International Women’s Month
Every year March is designated Women’s History Month by Presidential proclamation. The month is set aside to honor women’s contributions to American history.
It all began as a local celebration in Santa Rosa, California. The Education Task Force of the Sonoma County (California) Commission on the Status of Women planned and executed a “Women’s History Week” celebration in 1978.
The organizers selected the week of March 8th to correspond with International Women’s Day. The movement spread across the country as other communities initiated their own Women’s History Week celebrations the following year. Schools, universities, and local governments came to realize that this period of time allowed them to not only celebrate the achievements of women, but look critically at equality and opportunities for women, and educate people on women’s history. It was only a matter of time before the week became a month.
In 1980, a consortium of women’s groups and historians led by the National Women’s History Project, (now called the National Women’s History Alliance), successfully lobbied for national recognition. In February 1980, President Jimmy Carter issued the first Presidential Proclamation declaring the Week of March 8th, 1980 as National Women’s History Week.
Besides International Women’s Day, March holds a few more important milestones for women’s history:
- Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in all federally funded education programs, was passed by the Senate on March 1, 1972. It became law later that year. In fact, the educators who formed the first Women’s History Week a few years later did so to help schools comply with Title IX regulations.
- The Equal Rights Amendment, a constitutional amendment that guarantees rights regardless of sex past those assured by the 19th Amendment, passed the Senate on March 22, 1972. ( it’s still not fully ratified.)
- Earlier in the 20th century, two significant women’s suffrage events took place in March. The first major suffragist parade took over Washington, DC, on March 3, 1913, and the National Woman’s Party, a political group dedicated to women’s suffrage, was officially formed in March 1917.
The theme for Women’s History Month in 2021 captures the spirit of these challenging times. Since many of the women’s suffrage centennial celebrations originally scheduled for 2020 were cut back, the National Women’s History Alliance is extending the annual theme for 2021 to “Valiant Women of the Vote: Refusing to Be Silenced.
Celebrate women’s achievements. Raise awareness against bias, and take action for equality. This is how you help forge a gender-equal world.
I’d like to thank internationalwomensday.com for some of the information used in this story.
For AMR News, I’m Abby Dufour