April 04, 2012 at 16:41 PM EDT
Toward a More Inclusive America: Telling the Story of Women in America
Ed. note: This op-ed by was written by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar for the  Huffington Post . As Women's History Month comes to a close, I am reminded that two very influential women in American history -- Clara Barton and Rachel Carson -- began their careers as employees of the U.S. Department of the Interior. Barton started as a recording clerk at the U.S. Patent Office - which was then part of the Department of the Interior - with a salary of $1,400 a year, equal to that of the men with whom she worked. But Robert McLelland, a predecessor of mine as Secretary of the Interior, did not believe women should be employed in government offices, much less paid as much as men, so he demoted her to a copyist and reduced her pay to 10 cents for every 100 words copied. Clara Barton went on to found the American Red Cross. Its headquarters - now a National Historic Landmark - are across the street from her former employer, and a visible reminder to each Interior Secretary of her story and legacy. Rachel Carson had a much better experience with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a biologist and editor in the 1930s and 1940s, where she worked until her best-seller, The Sea Around Us, allowed her to become a full-time writer. She eventually published her treatise on the effects of pesticides on wildlife, Silent Spring, which helped awaken a powerful conservation movement. Congress named Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge in Maine in her honor, and her house in Silver Spring, Maryland, is a National Historic Landmark. As Secretary of the Interior, where I have responsibility for the stewardship of our nation's history and culture, I am keenly aware of how much of women's history remains untold. In fact, just 12 of our 397 national parks focus solely on the lives and accomplishments of women, and just 4 percent of our National Historic Sites and National Historic Landmarks. read more
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