March is designated the National Month of Women’s History according to the presidential declaration. Some of us may not know the origins of this national holiday, which signifies the importance of recognizing the sacrifices and contributions of women throughout American history.
National Women’s History Month began as Women’s History Week, which was established by the Sanoma County Education Task Force on the Status of Women in California, when it was noted that women’s contributions to American history were not taught or discussed in high schools. Other communities across the country have followed suit and also celebrated this week to honor the merits of women.
In 1980, a group called the National Women’s History Project (now known as the National Women’s Historical Alliance) along with women’s groups, historians and scholars worked to make this week recognized by the government.
In 1980, President Jimmy Carter declared March 2-8, 1980 National Women’s History Week and noted the nation’s following message:
“From the first settlers who came to our shores, from the first Native American families who befriended them, men and women worked together to build this nation. Too often women have gone unnoticed, and sometimes their contribution has gone unnoticed. But the achievements, leadership, courage, strength, and love of the women who built America were as important as the men whose names we know so well. ”
National Women’s History Week was eventually changed by Congress in 1987 to National Women’s History Month due to the actions of the National Women’s History Project.
Women fought for recognition of their merits and rights for many years before the founding of the National Month of Women’s History.
One of the movements for the recognition and rights of women was started by the women’s suffrage movement, created in 1890 by two organizations that headed the well-known name of Susan B. Anthony, along with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucy Stone. The women who participated in this movement never gave up, even when faced with seemingly insurmountable difficulties.
Thanks to the determination of all women for ten years who worked tirelessly for equality, the 19th Amendment was added to the Constitution on August 18, 1920, stating: “The right of United States citizens to vote should not be denied or restricted by the United States or any state with -for sex.
This amendment was just one step in helping women continue to receive the respect they deserve. Numerous improvements followed, all thanks to the continued determination of women in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Many extraordinary women have paved the way for women’s equality over the years, and as we know, the struggle for equality continues today. Some of these women are well known, such as: Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross; Harriet Tubman, American abolitionist; Marie Curie, the first woman to receive the Nobel Prize; and Rosa Parks, an activist and icon of the American Civil Rights Movement. Sandra Day O’Connor was the first woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, followed by Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor.
We need to impress our children – especially our daughters – on how important it is to learn about the contributions of these women, as well as the many lesser-known women who have worked to build and maintain a nation where equality is for all, not a few. By learning about these women, our daughters will show that they can achieve nothing.
Each year the National Alliance of Women’s History chooses a theme for Women’s History Month. This year it is women who heal, promote hope. This theme is a tribute not only to the women who gave healing and hope in the past and present, but also to the caregivers, nurses, doctors and ambulance services who worked tirelessly and are working during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Don’t forget to honor these women who have contributed to the history of our country by visiting your library and community websites for ongoing events.
Ronald G. Rios is the director of the Middlesex County Board of Commissioners. He presents occasional columns to the Media Group newspaper.