As Black History Month comes to a close, America is teeming with stories of black pioneers, activists, inventors, and more as the country celebrates the path they forged for America today. But don't put away the history books yet. March is Women's History Month and this year, it feels extra important to celebrate. But when did Women's History Month start?
According to TIME magazine, in 1980, President Jimmy Carter proclaimed that March 2 to March 8would be recognized as Women's History Week. The National Women's History Project had been pushing for and petitioning the idea as feminists pointed out the absence of women's contribution in the history books. Formed in the 1970s, the National Women's History Project's goal was to revise the curriculum in schools in Sonoma County, California to honor the great achievements women had made (and continue to make).
After that first week in 1980, Congress got involved to make it a nationally recognized week by law, according to the official website for Women's History Month. In 1981, Congress passed a public law, Pub. L. 97-28, that authorized and requested that the President of the United States (Ronald Reagan became president after Jimmy Carter's term ended on Jan. 20 1981) recognize and proclaim that the week beginning on March 7, 1982 would be Women's History Week. For five years, Congress continued to pass laws proclaiming a week to be recognized as Women's History Week until 1987 when the National Women's History Project petitioned that the entire month of March be recognized as Women's History Month.
I know, 1980 wasn't really that long ago. But activists have been fighting to designate a certain day, week, or month to women's rights for much longer. According to History.com, International Women's Day first took place on March 8, 1911. It was celebrated across the globe and, in 1978, the United Nations sponsored the day for the first time.
Now, March is officially the month for women. The National Women's History Project website noted that each year is given a theme and in 2017, the theme for Women's History Month is Honoring Trailblazing Women in Labor and Business. Women have always worked, but the organization decided that because women's work has often been under-appreciated and undervalued, it was time to really focus on the ways women have fought against inequalities in the work place, the way they have persevered, and how they have succeeded in every field, regardless of what limitations society placed on them.
It makes sense, right? Women's History Month started when a group of women decided they'd had enough of being pushed to the side to focus on the achievements and hard work of men. It started when feminists realized that if nobody else was going to make sure the story of women was heard, they would have to do it themselves. Basically? It started when women decided to get some sh*t done. Hey, it's what women are known for doing.