Women’s History Is American History

Women in New York City marching for their right to vote, 1912

Since the 1970s, the current of women’s history has been working its way into the mainstream of American history. Thanks to the efforts of educators and scholars which began in that decade, the historic achievements of women and their contributions have been widely celebrated. An annual focal point of this attention is National Women’s History Month in March.

In 1975, the United Nations declared March to be International Women’s History Month. It also declared March 8 to be International Women’s Day. This was at the height of the period often called “second-wave” feminism. (The first wave had focused on equal legal rights and largely culminated with ratification in 1920 of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, extending to women the right to vote.) Three years later, the Sonoma County, California, school district launched a local “Women’s History Week” celebration—the first in the nation. The instigators picked the week of March 8 so as to include International Women’s Day. Soon after, dozens of schools began their own Women’s History Week programs. A campaign to gain national recognition was widely viewed as a step toward revising American history in a way that would no longer ignore women’s roles and impact.

In 1980, President Jimmy Carter designated a national Women’s History Week for the country as a whole. Congress followed suit, authorizing an official Women’s History Week in 1981. It took place in the first half of March. In 1987, the week was expanded to include the whole month of March. During Women’s History Month, emphasis is placed on the importance of women’s achievements in history. People also often take time to promote the expansion of women’s rights around the world.

Image credit: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C.

Related Links:

  • Women’s History Month
    This Library of Congress website encourages the study, observance, and celebration of the vital role of women in American history—featuring the Smithsonian’s “Because of Her Story” series.
    (Source: Library of Congress; accessed February 27, 2019)
  • This Is How March Became Women’s History Month
    An account of the history of Women’s History Month.
    (Source: Time.com, March 1, 2018)
  • Women’s History Month
    This National Park Service website contains resources to study “The Remarkable Legacies of American Women” and links to NPS sites around the country that highlight women’s history.
    (Source: NPS.gov; accessed February 27, 2019)
  • National Women’s History Museum
    The Website of the National Women’s History Museum presents stories of women who transformed the United States through a collection of virtual exhibits and digital resources in advance of a proposed future physical museum.
    (Source: NWHM.com; accessed February 27, 2019)
  • International Women’s Day March 8
    The IWD 2019 webpage promotes the theme #BalanceforBetter; includes links to events and videos both instructional and fun.
    (Source: International Women’s Day; accessed February 27, 2019)
  • Where Are the Women? Finding Stories in History Beyond State Standards
    This blog post by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt educator Geraldine Stevens explores how to go beyond the emphasis on women’s history found in states’ educational standards.
    (Source: hmhco.com; March 1, 2019)

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