read and write, which was illegal at the time. After years of learning and attending teachers training, Savitribal and her husband started the first Indian-owned girls only school. It started small, with nine girls, but grew to multiple schools with over 150 girls altogether. The high enrollment of girls angered orthodox upper-caste Hindus (or conservitive communities), so they tried to close these schools. They started rumours about Savitribai, bombarding her with cow dung, eggs, tomatoes on her way to school. This did not discourage Savitribai and her husband, as they opened a total of 18 schools for girls across Maharashtra. Her courage and dedication to women’s education will be remembered forever.

Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai, born July 12, 1997, was raised in a small town in Pakistan. Her father wanted her to have the opportunity to be educated, so he ran an all-girls school. However, when the Taliban took over in 2007, women’s rights were restricted in society – including their right to attend school. The Taliban shut down all girls schools and imposed suicide bombings on the areas. Malala’s family was forced to flee to safety temporarily but returned when tensions eased. Her father took her to the press shortly after where she spoke out publicly about her experience. She continued to gain traction about the issue through journal entries to the press, TV appearances, even appearing in The New York Times. She quickly became the target of the extremist group, and was shot on a school bus. Fortunately, she survived and was flown to England. This gained global attention, and sparked a petition for children around the world to be back in school by 2015, that led to Pakistan’s first Right to Education bill, and a $10 million dollar fund in Malala’s honour. She went on to continue her activism and won the Nobel Peace award in 2014, at the age of 17!

Dr. Hayat Sindi

Dr. Hayat Sindi is an active advocate for science education among young women from the middle east! She is passionate about biotechnology in developing regions. Growing up in Saudi Arabia, she did not have access to the same education as men did. Not only is there a gap in education, but developing regions have limited access to proper healthcare, and technology. She grew to become the very first female from the Persian Gulf to earn her doctorate degree (attending both Harvard and Cambridge University may I add). She continues to con-found a non-profit that creates low cost devices to diagnose diseases on-site using a biochemical sensor she invented. She also founded the Institute for Imagination Ingenuity, which pushes for science education in the younger generation. If anything, she hopes she inspires girls to pursue a career in science!

Peekapak supports women across all fields whether it be education, science, trades, and anything in between. Our Peekapak characters are diverse with interests in STEM, debunking ‘girl’ personalities. This Women’s History Month, take some time to reflect with yourself, or your classroom on the impact women have made to the society we live in today. 

Works Cited

Encyclopædia Britannica, inc. (n.d.). Malala Yousafzai. Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved March 15, 2022, from https://www.britannica.com/biography/Malala-Yousafzai

National Geographic Society. (2019, July 30). Explorer profile: Hayat Sindi, biotechnologist. National Geographic Society. Retrieved March 15, 2022, from https://www.nationalgeographic.org/article/explorer-profile-hayat-sindi-biotechnologist/ 

Remembering Savitribai Phule. The Indian Express. (2021, January 3). Retrieved March 15, 2022, from:https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/savitribai-phule-education-feminism-women-empowerment-7131478/ 

Stringer, K. (2018, March 19). Meet Lucy Wheelock: How an early-20th-century educator saved kindergarten for generations of U.S. Kids – & Founded Her Own College. Meet Lucy Wheelock: How an Early-20th-Century Educator Saved Kindergarten for Generations of U.S. Kids – & Founded Her Own College. Retrieved March 15, 2022, from https://www.the74million.org/article/meet-lucy-wheelock-how-an-early-20th-century-educator-saved-kindergarten-for-generations-of-u-s-kids-founded-her-own-college/ 

Trubiano, S. (2021, March 8). Celebrating 8 influential women in education for international women’s day. Saga Education. Retrieved March 15, 2022, from https://www.sagaeducation.org/blog/2021/3/8/celebrating-8-influential-women-in-education-for-international-womens-day 

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