Celebrating a Centennial Women's History Month!

 

 

History of National Women’s History Month

By Molly Murphy MacGregor, Executive Director and Cofounder
National Women’s History Project

2011 Theme – Our History is Our Strength

a Centennial Year (1911-2011)

Celebrate!

 

 

Local Celebrations

 
As recently as the 1970’s, women’s history was virtually an unknown topic in the K-12 curriculum or in general public consciousness. To address this situation, the Education Task Force of the Sonoma County (California) Commission on the Status of Women initiated a “Women’s History Week” celebration for 1978.

The week March 8th, International Women’s Day, was chosen as the focal point of the observance. The local Women’s History Week activities met with enthusiastic response, and dozens of schools planned special programs for Women’s History Week. Over one-hundred community women participated by doing special presentations in classrooms throughout the country and an annual “Real Woman” Essay Contest drew hundreds of entries. The finale for the week was a celebratory parade and program held in the center of downtown Santa Rosa, California.

 

Mobilizing a Movement

In 1979, Molly Murphy MacGregor, a member of our group, was invited to participate in The Women’s History Institute at Sarah Lawrence College, which was chaired by noted historian, Gerda Lerner and attended by the national leaders of organizations for women and girls. When the participants learned about 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. They also agreed to support an effort to secure a “National Women’s History Week.”

 

Presidential and Congressional Support

The first steps toward success came in February 1980 when President Carter issued the first Presidential Proclamation declaring the Week of March 8th 1980 as National Women’s History Week. In the same year, Representative Barbara Mikulski, who at the time was in the House of Representatives, and Senator Orrin Hatch co-sponsored a Congressional Resolution for National Women’s History Week 1981. This co-sponsorship demonstrated the wide-ranging political support for recognizing, honoring, and celebrating the achievements of American women.

 

A National Lobbying Effort 
 

As word spread rapidly across the nation, state departments of education encouraged 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. Organizations sponsored essay contests and other special programs in their local areas. Within a few years, thousands of schools and communities were celebrating National Women’s History Week, supported and encouraged by resolutions from governors, city councils, school boards, and the U.S. Congress.

Each year, the dates of National Women’s History Week, (the week of March 8th) changed and every year a new lobbying effort was needed. Yearly, a national effort that included thousands of individuals and hundreds of educational and women’s organizations was spearheaded by the National Women’s History Project.

 

National Women’s History Month

By 1986, 14 states had already declared March as Women’s History Month. This momentum and state-by-state action was used as the rational 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 in perpetuity. A special Presidential Proclamation is issued every year which honors the extraordinary achievements of American women.

 

Presidential Message 1980

 
President Jimmy Carter’s Message to the nation designating

 March 2-8, 1980 as National Women’s History Week.

 

“From the first settlers who came to our shores, from the first American Indian families who befriended them, men and women have worked together to build this nation. 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.”

 

As Dr. Gerda Lerner has noted, “Women’s History is Women’s Right.” – It is an essential and indispensable heritage from which we can draw pride, comfort, courage, and long-range vision.”

I ask my fellow Americans to recognize this heritage with appropriate activities during National Women’s History Week, March 2-8, 1980.

I urge libraries, schools, and community organizations to focus their observances on the leaders who struggled for equality – – Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth, Lucy Stone, Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Harriet Tubman, and Alice Paul.
Understanding the true history of our country will help us to comprehend the need for full equality under the law for all our people.

This goal can be achieved by ratifying the 27th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which states that “Equality of Rights under the Law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”

 

 Why Women’s History?

 

Each time a girl opens a book and reads a womanless history,
she learns she is worth less.

Myra Pollack Sadker

 

History helps us learn who we are, but when we don’t know our own history, our power and dreams are immediately diminished.

Multicultural American women are overlooked in most mainstream approaches to U.S. history, so the National Women’s History Project champions their accomplishments and leads the drive to write women back into history.

Recognizing the achievements of women in all facets of life – science, community, government, literature, art, sports, medicine – has a huge impact on the development of self-respect and new opportunities for girls and young women.

With an emphasis on positive role models and the importance of women from all backgrounds, the NWHP has developed a nationwide constituency of teachers, students, parents, public employees, businesses, organizations, and individuals who understand the critical link between knowing about historical women and making a positive difference in today’s world.

The NWHP is the catalyst, the content provider, the behind-the-scenes director of a myriad of activities promoting women as leaders and influential forces in our society. Over the past 25 years, the NWHP, founded in Santa Rosa, California, has established a nationwide presence as the number one resource for information and material about the unfolding roles of women in American history. The NWHP leads both local and national efforts, consults, publishes, distributes, inspires, advises, and networks with a wide variety of institutions and activists in the field.

Every year in March, the NWHP coordinates observances of National Women’s History Month throughout the country. The NWHP originated this widely recognized celebration and sets the annual theme, produces educational materials, and chooses particular women to honor nationally for their work. Women’s History Month programs, community events, plays, essay contests, and related projects often have wide-ranging effects.

Every year the NWHP, in conjunction with academic institutions, holds workshops and conferences that highlight the role of women in particular areas, such as the Women of the West. These collaborative symposiums provide important opportunities for sharing research and stories about women’s roles, struggles, and successes today and throughout our history.

The NWHP also operates an award-winning web site, which makes information about women available and widely accessible. The site, www.nwhp.org, attracted over one million visitors last year making it the leading destination of its kind. Ongoing expansion and updating keep the site relevant and easy for students, journalists, and anyone else to use. Materials can also be ordered through the NWHP’s extensive online store.

In our own personal lives, the NWHP encourages discovering stories about our mothers, grandmothers, and great grandmothers to help us better understand their lives, the challenges they faced, and ultimately, ourselves and our own times. Recognizing the dignity and accomplishments of women in our own families and those from other backgrounds leads to higher self-esteem among girls and greater respect among boys and men. The results can be remarkable, from greater achievement by girls in school to less violence against women, and more stable and cooperative communities.

The impact of women’s history might seem abstract to some, and less pressing than the immediate struggles of working women today. But to ignore the vital role that women’s dreams and accomplishments play in our own lives would be a great mistake. We draw strength and inspiration from those who came before us – and those remarkable women working among us today. They are part of our story, and a truly balanced and inclusive history recognizes how important women have always been in American society.

A contribution to the NWHP will allow this well-known and nationally respected organization to expand its important work of writing women back into American history.

 

  

 2011 Theme – Our History is Our Strength

Our shared history unites families, communities, and nations. Although women’s history is intertwined with the history shared with men, several factors – social, religious, economic, and biological – have worked to create a unique sphere of women’s history.

The stories of women’s achievements are integral to the fabric of our history. Learning about women’s tenacity, courage, and creativity throughout the centuries is a tremendous source of strength. Until relatively recently, this sphere of women’s history was overlooked and undervalued. Women’s achievements were often distorted, disdained, and denied. But, knowing women’s stories provides essential role models for everyone. And role models are genuinely needed to face the extraordinary changes and unrelenting challenges of the 21st century.

While women’s history is a relatively new field of study, one important scholar is Gerda Lerner. She is credited with teaching the first women’s history course, establishing the first graduate program in women’s history, and publishing numerous books and treatises on women’s history. In recognition of Gerda Lerner’s pioneering role in establishing the field of women’s history as well as her generous role in mentoring women’s history scholars, the National Women’s History Project is honoring Gerda Lerner by offering her latest book Living with History/Making Social Change at a 30% DISCOUNT.

Gerda Lerner supported our work even before we were the National Women’s History Project. We will always be indebted to her not only for her tenacious, unrelenting, and pioneering work in the field of women’s history, but also for her well-documented research which demonstrates that Our History is Our Strength.

 

Photo- AWARDS BANQUET, MARYLAND: Reservations must be in by MARCH 4, 2011: 

http://www.somdtoday.com/2011/02/18/tickets-now-available-for-women%E2%80%99s-awards-banquet/ 

Home: http://www.nwhp.org/

NWHP BLOG: http://www.nwhp.org/blog/

Celebrate Women’s History Month, photo:  http://grizzlymedia.wordpress.com/2008/03/06/celebrate-womens-history-month/

 

 

Let’s Celebrate all month long…

so many great Women, so little time!

 

A Celebration of Women

 

 

 

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