Even though half of the world’s population is composed of people who identify as women, their accomplishments don’t exactly make up half of your history textbook.
Part of this has to do with us all taking the time to honor women’s accomplishments the same way we honor men’s accomplishments. That’s why we have Women’s History Month to reflect on the contributions of women in history, and to inspire girls with female role models.
Originally Women’s History Week, Women’s History Month began in 1978 in Santa Rosa, California, as a way to recognize notable women in the community and throughout the country. Soon the celebration gained national attention, and in 1980, Jimmy Carter became the first president to declare the week of March 8th as “National Women’s History Week.”
The tradition of celebrating National Women’s History Week continued until 1987, when activism by the National Women’s History Alliance (NWHA) resulted in Congress expanding the observance to the entire month of March. Today, the NWHA honors historical and living women who exemplify the character, strength, and future of American women.
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Women’s History Month takes place from March 1 to March 31 every year.
It coincides with International Women’s Day (March 8), which commemorates the 1908 demonstration of 15,000 female textile workers who protested for workers’ rights in New York City. The day began as National Women’s Day in 1909, then became International Women’s Day as the movement picked up in countries around the world.
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Like all holidays and celebratory months, Women’s History Month is always capitalized. However, you can use lowercase when simply referring to “women’s history.”
- How are you celebrating Women’s History Month?
- We learned about Amelia Earhart and Jane Goodall for Women’s History Month.
- Many key figures in women’s history fought tirelessly for equal rights.
- Although women’s history is often minimized in textbooks, it’s important to study nonetheless.
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How much do you know about Women’s History Month and the history of women’s rights in the United States?
- Like Black History Month, Women’s History Month has an annual theme. Notable themes have included:
- Celebrating Women of Character, Courage and Commitment (2014)
- Visionary Women: Champions of Peace and Nonviolence (2019)
- Valiant Women of the Vote (2020)
- Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories (2023)
- International Women’s Day also has a theme. In 2023, the theme was Embrace Equality.
- American women first achieved the right to vote in the Wyoming Territory in 1869, 21 years before Wyoming became a state (and 51 years before the 19th Amendment was ratified).
- Although Black women officially had the right to vote in 1920, along with white women, systematic racism and discrimination prevented true suffrage of Black women until the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965.
- Black women were not allowed to attend conventions held by the National American Suffrage Association, and often had to be segregated from white women in voting demonstration marches.
- The Equal Rights Amendment, which guaranteed full equality for American women, was first proposed in 1923 and passed by Congress in 1972.
- However, because the amendment has not been ratified by three-fourths of the states, it was not added to the U.S. Constitution.
- 60 women have won the Nobel Prize (out of 954 total winners) and only one woman has won two (Marie Curie).
- The first woman to be elected to Congress was Representative Jeanette Rankin in 1917. Since Rankin’s election, 422 additional women have served in both chambers of Congress.
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- “Believe, when you are most unhappy, that there is something for you to do in the world. So long as you can sweeten another's pain, life is not in vain.” —Helen Keller
- “I am glad of the gains the half-century has brought to the women of Anglo-Saxon birth. I am glad above all else that the time is coming when all women alike shall have the full rights of citizenship.” —Susan B. Anthony
- “It is my earnest desire that some of you should carry on this scientific work and keep for your ambition the determination to make a permanent contribution to science.”—Marie Curie
- “What people see as fearlessness is really persistence.” —Wangari Maathai
- “When Black women stand up— as they did during the Montgomery Bus Boycott—as they did during the Black liberation era, earth-shaking changes occur.” —Angela Davis
- “The power to question is the basis of all human progress.” —Indira Gandhi
- “It is past time for women to take their rightful place, side by side with men, in the rooms where the fates of peoples, where their children’s and grandchildren’s fates, are decided.” —Hillary Clinton
- “Societies that treat women badly are dangerous societies. The empowerment of women is not only morally right, it is also practical in the positive impact it has on so many social ills.” —Condoleezza Rice
- “But while I may be the first woman in this office, I won’t be the last. Because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities. —Kamala Harris
- “There are two powers in the world; one is the sword and the other is the pen. There is a third power stronger than both, that of women." —Malala Yousafzai
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This year, Women’s History Month can be an opportunity to recognize past and present accomplishments of women around the world. Choose from many different options to celebrate this March.
- Donate to a women’s charity.
- Learn more about intersectionality and intersectional feminism (the different identities included in the female identity).
- Stay educated on issues that disproportionately impact women all around the world.
- Make an effort to recognize an influential woman in your life, both publicly and privately.
- Patronize women-owned businesses.
- Examine your interactions with women to determine any gender bias or misogyny.
- Find out how to make your feminist contributions more trans-inclusive.
- Read books and poetry written by women.
- Listen to podcasts produced by women.
- Learn more about the gender gap in pay and work to reduce it in your own workplace.
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