Women’s History Month

Women’s History Month

With Mardi Gras, St. Patrick’s Day, and March Madness, some may forget the important event of Women’s History Month. West Virginia Northern Community College’s New Martinsville campus has helped to amend this and increase its students’ knowledge on the achievements of women throughout America’s History by setting up a display dedicated to the event in its learning resource center.  The well thought out display contains a variety of books and materials, along with posters dedicated to the cause of women’s history.  In case one is unable to make it to the New Martinsville campus to check out the information on Women’s History Month, the following is a thorough history concerning the origin of Women’s History Month.

In response to the lack of knowledge concerning women’s history, in 1978, the Education Task Force of the Sonoma County (California) Commission on the Status of Women initiated a “Women’s History Week” celebration for 1978.  The week of March 8th, International Women’s Day, was chosen for the observance of Women’s History Week.

Dozens of schools planned special activities for the week and over one hundred community women completed special presentations in classrooms throughout the country.  An annual “Real Woman” Essay Contest drew hundreds of entries.  The week was completed with a celebratory parade and program held in the center of downtown Santa Rosa, California.

In 1979, Molly Murphy MacGregor was invited to participate in The Women’s History Institute at Sarah Lawrence College.  Gerda Lerner, a respected historian, chaired this event and the national leaders of organizations for women and girls attended the event. When the participants of the event heard about the success of the Sonoma County’s Women’s History Week, they decided to initiate similar celebrations within their own organizations, communities, and school districts.  It was agreed to support an effort to secure a “National Women’s History Week.”

In 1980, President Carter issued the first Presidential Proclamation, declaring the week of March 8th, 1980 as National Women’s History Week.  That same year, representative Barbara Mikulski along with Senator Orrin Hatch co-sponsored a Congressional Resolution for National Women’s History Week 1981. These efforts demonstrated the wide-ranging political support for recognizing, honoring, and celebrating the achievements of American women.

State departments of education began encouraging celebrations of National Women’s History Week as an effective way to achieve equity goals within classrooms.  Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, Oregon, Alaska and other states developed and distributed material for their public schools.  Essay contests and other special programs were sponsored by organizations, and within a few years, thousands of schools and communities were celebrations National Women’s History Week. Each year, the dates of National Women’s History Week changed and every year a new lobbying effort was needed. A national effort that included thousands of individuals and hundreds of educational and women’s organizations was led by the National Women’s History Project.

By 1986, 14 states had declared March as Women’s History Month.  These results were used as rational to lobby Congress to declare the entire month of March 1987 as National Women’s History Month.  In 1987, Congress declared March as National Women’s History Month. A special Presidential Proclamation is issued every year to honor the many achievements of American Women.

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