• Shemika Berry

HERstory: Hear Her, See Her

Updated: Apr 1, 2021

Women have had various roles throughout history; some thrived in matrilineal societies, some were enslaved and separated from their families, many overcame harsh obstacles finding freedom, lifting up their voices, and leading communities. Now we have women leading in Congress, Cabinet positions, and the Vice Presidency of the United States of America. This month, as part of the Hear Us, See Us series, we acknowledge women from various walks of life across the centuries that have shaped this Nation. You are invited to hear her and see her—this is HERstory.


Women’s History Month started as a national celebration in 1981 when Congress passed Pub. L. 97-28 which authorized and requested the President to proclaim the week beginning March 7, 1982, as “Women’s History Week.” Congress continued to pass joint resolutions designating a week in March as “Women’s History Week" for the next five years. In 1987 after being petitioned by the National Women’s History Project, Congress passed Pub. L. 100-9 which designated the month of March 1987 as “Women’s History Month.” Since 1995, presidents have issued a series of annual proclamations designating the month of March as “Women’s History Month.” These proclamations celebrate the contributions women have made to the United States and recognize the specific achievements women have made over the course of American history in a variety of fields.


Let me take you on a journey through time to see how the roles of women have changed or stayed the same in the history of our nation.


Pre-Colonization


Indigenous people have lived within the Chesapeake region for more than 6,000 years. The Piscataway Chiefdom encompassed much of what is now present-day Washington D.C. and Southern Maryland, with a network of villages along the Potomac River and other waterways since at least AD 1300. Piscataway Park protects a significant archeological site known as Moyaone, the capital of the Piscataway Chiefdom.


Mary Kittamaquund (c. 1634 – c. 1654 or 1700) was the daughter of Kittamaquund, Tayac of the Piscataway, and Mary Piscataway (Kittamaquund). Her father sent her to be educated by English colony leaders, so she could be a liaison between the two cultures. Years later she was married to a colonist, who tried to take control of the land upon her father’s death. Her true fate is unknown. Some scholars think she died in childbirth, others believe she may have left her husband and resumed her matrilineal role within her Piscataway family and community.


Today, Clan Mothers are critical to the leadership of the Piscataway people. Their wisdom, knowledge, and experience are necessary to teach the upcoming generations about their rich heritage and promote cultural pride so that the strength of the Piscataway will continue to thrive and be successful.