There are some holidays dedicated to other prominent women in history like Rosa Parks and Susan B. Anthony, those are days of recognition and not paid state holidays.
Earlier this week, Colorado passed a historic bill to celebrate the first Monday of October as Cabrini Day instead of Columbus Day. Bill sponsors explained that the change needed to be made as honoring the Italian explorer and colonizer did not represent their community members. Therefore, henceforth, the state will commemorate Frances Xavier Cabrini, who according to the bill is responsible for establishing 67 schools, hospitals, and orphanages in the United States and South and Central America throughout her lifetime.
Speaking to CNN, one of the bill's sponsors, Sen. Chris Hansen said that Cabrini is a local Colorado hero because of the work that she did. Meanwhile, Rep. Adrienne Benavidez—another one of the bill's sponsors—revealed that Chicago and New York will also join Colorado in honoring the Italian-American Roman Catholic nun with a shrine dedicated to her. "We need holidays to recognize the contributions of women across history," said Hansen. With the passing of the legislation, Benavidez said, Cabrini Day would be the first paid state holiday recognizing a woman in the US.
Benavidez clarified that although there are some holidays dedicated to other prominent women in history like Rosa Parks and Susan B. Anthony, those are days of recognition and not paid state holidays. Historically, Columbus Day has been observed to commemorate Christopher Columbus' first voyage to America when he landed in the Bahamas on October 12, 1492. It became a legal federal holiday in 1971 and a year later, the first Columbus Day celebration was held to mark the anniversary of Columbus' landing.
However, in recent years, several states and cities have stopped observing the October holiday altogether in response to a growing movement to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples' Day. This includes Washington, D.C., North Carolina, Louisiana, Hawaii, Alaska, New Mexico, Vermont and more, as they choose to celebrate the holiday honoring the native populations who were displaced after Columbus and other European explorers reached the continent. Historians largely agree that despite popular belief, Columbus did not "discover" the Americas since people were already there and neither was he the first European to reach the "New World."
Benavidez revealed that Colorado's new bill will take effect no later than the beginning of August once signed by the governor. Legislation for this particular bill started in 2007. "This truly is this decade's long effort by so many people. There have been so many negotiations, groups of people over the years that never gave up, this is so important to the communities that are impacted by this," she said. Benavidez added that the transition from commemorating Columbus to Cabrini is a step in the right direction. "The pain that they (indigenous people) endure and the historical trauma endured by indigenous people in this country as a result of what Columbus has put in place is real. And this is a step forward in erasing that pain."
According to the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus website, Frances Cabrini was born on July 15, 1850, in the small village of Sant'Angelo Lodigiano, Italy. Having grown up enthralled by the stories of missionaries, she made up her mind to join a religious order. However, her frail health held her back from joining the Daughters of the Sacred Heart—the order who had been her teachers and mentors. Undeterred, in 1880 Cabrini founded her own order with seven other young women. The Institute of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus organized catechism and education classes for the Italian immigrants in a chaotic New York plagued by poverty in the 1880s. She also opened schools and orphanages despite tremendous odds and went on to establish 67 institutions in and outside the United States. Cabrini passed away on December 22, 1917, in Chicago and was canonized a saint by Pope Pius XII in 1946.