Every year, March is recognized as a month-long opportunity to honor women’s contributions to American history. Women’s History Month, now more accurately recognized as Women’s Heritage month, started as Women’s History Week as a local celebration in Santa Rosa, California. As recently as the 1970s, women’s history was virtually an unknown topic in the K-12 curriculum or in the general public consciousness. To address this, the Education Task Force of the Sonoma County (California) Commission on the Status of Women planned and executed a “Women’s History Week” celebration in 1978. The organizers selected the week of March 8 to correspond with International Women’s Day. The movement spread nationwide as other communities initiated their Women’s History Week celebrations the following year.
In 1980, a consortium of women’s groups and historians—led by the National Women’s History Project (now the National Women's History Alliance)—successfully lobbied for national recognition. In February 1980, President Jimmy Carter issued the first Presidential Proclamation declaring the Week of March 8th, 1980 as National Women’s History Week. The local Women’s History Week activities met with an enthusiastic response, and dozens of schools planned special programs for Women’s History Week. Over one hundred, across multiple communities, participated by presenting 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 held in the center of downtown Santa Rosa, California.
Subsequent Presidents continued to proclaim a National Women’s History Week in March until 1987 when Congress passed Public Law 100-9, (101 Stat. 99) designating March as “Women’s History Month.” Between 1988 and 1994, Congress passed additional resolutions requesting and authorizing the President to proclaim March of each year as Women’s History Month. Since 1995, each president has issued annual proclamations designating the month of March as “Women’s History Month.” More information can be found in the Women s History Month Speech Resources: Fact Sheet Updated February 13, 2023 from the Congressional Research Service.
The National Women’s History Alliance, which spearheaded the movement for March being declared National Women’s History Month, selects and publishes the yearly theme for Women's History Month. The 2023 Women’s History Month theme is "Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories.” The theme is a "tribute to the ceaseless work of caregivers and frontline workers during the ongoing pandemic and also a recognition of the thousands of ways that women of all cultures have provided both healing and hope throughout history."