Written By: Isa Gonzalez Montilla
March is a special month for a variety of reasons. Our clocks are set an hour ahead because of daylight savings, a new season of spring brings along a new sense of life and beauty, and most significantly, it’s Women’s History Month. This annual celebration is dedicated to remembering the influential contributions women have made in all aspects of history, society and culture.
The History Behind Women’s History Month
This annually declared month has grown from being a single day commemoration, into an entire month’s celebration. It all started in New York City in 1907 when thousands of women assembled and protested for better labor laws, working conditions, and the right to vote. The same march was held on the exact same day the following year and became known as the First International Women's Day. This idea of standing up for women’s rights spread across the world like wildfire and led European countries like Germany, Austria, Denmark, and Switzerland to formally recognize and honor International Women’s Day every year on March 8.
The U.S. followed in their footsteps after witnessing how supportive people were of the concept. A day’s celebration turned into a week in 1980 when former President Jimmy Carter announced in a Presidential Proclamation that the week of March 8 was dedicated to celebrating Women’s History Week. This brought about school activities and community events that engaged its members in learning about women’s accomplishments. Later on, the nation’s positive response and massive approval of the commemoration brought Congress to declare March as National Women’s History Month in 1987.
Why is it Important?
The reason behind the importance of this month is due to the fact that only 3% of educational materials are dedicated to covering women’s contributions in society, according to the National Women’s History Alliance (NWHA). Illinois, Florida and Louisiana are the only states as of right now that have mandated teaching women’s history in their elementary, middle and high schools. As Myra Pollack Sadker says, “each time a girl opens a book and reads a womanless history, she learns she is worth less”.
This is completely true because one gains the ability to be motivated and resilient through the inspirational stories of others. For example, a girl will learn that being fearless in the face of injustice is important when she learns about the way that Rosa Parks confidently resisted giving up her seat to a white man in 1955. This small, yet courageous act ignited one of the most important movements in the United States: the Civil Rights Movement. A girl will learn that anything and everything is possible when she learns about the way that Margaret Hamilton’s handwritten code, which sent Apollo to space, is the reason why humans were able to land on the moon in 1969.
We need to be telling and retelling these success stories because, as NWHA says, “History is our teacher.” We need to learn about things that happened in the past so that we can fully understand our reality today. If we aren’t learning about the influential impacts women have made in our global community, then we are teaching girls that their contributions aren’t worthy enough of change and success.