Women’s History Month
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Women’s History Month is celebrated during the month of March and has been an annual celebration since 1987. This month is used to bring recognition to the major contributions from women throughout history. It is a month to reflect on the achievements and advances that have been made by women around the world that are oftentimes overlooked.
National Women’s History Month has been formally celebrated since 1987, however, there have been traces of this celebration that date back to 1857. This began when a group of women from New York City protested over poor working conditions. In 1909, New York City held the first Women’s Day celebration. It was not until 1980 that President Jimmy Carter declared the week of March 8th as Women’s History Week and urged the public to participate. By 1981, Congress then followed by formally establishing the second week of March as Women’s History Week which was celebrated annually. Six years later, in 1987, Congress decided that Women’s History Week should be extended to the month-long celebration that we have today.
According to the United States Census Bureau, over the years, women have increased their earnings, education, and fields of occupation. In 2019, 33.9% of women at the age of 25 or older have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher compared to only 32.3% of men. These numbers have increased since the year 2010 when 28.5% of men and 27.9% of women had completed this same level of education. In 2019, 79.2 million females ages 16 and older participated in the civilian labor force whereas in 2010, there were 74.1 million women that participated in the civilian labor force.
During the month of March, within Women’s History Month, there is also International Women’s Day that is celebrated annually. This celebration first took place on March 8, 1911. There are many countries around the world that also celebrate this day. This day is used as a global celebration of the achievements of women like Women’s History Month. International Women’s Day is also used as a day of action to fight against the gender inequality that is seen around the world. Although we have seen major successes and improvements for women, there is still much more that needs to be done to achieve gender equality.
Some Things to Think About During the Month of March:
- 2.7 billion women do not have the same work opportunities as men.
- 82 million women worldwide do not have any protection against workplace discrimination.
- 1 in 3 women experience violence (physical or sexual).
These are some of the many areas that need improvement to see gender equality.
Many of the struggles that women face are looked at solely from a white lens. White Feminism is a form of feminism that primarily focuses on the hardships of white women and fails to address the distinct forms of oppression that BIPOC women experience. When looking at gender inequality, we also need to be looking at other aspects of a women’s identity which is what is described as intersectionality. According to Kimberle Crenshaw, the goal of Intersectional Feminism is to separate from white feminism and acknowledge women who have different experiences and identities. Kimberle states, “Intersectionality is the lens through which you can see where power comes and collides, where it locks and intersects. It is the acknowledgment that everyone has their own unique experiences of discrimination and privilege”.
Major Achievements for Women Throughout History:
- 1849: Elizabeth Blackwell is the first US woman to earn a medical degree.
- 1854: Susan B. Anthony began fighting for American women’s rights.
- 1890: Women are allowed to vote in the state of Wyoming.
- 1900: Women were first able to participate in modern Olympics in three events: golf, tennis, and yachting.
- 1920: The 19th Amendment grants women the right to vote in federal elections.
- 1955: Rosa Parks refuses to give up her bus seat to a white passenger.
- 1981: Sandra Day O’Connor is appointed as the first female justice of the US Supreme Court.
- 2007: Nancy Pelosi is the first woman to serve as speaker of the US House of Representatives.
- 2020: Kamala Harris becomes the first woman to serve as vice president of the US.
During Women’s History Month and on International Women’s Day, the goal is to recognize many of the amazing women that have made major strides for women all around the world. It is also important to see the areas where we need more advancement and change. Although we have seen much improvement for women in areas such as employment, earnings, and education, there is still so much that needs to be done to achieve gender equality and intersectionality. Take some time during the month of March to learn about some of the many influential women around the world and to take action to support gender equality.
Author: Samantha Potocnik– Samantha is an intern at EVOLVE and a student at the University of Wisconsin River Falls.