Women's History Month: Celebrating History Makers, Like Burnie Bond, Working Alongside Us

The attention to great women in history every March is both inspiring and motivating. Being reminded of the work of Frances Perkins, learning from the leadership of Delores Huerta, discovering another extraordinary fact about Harriet Tubman—all the opportunities to celebrate these women make March feel like it comes in and goes out with a roar.

As this Women’s History Month is coming to a close I have been reflecting much closer to home, by thinking about the incredible women I have had the opportunity to work alongside, or work for, in my career. From my first teaching job where I worked for an indomitable principal and alongside talented and dedicated colleagues, which set the tone for my entire career in education, to my current work where I work for and alongside another group of talented and dedicated individuals to strengthen public education, worker voice, and democracy.

Working alongside colleagues who share a mission to contribute to the common good feels like an opportunity to take women’s history off the page and live in the midst of the work to improve people’s lives that has been building up and out for generations. It has become a priority for me to learn what motivates the people I am privileged to work alongside and so, one day when we were launching a project to strengthen civics and democracy education, I asked my colleague, Burnie Bond, where her confidence in leading civics work comes from.

Burnie has been dedicated to the labor movement, public education, and democracy work for her entire career. She is a former staff assistant in the Office of AFT President Albert Shanker, where she served as coordinator of the AFT’s Education for Democracy Project, a program to promote a rigorous history and civics curriculum, and was formerly the director of research and publications for the International Affairs Department of the AFL-CIO, where she worked on international trade and labor rights issues. She also served on the 1992 Clinton Transition Team at the United States Information Agency. So, when I asked her what story or experience was foundational to her commitment, I was expecting an anecdote from one of the powerful roles she had in her career.

Instead, I heard a terrific story of a seminal moment Burnie experienced as a college student.

Her college day had started like a lot of others. She woke up and turned the TV on to catch the news before starting her academic day. There was a news story on, about AFL-CIO workers in El Salvador who had been killed, that caught her attention. The news said the government was going to search for the guerillas responsible. Burnie thought, “What bullshit!” It came out later that the government was actually responsible for the workers’ deaths. “The idea of having it out there that the people responsible were taking no responsibility made me irate,” Burnie explained. That feeling is part of what propelled her into her involvement with the labor movement. Ultimately, “the fact that labor, democracy, and civic education are so entwined grew to be second nature.”

That second nature feeling is the foundation of Burnie’s career and the short anecdote she shared is an example of the motivation at work alongside us when we decide women’s history is being made among us.

Here’s to the history makers, like Burnie, working alongside all of us!