Origin of women’s history month

As recently as the 1970s, women’s history was not taught in schools or a significant part of general public thought.

To change this, the Education Task Force of the Sonoma County (California) Commission on the Status of Women wanted to honor women in history and initiated a “Women’s History Week” celebration for 1978.

The week of March 8, 1978, International Women’s Day was chosen as the focal point of the holiday.

The local Women’s History Week activities sparked an excited response, and many schools planned special programs for Women’s History Week. There was a “Real Woman” essay contest, and a parade as a grande finale of the week.

In 1979, Molly Murphy MacGregor, a member of the ETFSCCSW, was invited to participate in The Women’s History Institute at Sarah Lawrence College. It was attended by national leaders of organizations for women and girls.

When the attendees learned about the Sonoma County’s Women’s History Week celebration and success, they decided to create similar celebrations within their own organizations, communities, and school districts.

They also agreed to support an effort to secure a “National Women’s History Week.”

In February 1980, President Carter issued the first Presidential Proclamation declaring the Week of March 8th 1980 as National Women’s History Week.

“…men and women have worked together to build this nation.” Carter said. “Too often the women were unsung and sometimes their contributions went unnoticed. But the achievements, leadership, courage, strength and love of the women who built America was as vital as that of the men whose names we know so well.”

State departments of education began encouraging celebrations of National Women’s History Week as an effective means to achieving equity goals within classrooms.

Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, Oregon, Alaska, and other states developed and distributed curriculum materials for all of their public schools. Within a few years, thousands of schools and communities were celebrating National Women’s History Week.

This was supported and encouraged by resolutions from governors, city councils, school boards, and the U.S. Congress.

By 1986, 14 states had already declared March as Women’s History Month. This public attention was used to lobby Congress to declare the entire month of March 1987 as National Women’s History Month.

In 1987, Congress declared March as National Women’s History Month from then on.

A special Presidential Proclamation is now issued every year which honors the extraordinary achievements of American women.

Pima has a couple events to celebrate Women’s History Month coming up.

Student Life said it is presenting “The Vagina Monologues” on March 29th, 7 pm, at West Campus Center for the Arts Proscenium Theatre. It is free to attend, and any donations will go to the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA).

The World Young Women’s Christian Association (World YWCA) is a movement working for the empowerment, leadership and rights of women, young women and girls in more than 120 countries. They said their members and supporters include women from many different faiths, ages, backgrounds, beliefs and cultures.

The Faculty Speaker’s Series said it will be holding a reading, “Pride and Prejudice: A Southern Girl Rethinks Her Beloved Monuments,” created by writing faculty Sarah O’Hara. It is free to attend and will be held on April 3rd at 6pm in the Community Board Room (Building C) in the District Office.


Influential women in history


Joan of Arc (1412–1431) The patron saint of France, she inspired a French revolt against the occupation of the English. At 17, Joan of Arc successfully led the French to victory at Orleans. Her later trial and martyrdom added to the intrigue of her story.

Sojourner Truth

Jane Austen (1775–1817) As one of the most famous female authors, Austen wrote several novels that are still highly popular today, including “Pride and Prejudice,” “Emma” and “Northanger Abbey.” She wrote at a time when female writers were not encouraged, helping pave the way for future writers.

Sojourner Truth (1797 – 1883) Truth was an African-American abolitionist and women’s rights campaigner. In 1851, she gave a famous extemporaneous speech “Ain’t I a Woman?” that explained how women were equal to men.

Margaret Fuller (1810–1850) Fuller, an American women’s rights advocate, wrote “Women in the Nineteenth Century,” which was influential in changing ideas about men and women, and was one of the most important early feminist works. She argued for equality and women being more independent and less dependent on men.

Queen Victoria (1819–1901) This British Queen ruled one of the largest empires ever seen as head of state from 1837–1901. She sought to influence British politics while abstaining from party politics. She represented an era of Victorian values.

Florence Nightingale (1820–1910) While serving in the Crimean war, this British nurse was instrumental in changing the role of the nursing profession. Her dedicated service gained admiration and led to a huge improvement in the treatment of wounded soldiers.

Millicent Fawcett (1846–1929)  This leading suffragist and campaigner for equal rights for women led Britain’s biggest suffrage organisation, the non-violent (NUWSS), and played a key role in gaining women the ability to vote.

Emmeline Pankhurst (1858–1928) A British suffragette, she dedicated her life to the promotion of women’s rights. She used all types of protest including violence, public demonstrations and hunger strikes. She died in 1928, three weeks before a law giving all women over 21 the right to vote.

Helen Keller (1880–1968) An American social activist. At the age of 19 months, she became deaf and blind. She overcame losing both sight and hearing, and campaigned on behalf of women, deaf and blind people.

Mother Teresa

Eleanor Roosevelt (1884–1962) The wife and political aide of American president Franklin Delano Roosevelt. She made a huge contribution to the field of human rights, a topic she campaigned on throughout her life. As the head of United Nations Human Rights Commission, she helped to draft the 1948 U.N. Declaration of Human Rights.

Mother Teresa (1910–1997) This Albanian nun and charity worker devoted her life to the service of the poor and became a global icon for service to others. Through her Missionary of Charities organisation, she cared for thousands of sick and dying people in Calcutta. She was awarded the Nobel Peace prize in 1979.

Anne Frank

Rosa Parks (1913–2005) This American civil rights activist’s refusal to give up her bus seat in Alabama led to some of the most significant civil rights legislation of American history. Through her peaceful and dignified campaigning, she became one of the most well-respected figures in the civil rights movements.

Anne Frank (1929–1945) A Dutch Jewish author. Her diary is one of the most widely read books in the world. It reveals the thoughts of a 13-year-old girl, confined to a secret hiding place during war.

Wangari Maathai (1940–2011 ) A Kenyan-born environmentalist, pro-democracy activist and women’s rights campaigner. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for efforts to prevent conflict through protection of scarce resources.

Hilary Clinton (1947 – present) A U.S. politician who became the first woman to run for the office of U.S. president for a major political party (Democrats). She also served as secretary of state from 2009 to 2013.

Benazir Bhutto (1953–2007) This first female prime minister of a Muslim country helped to move Pakistan from a dictatorship to democracy. She became prime minister in 1988, and she sought to implement social reforms, in particular helping women and the poor. She was assassinated in 2007.

Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai (1997–present) Yousafzai was a Pakistani schoolgirl who defied threats of the Taliban to campaign for the right to education. She survived being shot in the head by the Taliban and has become a global advocate for women’s rights, especially the right to education.

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