As recent years have painfully indicated, inequality and sexism is still very much alive and prevalent in the United States (as well as the rest of the world). In a recent Pew Research Center survey, 42% of women said they’d experienced gender discrimination at work. They also face the “motherhood penalty,” in which women earn less money after they become mothers while men who become fathers actually earn more. These prevailing inequities are exactly why Women’s History Month, which is recognized in March, matters so much. Sharing Women’s History Month facts and the stories of historic women isn’t trivial — it helps celebrate those women who paved the way, and those who are fighting for and representing women now.
Women’s History Month isn’t perfect. Professor Kimberly A. Hamlin argued in a Washington Post op-ed that when men make history, it’s just called “history.” But when women make history, it’s “women’s history.” It’s a fair point to keep in mind, now and especially as the country moves forward to a more equitable tomorrow. The below facts about women’s history and contributions of women aren’t historic just for women — they’re historic for everyone.
1. The first Women’s History Day was held in 1909.
February 28, 1909 marked the first Woman’s History Day in New York City. It commemorated the one-year anniversary of the garment workers’ strikes when 15,000 women marched through lower Manhattan. From 1909 to 1910, immigrant women who worked in garment factories held a strike to protest their working conditions. Most of them were teen girls who worked 12-hour days.
2. The day became Women’s History Week in 1978.
An education task force in Sonoma County, California kicked off Women’s History Week in 1978 on March 8, International Women’s Day, according to the National Women’s History Alliance. They wanted to draw attention to the fact that women’s history wasn’t really included in K-12 school curriculums at the time.
3. In 1987, it became Women’s History Month.
Women’s organizations, including the National Women’s History Alliance, campaigned yearly to recognize Women’s History Week. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter declared the week of March 8 Women’s History Week across the country. By 1986, 14 states had declared the entire month of March Women’s History Month, according to the Alliance. The following year, in March of 1987, activists were successful: They lobbied Congress to declare March Women’s History Month.
4. The president declares every March Women’s History Month.
Since 1995, every president has issued a proclamation declaring March Women’s History Month, usually with a statement about its importance.
5. Every Women’s History Month has a theme.
The 2022 theme is “Women Providing Healing, Promoting Hope,” according to the National Women’s History Alliance. This theme not only honors the tireless work of caregivers and frontline workers during the Covid-19 pandemic, but also women of all backgrounds who have provided compassionate healing and hope for the betterment of patients, friends, and family.
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Article by Jo Yurcaba and Elizabeth Berry for Woman’s Day©
Link to story source: 21 Women’s History Month Facts — Facts About Women’s History (womansday.com)