Yes, We Have Come a Long Way

On Aug. 26, 1920, women in the United States won a hard fought battle for enfranchisement with the passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (that’s a fancy way of saying women earned the right to vote on an equal basis with men in this country). Although this monumental milestone for equality should be a cherished part of our national history, all too often we forget about the journey that led to the outcomes we celebrate and the rocky terrain that remained to be overcome.

We take this time to recognize women who have climbed the ladders and poked holes in glass ceilings in the Fargo Moorhead area.

Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Fargo

are a part of an international organization who have committed their personal and corporate resources to the promotion of peace and justice through education, advocacy and compassionate service to meet the needs of people, especially the poor and vulnerable.  Today their mission is lived out through their corporate ministries for individuals and families who struggle with the complexities of modern life. Locally, there is seldom a cause worth fighting that these women would not stand behind.

Sister Mary Margaret on the women who paved the way:

“Specifically to the Suffragettes, they gave an example of sacrifice that in our tradition we honor greatly (meaning the tradition of the saints and martyrs). Women who led the way provided an example of courage and sacrifice because many of them suffered greatly personally because of their stance on different things.”

Assistant Professor Abby Gold

is a Nutrition and Wellness Specialist and works for the U of M and NDSU Extension Services.  The Blue Cross Blue Shield Minnesota Foundation funded Gold’s most recent project entitled “Growing Up Healthy in the Red River Valley, Reducing Pesticide Exposure in Children.” The project sought to give women in the Red River Valley the opportunity to voice their concerns regarding their families’ interaction with pesticides and the lack of dialogue and scientific research on the effects of pesticide exposure on children.

Abby on the effect women’s movements had on her work:
“Knowing that I could do whatever I wanted to do and knowing that I had a voice in our society and to not be afraid to stick my neck out about things that are important to me [is what preceding women’s movements did].”


Col. Virginia Kraushaar

holds a diploma in nursing from the St. Cloud School of Nursing and went on to complete her BSN from the University of Mary. Kraushaar worked in several specialty areas of nursing including surgical, recovery and orthopedics. She joined the Army National Guard in 1989 and in 2008 became the third woman to reach the rank of Colonel within the Army National Guard in the state of North Dakota. She also spent over a year on active duty.

Col. Kraushaar on equality in the Army National Guard:

“When I got out of high school I had wanted to join the military. There were eight kids in my family four boys, who were the oldest in the family, and then four girls. And my brothers wouldn’t let me join the military because that was back in the 1970s when women weren’t treated very well in the military. I had always had that desire to serve my country, so when I was 34 I called up the recruiter and said, ‘I want to join,’ and they were looking for nurses at the time in the (Army) National Guard and he said not a problem. So I went and signed up, and within a few months I was in the military.”

Heidi Wagner

attended Northwest Technical College after high school and completed an AAS in carpentry. Wagner then went on to earn a BA in Sculpture and American Studies from Marlboro College in Vermont and is currently working on an MS in construction management at NDSU.  She also happens to own and manage her own licensed and insured construction company, Heidi Construction.

Heidi on women’s struggle against bias in the construction field:
“Whenever I am purchasing power tools the person in the store will ask me who I’m buying them for. Within the last few months I was in a very large building supply store looking at cordless drills and the sales man asked, ‘Are you just looking for something light weight for a couple small jobs?’ to which I said, ‘No.’ And then I had wanted to look at a specific drill and taken one out of the case and he takes a drill bit out and says to me, ‘and this is a drill bit,’ and then takes the drill and shows me how to put a drill bit into the drill.”


MSUM president Edna Szymanski

earned her PhD in Special Education from the University of Texas, Austin. Throughout her academic career, Szymanski has served in numerous posts as professor, associate dean, department chair, dean and immediately prior to her appointment at MSUM, served as vice president for academic affairs and provost at the University of Maine, Orono.

President Szymanski on how women’s fight for equality affected her:
“Our predecessors definitely paved the way for me. I was often one of the first group of women in various positions. For example, I attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, which was probably at least 90% male. They had only (just added) residence halls for women very recently at that time….”

Sgt. Gail Wischmann

attended Moorhead State University and graduated with a degree in criminal justice.  While attending college, Wischmann turned an internship with Cass County Juvenile Court and the juvenile detention center into a 25+ year career with Cass County law enforcement. In 2007 the Cass County Sheriff’s Office created an Internal Affairs Division, in which Wischmann serves as the Sgt. overseeing the Office of Professional Standards.

Sgt. Wischmann on equality:

“Generally speaking I do not believe we are equal yet. There are still too many negative remarks out there that keep putting women down as if we are weak. For example, I don’t know how many times I hear guys say things (to each other) like ‘stop acting like a girl,’ or ‘you walk like an old woman,’ things like that which I find very insulting and demeaning. As far as equality in law enforcement in our area, it is great.  I am not saying there isn’t still some old school thinking out there that women don’t belong, but the majority is we stand side by side with our male counterparts and we are all expected to do the same job, no excuses.”

Prof. Ellen Brisch

completed her PhD in physiology at the University of Kansas and went on to do a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Utah. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching named Brisch Minnesota Professor of the Year in 2007 and was named ‘Outstanding Advisor’ by the National Academic Advising Association in 2006. Brisch currently teaches in the biosciences department, serves on several academic and university committees within MSUM.

Prof. Brisch on winning the fight for equality:

“I always say that you should know the ‘giants’ upon whose shoulders you stand.  There are so many predecessors that put their lives, reputations and everything they held dear on the line for us to have the rights today.

“My father was an immigrant who told me that he had to work twice as hard as his ‘American’ peers, and that I as a woman would have to work twice as hard too, and to not waste time complaining about it being unfair, but to just work hard.  There will always be unfairness in the world as long as we have poverty, discrimination, class and race issues, etc.  This does not make it right, and this does not mean we should just let it go, but rather we should work hard to achieve our goals and help others who would have been traditionally left by the side of the road make it along and achieve their goals.”

Amanda Silbernagle

is a senior at MSUM pursuing a dual major in philosophy and poetry and hopes to complete a certificate in publishing with the New Rivers Press this fall. Silbernagle is an avid poetry activist in the F-M community. She has published poetry in several online journals and works to promote poetry as a craft and a hobby by organizing local poetry readings.

Amanda on obstacles we still face:

“When a philosopher, when a poet, when a woman writer is mentioned and their name could go either way male or female sounding, it’s often so-and-so the female writer and so and so the female philosopher that’s definitely made mention of, whereas if it’s a man it’s irrelevant (or a given).”

Judy Siegle

holds a BA in speech communications from Concordia, and master’s degree in social work from the U of M. Siegle’s highly decorated sporting career as a wheel chair racer includes two gold medals from the Mexico City PanAm Games in 1999 and she holds national records in 400, 800, 1500 and 5000 meter events. Siegle has also received numerous awards for community service, athletic and personal achievement. In 2008 Siegle was appointed as the Director of Women’s Ministry at Hope Lutheran Church in Fargo.

Judy on equality:

“Not all people are equal yet. I mean we don’t live in a perfect world, there are still injustices and there are still challenges that people affected by disabilities, people affected by poverty, people from different racial groups… we’re not there yet. I think we’ve come along way in America in particular with the Americans with Disabilities Act but there’s still many challenges that a family affected by a disability face that make it difficult to fully participate in society.  I haven’t felt that being a woman with a disability has put me in a more difficult position than a man with a disability would face.”

Cindy Shawcross

is a human rights activist extraordinaire. From Latina rights to women’s rights, she stands out as a prominent voice. She is involved with organizations like Mujeres Unidas, PEPP (People Escaping Poverty Project) and a number of others.  She has worked with inner-city gang influenced kids in Iowa, has an extensive legal background and is also a professional translator (all while mothering two daughters).

Cindy on women’s rights:

“I believe that the struggle for women’s rights is taking steps backwards. We need to step up efforts to give women equality everywhere. If you look globally and think that one in three women are sexually abused in their lifetime, this is a global issue of disrespect of women. In the United States we have women battered one every twenty minutes or so. This issue of women’s equality is one that is continuing to show up. It flourishes where there is poverty and indifference.”

Nichole Hensen

has a BBA in Information Management from UND and is the owner of Nichole’s Fine Pastry downtown. As a self-employed master of delicious delicatessens, she has taken the art of food to new and fantastic places.

Nichole on the women’s movements’ effects on today:
“Obviously, those women opened doors for us. The changes that resulted from their behavior helped me make it possible to start and own my own business. However, I do feel that some of the changes have had a negative effect on families and our society.”

Mackenzie Kouba

has a BFA from NDSU, and her artwork projects both awe and intrigue. With a style all her own, her canvas seems to speak philosophical tales that provoke a satisfying curiosity. With the most skillful of brush strokes she creates perplexing realities that serve as a vessel for social commentary—offering up her interpretations of society.

Mackenzie on equality in the art world:

“Professors have pointed out the fact that women are a minority in the art world… the top amount paid for art from a male versus a female is a huge window…. I personally haven’t been treated differently for being a female, but there have plenty of times when someone looked at my art and thought it was a guy [who created it].”

Sarah Morrau

is a staple in the local music community and in the world of women. As a singer/songwriter who’s paid her dues, Sarah is a prominent fixture in Celebration of Women and their music events, and the Plains Art Museum Rush Hour Concert Series. Sarah is an inspiration to many not only through her music but as a single working mom. Unfortunately, however, she was unavailable for interview.

Questions and comments: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Posted 4 years, 8 months ago by Heather Ehrichs Angell | Email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | View Heather Ehrichs Angell's profile.

Members only features
Members can email articles, add articles as favorites, add tags to articles and more. Register now to unlock additional features.

Fargo Weather

  • Temp: 45°F
  • Wind Chill: 36°F
  • Conditions: light rain