Women’s History Month
Women’s History Month is a month-long celebration of women’s contributions to society and history that is observed during the month of March in Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, and during the month of October in Canada. In the U.S., it has been officially celebrated since March of 1987.
History of Women’s History Month
The history of Women’s History Month dates back to 1978 when a Sonoma, California, school district participated in Women’s History Week during the week of March 8th.
March 8th is International Women’s Day, so it seemed appropriate at that time to begin the celebration of Women’s History Week around that day. While the participation of this Californian school district in Women’s History Week didn’t seem all that relevant at the time, it became very relevant a year later in 1979.
That year, a two-week-long conference about women’s history was held beginning July 13th, 1979. This conference was co-sponsored by groups such as the Smithsonian Institution, Sarah Lawrence College, and the Women’s Action Alliance. When they learned of the celebration held in that Sonoma school district the prior year, they decided to work to create a National Women’s History Week.
By February of 1980, their work had reached the White House, and a month later, U.S. President Jimmy Carter proclaimed March 8th, 1980, as National Women’s History Week.
During his proclamation, he stated how both men and women helped build the United States; how women are the unsung heroes of history and how their contributions are so often unnoticed by society in general.
A year later, Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah and Representative Barbara Mikulski co-sponsored a Joint Congressional Resolution proclaiming Women’s History Week – beginning March 7th, 1982. Over the next several years, schools across the country began to expand Women’s History Week into Women’s History Month.
By the time 1986 arrived, 14 states had declared the month of March as Women’s History Month. The National Women’s History Project petitioned Congress in 1987 to establish Women’s History Month – which they did when they passed Public Law 100-09 on March 12th, 1987 – that designated the entire month of March as Women’s History Month.
Over the next several years, Congress would pass more laws that request and authorize the President to proclaim March as Women’s History Month. And all U.S. Presidents have issued annual proclamations to that effect ever since 1988. Today, it is celebrated by individuals and schools all over the country.
It didn’t take long for other countries to begin to adopt their own versions of Women’s History Month. In 1992, Canada began to celebrate the month in October to commemorate the Persons Case – a trial by Canada’s highest court of appeal that stated that under the law females were, in fact, people. In 2000, Australia began to hold its own Women’s History Month in March, and the U.K. followed in 2011.
Women’s History Month Customs & Traditions
Over the years, Women’s History Month has had a theme that corresponds with every year. For instance, in 1987, it was “Generations of Courage, Compassion, and Conviction”; in 1997, it was “A Fine and Long Tradition of Community Leadership,” and in 2016, it was “Working to Form a More Perfect Union: Honoring Women in Public Service and Government.”
Since 2005, Australia has also used annual themes to plan events around. In 2005, the theme was “Celebrating Racy Women”; in 2009, it was “Parliamentary Women,” and in 2013, it was “Finding Founding Mothers.”
You can also donate some money to your public library and instruct them to buy a book on women’s history, or even donate a book on women’s history yourself. You can also give your son or daughter the biography of a famous historical woman such as Gertrude Stein, Jane Addams, Susan B. Anthony, Clara Barton, or Ella Baker.
Schools can acknowledge and educate the day by studying the biography of a famous historical woman, reading the proclamations about Women’s History Month from past U.S. Presidents, by studying the contributions of women to society, and by having an open discussion about these contributions. The ways to learn and educate about Women’s History Month are just about endless.