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Rosa Parks: More than a tired seamstress

Today is the 48th anniversary of the day Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of the bus, starting the Montgomery Bus Boycott and galvanizing the civil rights movement. She was an amazing woman who has been trivialized as a seamstress who was too tired to give up her seat. I got yet another e-mail telling me that same tired story today.

It is so far from the truth. Rosa Parks was a civil rights activist for many years, successfully registering to vote in Alabama in the early 1940s and joining the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) in 1943. She served as secretary of the Montgomery NAACP and was trained in grassroots organizing and movement building at the Highlander Center prior to her refusing to give up her seat on the bus. The NAACP had been planning for a while to challenge the "move to the back of the bus" rule in Montgomery. Mrs. Parks, a trained activist and a woman who was "respectable and respected" was a good choice.

Rosa Parks was a seamstress, but more importantly she was a skilled, talented and courageous civil rights leader. She was tired, but as she said in her autobiography:

People always say that I didn't give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn't true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.

Presenting Rosa Parks as a "tired seamstress" does her, the women who were and are such an integral part of the civil rights movement, and women in general, an injustice.

PS Gee can we think of any women in science whose contributions have been trivialized as "being in the right place at the right time"?