Women’s History Month began in 1978 as a local celebration in Santa Rosa, Calif. In 1980 a consortium of women’s groups and historians, led by the National Women’s History Project, worked diligently to lobby for national recognition. In February 1980, President Jimmy Carter issued the first presidential proclamation declaring the week of March 8, 1980 as National Women’s History Week.

Martha’s Vineyard produced remarkable women long before President Carter’s proclamation. Henrietta Shearer, Louisa Izett, Georgia O’Brien, Luella Coleman, Dorothy West and Lois Mailou Jones are some of the early pioneers in hospitality, art, literature and the service industry.

Today others have accepted the baton of history and made contributions in so many and varied ways. Under the leadership of president Olivia Baxter, The Cottagers, Inc. has become an active partner with Harbor Homes of Martha’s Vineyard to support its mission to provide safe, sanitary and secure housing and support services to low-income Island residents to mitigate homelessness and advance them toward self-sufficiency. Cottagers Barbara Alleyne and Shirley Redd are the co-chairs of the Harbor House Committee to implement a series of fundraising, support programs, group training and other support services for the group. Cementing their sincerity, The Cottagers recently presented an unrestricted donation of $15,000 to Karen Tewhey, the executive director of Harbor Homes.

In addition to The Cottagers, let’s salute a gifted array of women who also serve the Vineyard. A new face is Kahina Van Dyke, a professional financial technology executive who has begun to acquire real estate in Oak Bluffs to accommodate the many who come for the African-American film festival, and who speak at Union Chapel and many other public forums. In addition she curates book readings and events for the entire community that feature local artists and musicians.

Martha’s Vineyard Museum has outstanding leadership in executive director Heather Seger and board chair Cathy Weiss. Their exhibits and book offerings are truly a must see by all visiting the Island.

Vineyard Preservation Trust executive director Nevette Previd is fortunate to have trustees Shirley Hall and Debi Crews perform significant volunteer work. Shirley has spearheaded a major fundraiser to assist in preserving and reopening The Flying Horses Carousel. Debi has been instrumental in getting Alley’s General Store opened and with working on capital improvements to Union Chapel.

Val Francis at Knowhere Gallery is leading a renaissance of art events on Circuit avenue and in the Arts District. She has two galleries, two shows and one mission — all in Oak Bluffs. Zita Cousens at Cousen Rose Gallery and Ann Smith at Featherstone Gallery continue to display forward- thinking art work from various genres.

Rev. Cathlin Baker of the First Congregational Church of West Tisbury and Rev. Aliya Browne, the new president of Union Chapel, are teaming up for some outstanding programming of religious services for the summer of 2022. Stay tuned.

Dr. Thelma Johnson continues to lead the Vineyard branch of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History with distinction, all in memory of the late Bob Hayden.

Here is wishing the very best to so many women who make the Vineyard the very special place that we call home and share with our families over the generations.

Paradise on earth is living the Vineyard experience. Enjoy it as life is fleeting!