I don’t know about you, but to me it seems that within the feminist community there is more enthusiasm about Women’s History Month every year. The celebration has taken on such a life of its own that many now take it for granted, but have you ever wondered about the history of Women’s History Month? I know I have…
Initially, the observation of women’s history on the calendar was an effort led by educators in Sonoma County, California who were concerned about the virtual invisibility of women in the state’s educational curriculum. After forming a task force, in 1978 the school district celebrated “Women’s History Week,” centered around March 8th, International Women’s Day.
The local celebration was a huge success and gained national attention, including the invitation of task force member Molly Murphy MacGregor to participate in The Women’s History Institute at Sarah Lawrence College. Members of the Institute were so excited about Sonoma County’s success that they all agreed to institute similar local celebrations. There was no stopping the momentum after that.
MacGregor went on to co-found The National Women’s History Project, which started an aggressive campaign lobbying Congress to grant official observance to women’s history.
The country was ready to recognize and celebrate the contributions of women. In 1982 Congress passed Public Law 97-20, which stated the President would proclaim the week of March 7th, 1982 to be Women’s History Week. From then until 1987 Congress granted the same permission to the President.
The National Women’s History Project wanted more. After leading a strong campaign, in 1987 they successfully lobbied Congress to pass another resolution calling for the President to designate the entire month of March as Women’s History Month.
Since then, each President has not only proclaimed March Women’s History Month, but each President has also issued an official proclamation recognizing women for their contributions to American society.
An excerpt from President Obama’s 2012 Proclamation reads:
“During Women’s History Month, we recall that the pioneering legacy of our grandmothers and great-grandmothers is revealed not only in our museums and history books, but also in the fierce determination and limitless potential of our daughters and granddaughters. As we make headway on the crucial issues of our time, let the courageous vision championed by women of past generations inspire us to defend the dreams and opportunities of those to come.”
The National Women’s History Project continues to be a force to be reckoned with (and volunteering for them is a huge personal goal of mine!). Each year they select a special theme for the year along with 6 honorees whose lives are testaments to the theme. 2012’s theme is “Women’s Education—Women’s Empowerment” and honorees include Charlotte Grimke and Native American activist Brenda Flyswithhawks.
Happy Women’s History Month!
Janice is a Virtual Assistant, aspiring doula, and long-time feminist activist with a passion for women's history, nonfiction, nature, and wearing flowers in her hair. She is the Founder of The Feminist's Guide, a women's history travel website, which can be found at www.thefeministguide.com.