Every March, Americans remember women’s achievements and history as part of Women’s History Month.
The Beginnings of Women’s History Month
Women’s History Month traces its roots back to International Women’s Day, which was originally observed in 1911 to campaign for women’s rights and suffrage. The campaign gathered traction over time, eventually leading to the creation of an entire month dedicated to celebrating women’s history. President Jimmy Carter declared March 8th to be National Women’s History Week in the United States in 1980. Congress later increased this honor to include the entire month of March in 1987.
How it all started
In March 1978, educators in Santa Rosa, California, established Women’s History Week to raise awareness of women’s contributions to society. Organizers chose the week of March 8 to coincide with International Women’s Day. Other communities around the country will join Santa Rosa in honoring Women’s History Week in the coming years.
In 1980, US President Jimmy Carter announced March 8 to be National Women’s History Week, asking all Americans to participate. “Too often, women were unsung, and their contributions went unnoticed,” Carter continues. The achievements, leadership, bravery, power, and love of the women who founded America, on the other hand, were just as significant as the men whose names we know.” When Congress declared March to be Women’s History Month in 1987, the week-long celebration expanded to a month-long celebration. Since then, the month of March in the United States has been designated as Women’s History Month.
Who is honored?
Sacagawea, a Native American woman who assisted Lewis and Clark’s expedition in mapping parts of the West in the early nineteenth century; Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, who fought for women’s equality more than 70 years before the 19th Amendment granted women the right to vote in the United States in 1920; and Harriet Tubman, a spy who led slaves to freedom.In 2015, Misty Copeland became the first African-American woman to be named a principal dancer (the highest rank) in the American Ballet Theatre’s 75-year history.
The first day of Women’s History Month is today.
Other nations, most notably Canada and Australia, have joined the United States in recognizing women and their contributions to history and culture since the first Women’s History Week in 1978.
The National Women’s History Alliance selects a topic for Women’s History Month each year. Previous themes include “Women Taking the Lead to Save Our Planet” in 2009 and “Celebrating Women in STEM” in 2013. The themes for 2020 and 2021 are as follows:
“Valiant Women of the Vote.” (Learn more about the battle for the right to vote.) The theme for 2023 is “Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories.”
Women’s History Month extends the conversation about women and their accomplishments beyond the year’s theme by hosting museum exhibits and film screenings, as well as encouraging year-round study of women’s achievements.
Trailblazers are being recognized
Women’s History Month celebrates the achievements of women who defied traditional expectations to achieve greatness. These trailblazers come from a variety of backgrounds and industries, and each has left an everlasting mark on history:
Rosa Parks: Known as the “Mother of the Civil Rights Movement,” Parks’ refusal to give up her bus seat to a white passenger sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which resulted in considerable progress toward racial equality.
Madame Curie: Curie was a trailblazing scientist whose groundbreaking radioactivity research earned her two Nobel Prizes and paved the path for subsequent generations of female scientists.
Yousafzai, Malala: Yousafzai, an advocate for girls’ education, survived a Taliban assassination attempt and went on to become the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate for her unwavering efforts to promote education for everyone.
Amelia Earhart: A trailblazing aviator, Earhart became the first woman to fly alone across the Atlantic Ocean, defying gender norms and inspiring generations of female pilots.
Breaking Glass Ceilings
Women have cracked glass ceilings and forged previously inaccessible avenues throughout history:
Politics and Leadership: Women such as Angela Merkel, Jacinda Ardern, and Kamala Harris have served as heads of state, prime ministers, and vice presidents, demonstrating that gender is not an impediment to good governance.
STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) professions: Women like Jane Goodall in primatology, Katherine Johnson in mathematics, and Grace Hopper in computer science have made groundbreaking contributions, shattering stereotypes that specific professions are only for men.
Maya Angelou, Frida Kahlo, and J.K. Rowling has improved the arts and literature by using their creative expression to question social norms and encourage future generations.
The Journey Continues
Despite significant improvement, difficulties remain. Gender wage, representation, and opportunity discrepancies persist in many parts of the world. Women’s History Month is a call to action that encourages societies to continue campaigning for gender equality and women’s empowerment.
Women’s History Month is a time to reflect, celebrate, and be empowered. It serves as a reminder that the contributions of women have transformed communities, crossed barriers, and paved the path for a more inclusive and equal world. By recognizing women’s accomplishments, we not only commemorate their legacies but also motivate future generations to break down barriers, challenge norms, and work toward a society where gender equality is a reality for everyone.
What is the purpose of Women’s History Month?
Women’s History Month is an annual celebration held in March to honor and celebrate the accomplishments, contributions, and historical significance of women in various disciplines and throughout history.
When was Women’s History Month established?
National Women’s History Week, the forerunner to Women’s History Month, was established in the United States in 1980 by President Jimmy Carter. Congress extended the commemoration to include the entire month of March in 1987.
When did Women’s History Month begin?
President Jimmy Carter launched National Women’s History Week, the antecedent to Women’s History Month, in the United States in 1980. In 1987, Congress expanded the observance to span the entire month of March.
How can educational institutions and schools commemorate Women’s History Month?
Women’s History Month can be celebrated at schools and educational institutions by conducting seminars, presentations, panel discussions, and projects that teach students about the achievements of women throughout history and in contemporary society.