Women’s Heritage Month
Every year, March is recognized as a month long opportunity to honor women’s contributions in 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 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 across the country as other communities initiated their own 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 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, 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 an annual proclamations designating the month of March as “Women’s History Month.”
The National Women’s History Alliance selects and publishes the yearly theme. The 2021 Women’s History Month theme is “Valiant Women of the Vote: Refusing to be Silenced” The theme honors the "…roles of multicultural suffragists and voting rights activists [who] continue to be recognized and honored. We refuse to allow their voices to be silenced, even by a pandemic."
In 1981, Congress passed Pub. L. 97-28 which authorized the President to proclaim the week beginning March 7, 1982 as "Women's History Week." In 1987, the National Women's History Project successfully lobbied Congress to pass Pub. L. 100-9 which designated March 1987 as the first official "Women's History Month." Since 1995, each President has issued an annual proclamation declaring each March as "Women's History Month."
At WPI, we use March to recognize and celebrate the triumphs and contributions of the women of WPI past and present as part of Women's Heritage Month celebrations. To learn more about the history of Women's History Month, visit these sites:
A New York Times (NYT) interactive digital spread highlighting how women around the world celebrated International Women’s Day in 2017.
Maybe you’ve heard it mentioned by a friend or have seen it used in a headline somewhere. Come learn more about using the term Womxn.
NPR’s Tell Me More celebrates Women's Heritage Month by reading and discussing the biographies of divas and dancers, leaders of nations and queens of fashion.
For all the progress women have made, they are still a long way from true equality.
Women’s leadership is more important than ever in our fight to move equality forward and achieve gender justice for marginalized communities across the U.S. and around the world.
New York Time essays and reviews from Joan Didion, Rebecca Traister, Toni Morrison, and other notable writers.
Be sure to visit the Gordon Library Resource Guides, to find literature and resources centering Women’s Heritage Month Topics.