Since 1978, the month of March has been dedicated to celebrating the advancements, contributions and accomplishments of women. It is a time to look critically at equality and opportunities for women. Let us celebrate the bold women who have influenced politics, art, business, science, and more. 

“The theme for the 2021 Women’s History Month is “Valiant Women of the Vote: Refusing to be Silenced,” which is a continuation of last year’s theme. The theme honors the brave women who fought to win suffrage rights for women, and the women who continue to fight for the voting rights of others.” Not only do we need to celebrate the women who have empowered the narrative of Women’s strength and setting it forward; but it is vital to highlight the women here and now doing the work. Women have a voice, they have power. And it needs to be celebrated and rejoiced in.

COVID-19 has exposed and highlighted a lot of the inequalities women continue to face, including pay disparities, domestic violence, and health inequities — and how race intersects with each of these. Women have suffered more than half of the total job losses from the crisis. Per the World Economic Forum, that has left them 1.8 times more vulnerable to the pandemic’s financial impacts than men, particularly employment challenges faced by women with children and women of color. 

And, we can’t avoid discussing the toll the pandemic has had on women’s mental health. Now is an opportunity to be an ally for women and hold space for ALL women. Today, on the heels of Black History Month, we want to feature Black women who have led the way in mental health.

Women you should know: Black Pioneers in Mental health

Bebe Moore Campbell was an American author, journalist, teacher, and mental health advocate who worked tirelessly to shed light on the mental health needs of the Black community and other underrepresented communities. She founded NAMI-Inglewood in a predominantly Black neighborhood to create a space that was safe for Black people to talk about mental health concerns. 

In 1969, E. Kitch Childs helped to found the Association for Women in Psychology. She was also a founding member of Chicago’s Gay Liberation Front. In addition to being a leader for women in psychology and the LGBTQ+ community, she also owned her own practice in which she provided therapy to LGBTQ+ folks, people living with HIV/AIDS, and other marginalized members of her community. She practiced feminist therapy, and centered her research and work around the experiences of Black women and feminist theory.

Mamie Phipps Clark was the first African American woman to earn a doctorate degree in psychology from Columbia University. 

Jennifer Eberhardt is an esteemed professor of psychology at Stanford University. She is an expert on the consequences of the psychological association between race and crime and has done extensive research on the topics of implicit bias, criminal justice, and the education system, and her work has provided the evidence needed to educate law enforcement officers in implicit bias training. 

Dr. Joycelyn Elders was the first African American and the second woman to be sworn in as the Surgeon General of the United States. During her tenure as Surgeon General, Dr. Elders advocated for universal health coverage, comprehensive health education, including sex education in schools. 

Beverly Greene is the author of the landmark article “When the Therapist is White and the Patient is Black: Considerations for Psychotherapy in the Feminist Heterosexual and Lesbian Communities.” She is a pioneer of intersectional psychology, and her work on heterosexism, sexism, and racism has illuminated how different intersecting facets of a person’s identity shape their experiences of privilege, oppression, and mental health.

Dr. Hope Landrine was an expert in health psychology and public health. In 1992, she published “The Politics of Madness” which presented her research on the presence of existing societal inequities in the diagnosis and categorization of psychiatric disorders. 

Inez Beverly Prosser is considered to be the first Black woman to earn a Ph.D. in psychology. Her dissertation, “The Non-Academic Development of Negro Children in Mixed and Segregated Schools,” evaluated the effects of racial inequality and racism on the development of Black children’s identity and mental health. 

Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum is the author of the renowned book Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria And Other Conversations About Race, one of her many works that focuses on racism and the effect it has on the American education system. She argues that the effects of racism, especially in schools, can have a detrimental effect on students’ racial identity formation and emphasizes the urgent need for continued conversations about race.

Ms. McKinney is a survivor of trauma, addiction, homelessness, and the psychiatric and criminal justice systems. She is a family advocate specializing in issues affecting African American women and their children and is a founding member of the National People of Color Consumer/Survivor Network. 

Dr. Myers specializes in psychology and culture; moral and spiritual identity development; healing practices and psychotherapeutic processes; and intersections of race, gender, and class. Internationally known for her work in the development of a theory of Optimal Psychology.

For additional information on Black pioneers in Mental Health, visit Mental Health America.

To find other events and information about Women’s History Month, visit womenshistory.org.

And for more powerful women making history, check out Women You Should Know.