09 Mar Women’s History Month: 5 Questions You Should Be Asking
Greetings, loyal readers! It’s Dr. Hinson here, excited to start celebrating March as Women’s History Month! Having already spent February spotlighting black ladies who lead, this month we’ll be featuring a series of blogs on non-Western women rulers as we continue to tell lesser known stories of fabulous and fierce women leaders. Dr. Donnelly and I are excited to bring you lots of new content this month! Before we begin, I’m putting on my historian hat and answering some basic, but necessary questions, about Women’s History Month!
What is Women’s History Month?
Great question, right? As professional question askers (that’s really what a PhD is) Dr. Donnelly and I always start with the basics. Women’s History Month occurs in March every year, celebrated primarily in the US with a focus on highlighting women’s contributions to American history. This year’s theme is quite fitting given the growing #MeToo and Time’s Up movements: “Nevertheless, She Persisted: Women Who Fight All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.”
When did it start?
Women’s History Month dates back to 1986 (not that long ago). Prior to that it was Women’s History Week (March 2-8), which was first declared by President Jimmy Carter in 1980, after significant lobbying from a consortium of women’s groups and historians, led by the National Women’s History Project. Women around the world had been celebrating International Women’s Day since the early 1910’s (it’s tied to several socialist and labor movements, and protests of World War I), but was officially recognized by the UN as March 8th in 1975. The first Women’s Day in the US took place on February 28, 1909 on the one-year anniversary of the NY garment workers strike where women marched for equal economic rights. What’s with those colors?
What’s with those colors?
For Women’s History Month, our blog heading will include royal purple, white, and gold. These are the colors of the women’s suffrage movement in the United States (in the UK the gold is replaced with green). These colors were first adopted by the National Women’s Party in 1913 and now represent the continuing fight for women’s equality. There are several disputed meanings for the colors with purple possibly meaning loyalty, the royal glory of womanhood, or sacrifice, white meaning purity or sincerity, and gold meaning life, the crown of victory, or knowledge. Personally, I say we adopt them all!
Who is in that photo?
Most articles that I found on Women’s History Month included the above photo of President Carter proclaiming Women’s History Week in 1980. It is both ironic and not surprising that most articles did not identify the two women seated at the table with Carter. The woman to the immediate right of the president is Jane Pratt, the co-founder of Just for Girls. In the 1970s she was the president of the Girls’ Club of America and visited the White House on two occasions to discuss women’s issues with President Carter.
To the right of Jane Pratt is Gloria Johnson, a founding member of the Coalition of Labor Union Women, an organization which she served as treasurer for 17 years and president from 1993-2004. She was the second African-American women to serve as vice-president of the AFL-CIO and also served on the President’s Commission of the Celebration of Women in American history under President Clinton. Two giants in the field of women’s and workers rights, not usually celebrated alongside President Carter.
What are some good resources?
If you’ve been inspired by this brief glimpse into Women’s History Month, here are some excellent resources for further reading:
- The Women’s History Month government website has information on events, exhibitions, and resources for teachers.
- The Women’s History page for the National Archives has a ton of publications and sources detailing the history of the various women’s movements.
- The National Women’s History Museum (hoping to find space on the National Mall in Washington) is an online museum with lots of fascinating information.
- We Are Teachers has 32 Inspiring Books for Women’s History Month.
- The National Museum of Women in the Arts has an awareness campaign called #5WomenArtists which aims to promote greater knowledge of women artists.
Having answered those 5 important questions, I hope you’ve learned more about Women’s History Month and have been inspired to explore further through the sources above. Dr. Donnelly and I will be back throughout the month to talk about women in leadership all around the world, and of course, women in workplaces!