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April 18th, 2021

rosie the riveterCourtesy photoELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times

 

Women have been making contributions to different industries and fields of study for many years, and with March officially kicked off, it is Women’s History Month. 

As the National Women’s History Alliance notes, the original effort to recognize women’s contributions started with a smaller effort. 

“As recently as the 1970s, women’s history was virtually an unknown topic in the K-12 curriculum or in general public consciousness,” the National Women’s History Alliance Web site noted. “To address this situation, the Education Task Force of the Sonoma County, Calif. Commission on the Status of Women initiated a ‘Women’s History Week’ celebration for 1978. The week of March 8, 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. More than 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 that took place in the center of downtown Santa Rosa, Calif.”

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Efforts also brought about the advent of International Women’s Day. 

“International Women’s Day, a global celebration of the economic, political and social achievements of women, took place for the first time March 8, 1911,” History.com noted. “Many countries around the world celebrate the holiday with demonstrations, educational initiatives and customs such as presenting women with gifts and flowers. The United Nations has sponsored International Women’s Day since 1975. When adopting its resolution on the observance of International Women’s Day, the United Nations General Assembly cited the following reasons: ‘To recognize the fact that securing peace and social progress and the full enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms require the active participation, equality and development of women; and to acknowledge the contribution of women to the strengthening of international peace and security.’”

The movement for recognition continued in the late 1970s, the National Women’s History Alliance noted. 

“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,” the National Women’s History Alliance noted. “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.”

A few years later, the idea had caught on within communities, school districts and organizations across the country, History.com noted. 

“In 1980, President Jimmy Carter issued the first presidential proclamation declaring the week of March 8 as National Women’s History Week,” History.com noted. “The U.S. Congress followed suit the next year, passing a resolution establishing a national celebration. Six years later, the National Women’s History Project successfully petitioned Congress to expand the event to the entire month of March.”

Women’s History Month then picked up more steam in the 1980s, according to the National Women’s History Alliance. 

“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,” the National Women’s History Alliance noted. “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. Carter said in his proclamation, ‘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 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 ‘Equality of Rights under the Law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”

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