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Women's History Month

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The month of March, more widely associated with Ireland’s patron saint, is also known in the United States as Women’s History Month  It is a time to learn about and honor such inspirational women as Dolores Huerta, Gloria Steinem, Mae Jemison, Hillary Clinton, Frida Kahlo, Audre Lorde, Rosa Parks– who was recently immortalized at the Capitol building in Washington D.C.– and many other women who shaped the course of history.    Recognizing that as a society, we frequently overlook the vital contributions women have given to the world, Women’s History Month was created to draw attention to and celebrate the important roles females have played throughout history.


Women’s History Month began as “Women’s History Week” in 1982.  President Reagan declared the week beginning March 7 as the national celebration after Congress passed a law calling for it.  In 1987, the National Women’s History Project petitioned that the whole month of March be dedicated to women and their achievements.  Every year a special theme is chosen, and 2013’s theme is “Women Inspiring Innovation Through Imagination: Celebrating Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics”.

 

Women’s History Month is a welcome gesture; however, setting aside a month to celebrate the extensive and intricate history of a gender is a tricky matter.  As Karen Swallow Prior points out in the Atlantic, "It is important to recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of women and to lament their past and present potential, laid waste by the sieve of sexism."    Underscoring this point, consider this Currier and Ives cartoon from 1869 depicts the movement for recognition and equality "in terms that were both comic and threatening":

 

And, should we start to think the struggle itself is "history", consider also that in the United States women account for more than half of the population, yet less than a quarter of our legislators are women, and we continue to await the first female president.   And men's salaries dwarf those of women even though women earn more than 60% of college degrees and comprise 51.4% of management, professional and related positions.

 

Much of women's history in America concerns the continuing struggle for rights and equality, and this year a milestone celebration will occur on the first weekend of Women's History Month,  the Suffrage Centennial Celebration.   Various organizations around the nation’s Capital will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Woman's Suffrage Parade, where Alice Paul and 5,000 other suffragists from around the world marched to the White House to demand the right to vote.

 

Check out other events related  to Women's History Month.

 

 

 

Learn about the origin of Women's History Month and International Womens' Day (March 8th), and the roles American women played in shaping both holidays in this great 2011 video by the National Women's History Museum: