The origin of Women's History Month
March is Women’s History Month. It commemorates and encourages the study, observance and celebration of the important role of women in American history.
Women’s History Month began as a local celebration in Santa Rosa, California. The movement pushed to have the week of March 8 be “Women’s History Week” spread throughout the country.
In 1980, a league of women’s groups and historians lobbied for recognition on a national level. That same year, President Jimmy Carter issued the first Presidential Proclamation declaring the week of March 8 to be National Women’s History Week.
Subsequent presidents also followed in Carter’s footsteps and proclaimed a National Women’s History Week until 1987, when Congress passed Public Law 100-9 designating March to be Women’s History Month.
Since 1995, each president has issued an annual proclamation designating the month of March as Women’s History Month.
Every year, The National Women’s History Alliance selects a yearly theme. The theme of this year’s Women’s History Month is: Valiant Women of the Vote: Refusing to Be Silenced.
This month’s events include: film and video series, a virtual film festival, book talks and even a historical reenactor.
On womenshistorymonth.gov, there is one very important woman mentioned, Eleanor Roosevelt. She especially advocated for women in the workplace.
Eleanor Roosevelt was an American first lady and the wife of Franklin D. Roosevelt. In her time, she was one of the most influential and powerful women in the world.
She grew up in a family that was greatly devoted to community service. Following her time in boarding school, she devoted time to community service which included teaching in a settlement house in Manhattan.
When Franklin was appointed Assistant Secretary of the Navy in 1913, Eleanor performed the social duties expected of an “official wife.” including social calls in the homes of other government officials, which she found to be tedious.
When the United States entered World War I, Eleanor was able to resume her volunteer work, visiting wounded soldiers, which ultimately increased her sense of self-worth.
She joined the Women’s Trade Union League and became active in the New York state Democratic Party. As a member of the Legislative Affairs Committee of the League of Women Voters, she began studying the Congressional Record and learned to evaluate voting records and debates.
When Franklin became president in 1933, Eleanor instituted regular White House press conferences for female correspondents. Wire services that had not formerly employed women were forced to do so in order to have a representative present in case important news broke.
In 1939, when the Daughters of the American Revolution refused to let Marian Anderson, an African American opera singer, perform in Constitution Hall, Eleanor resigned her membership in the DAR and arranged to hold the concert at the nearby Lincoln Memorial.
In a separate instance, when local officials in Alabama insisted that seating at a public meeting be segregated by race, Eleanor carried a folding chair to all sessions and carefully placed it in the center aisle. Her defense of the rights of African Americans, youth and the poor helped to bring groups into government that formerly had been estranged from the political process.
Thanks to Eleanor, women now have a vast amount of job opportunities, are able to participate in the great political process, and receive equal pay.
Stay tuned this entire month as we celebrate Women’s History Month with female-only writers. If you would like to hear more about the month or participate in some inspirational activities, visit womenshistorymonth.gov.