March is Women’s History Month, a national celebration of women’s contributions to history, culture, and society. It’s an important reminder to honor the great women in your life and an opportunity to learn a little about some of the notable female figures in American History.
How It Started
On March 8, 1857, women working in garment factories in New York City organized a march, demanding equal rights, better pay, and a 10-hour work day. That strike led to a more widespread American movement to establish women’s labor unions and end child labor in the early 20th century. In 1908, garment workers’ went on strike in New York—and exactly one year later, the Socialist Party of the United States designated February 28, 1909, National Women’s Day.
National Women’s Day led to International Women’s Day, which was recognized for the first time in March 1911 by countries throughout Europe. Men and women attended rallies to end discrimination and demand women’s rights to work. The United Nations officially began celebrating International Women’s Day in 1975.
A Week Becomes a Month
In the late 1970s, a college instructor at Sonoma State University (and Santa Rosa Junior College) named Molly MacGregor orchestrated a local Women’s History Week, organizing a training day for women to share the history of women in their fields, as well as a parade. She shared what she’d done at a Women’s History Institute the following year—and word spread quickly.
In 1980, that same teacher was contacted by President Jimmy Carter’s office with the news that the president would proclaim the first National Women’s History Week for March 2-8, 1980. By 1986, governors across the country had proclaimed Women’s History Weeks in their states.
And thanks to lobbying by the National Women’s History Alliance—co-founded by MacGregor—Congress passed a proclamation in 1987 to establish Women’s History Month.
Women Continue to Achieve
Today, women are leaders and role models in the workplace and beyond. An all-time record number of women are employed. Women filled 58 percent of new jobs in 2018. And women’s unemployment is the lowest it has been for the last 65 years.
But Women’s History Month isn’t just about women in the workforce. This annual celebration is about raising up women role models and recognizing their achievements in science, community, government, literature, art, sports, medicine and more. It is about honoring the work of women who came before us, and including their stories in American history.
Every year, the National Women’s History Alliance chooses a theme for Women’s History Month, and this year, it is “Visionary Women: Champions of Peace & Nonviolence.” The Alliance encourages us all to honor women who have led efforts to end war, violence, and injustice—and have pioneered the use of nonviolence to change society.
Honoring the Women in Your Life
The month of March is a time to honor all of the women in our lives whom we admire and respect. What women have impacted you? Who has inspired or motivated you? Take a moment to thank those women personally or publicly. The more we celebrate women, the more we contribute to the legacy of how women shape our world each and every day.
Learn more about Women’s History Month at: https://nationalwomenshistoryalliance.org.
Information drawn from the 2019 Presidential Proclamation, the Status of Women in the States website, the United Nations website, and History.com.