Women’s History Month: an overview


Haley Choe, Staff Writer

   Marked annually from Mar. 1 to Mar. 30, Women’s History Month is a celebration of women’s contributions to history, culture and society. This month is dedicated to honoring the struggles and achievements of women throughout American history. Not only have women fought throughout history to gain rights for themselves, but they have also fought for many other underrepresented groups in America.

   Jenna Costello, a junior at West Ranch, expressed that Women’s History Month is “a really special event that really just empowers girls. Being reminded of all the incredible people who have given me the rights I have today is so cool. I am so blessed to be surrounded by so many incredible female role models who inspire me, challenge me, and make the world a whole lot brighter.”

   Costello went to say that her role model is her mom. “I know that it’s cheesy, but moms are just the best,” Costello said. “They can be tough, but my mom has shown me that I can overcome everything when I put my mind to it. She… [has taught] me how to live life to the fullest [while] making smart choices.”

   Jamie Bahr, a mother of four children in Santa Clarita, described Women’s History Month as “a celebration to understand that women are leaders, and always have been. [For me,] my role model [was] kind, generous, and gentle. [My grandma] always had a smile on her face and dedicated her life to serving others. Whether she did small things like making soup for me when I was sick or going down to Mexico to build houses for homeless families, she never complained and taught me what love looks like on the outside… I love her so much and appreciate all she’s done for me.”

   Women’s History Month is rooted in the socialist and labor movements in 1909, according to History.com. The first Women’s Day took place on Feb. 28, 1909, in New York City. This day remembered the one-year anniversary of the garment worker’s strikes when thousands of women marched for economic rights through lower Manhattan to Union Square. Within two years, Women’s Day grew into an international observance.

   In the 1970s, female activists observed how the contributions of women in America were mostly left out in history books. In light of the imbalance, one group set to revise the school curriculum in Sonoma County, California. According to the National Women’s History Alliance, their idea was to create a “Women’s History Week” in March of 1978, timed around International Women’s Day.

   The observance was met with an enthusiastic response and spread to schools around the county. Organizers held an annual “Real Woman” essay contest, and hundreds of women took part by giving presentations to students in the classroom. The finale for the week was a celebratory parade and program held in the center of downtown Santa Rosa, California.

   In 1979, national leaders of organizations for women and girls attended The Women’s History Institute at Sarah Lawrence College and heard of the success of the Sonoma County’s Women’s History Week celebration. They decided to initiate similar celebrations within their own organizations, communities and school districts while also agreeing to support an effort to secure a National Women’s History Week.

  In 1980, national recognition was successfully lobbied for, as President Jimmy Carter issued the first Presidential Proclamation declaring the Week of Mar. 8 1980 as National Women’s History Week. As areas extended their celebrations for a month, the Women’s National History Project lobbied for a longer observation. In 1987, President Ronald Reagan and Congress passed a proclamation officially establishing Women’s History Month. 

   Besides celebrating Women’s History Month, March holds a few more important milestones for women’s history:

   According to History.com, earlier in the 20th century, two significant women’s suffrage events took place in March. The first major suffragist parade took over Washington, D.C. on Mar. 3, 1913, and the National Woman’s Party, a political group dedicated to women’s suffrage, was officially formed in Mar. 1917.

   On Mar. 1, 1972, the Senate passed Title IX. This law prohibited sex discrimination in all federal funded education programs.

   On Mar. 22, 1972, Senate passed the Equal Rights Amendment, a constitutional amendment that guarantees equal legal rights for all American citizens regardless of sex. It sought to end the legal distinctions between men and women in terms of divorce, property, employment, and other matters.

   Other countries soon adopted similar month-long events. According to Time, Canada began celebrating Women’s History Month in 1992. October was selected as the designated month to commemorate the so-called Persons Case, in which the Privy Council of England (then Canada’s highest court of appeal) ruled in October 1929 that females were persons under the law, a decision that contradicted an earlier ruling of the Supreme Court of Canada. In March of 2000, Australia began holding its own Women’s History Month as well.

   To continue the celebration of women each year, The National Women’s History Alliance (NWHA) selects and publishes a yearly theme. The theme for Women’s History Month in 2021 captures the spirit of these current challenging times. Since many of the women’s celebrations originally scheduled for 2020 were cut short, the NWHA is extending the annual theme for 2021 to “Valiant Women of the Vote: Refusing to Be Silenced.”

   Tristan Gonzales, a junior at West Ranch, said that she will be celebrating Women’s History Month by “posting pictures of some of my most inspirational female role models and some quotes that push me to become a better person.” She added, “I hope by doing this I can inspire other girls and show them that being a girl is amazing and we can change the world.”