fascinating women and intriguing topics
Over thirty-five years ago, five friends in Santa Rosa, California, noticed that something was very wrong. They realized that few women were featured in schoolbooks. In fact, no more than 3% of the content was devoted to women! That meant that students had few role models. It also meant that women’s achievements and contributions were not considered important enough to be included in textbooks. And that was wrong! So, the friends—Molly Murphy MacGregor, Paula Hammett, Mary Ruthsdotter, Maria Cuevas, and Bette Morgan—decided to do something about it.
Selecting the week of March 8th to coincide with International Women’s Day on March 8th, an already established worldwide event, the friends organized a week-long Women’s History event celebrating historic women’s contributions to every aspect of American life. Students wrote essays. Students and adults dressed up as a historic woman to march in a parade through downtown Santa Rosa.
The week-long events were so successful that Molly Murphy MacGregor proposed the idea at a Women’s History Institute, chaired by the eminent historian Gerda Lerner, at Sarah Lawrence College in 1979. Inspired by Molly’s presentation, the group passed a resolution to create a National Women’s History Week, an idea that President Jimmy Carter made official in 1980.
That same year the five friends founded the National Women’s History Project as a center for multicultural women’s history. Their aim was “to teach as many people as possible about women and their critical role in American history.” Since then the National Women’s History Project has produced a vast array of materials; delivered thousands of speeches; conducted countless trainings, and maintained a website that is a treasure trove of information, resources, and links.
In 1987, the National Women’s History Project successfully petitioned the United States Congress to designate March as National Women’s History Month. Today National Women’s History Month is widely celebrated across America in offices, museums, libraries, and schools. Students make posters, write poems, dress up like historic women and hold parades and put on plays. Women’s history exhibitions are on display at historic sites and museums. Special luncheons are held for workers. The President of the United States issues a special proclamation. People leave tokens of respect at statues of historic women.
There are a myriad ways of celebrating National Women’s History Month. The theme for 2015 is “Weaving the Stories of Women’s Lives.” So, Happy National Women’s History Month! Happy celebrating!
(If you would like to know more about the National Women's History Project, logo below left, click here.)
Penny Colman's book Girls: A History of Growing up Female in America is a spirited and yet sometimes disheartening history of growing up female in America from colonial to contemporary times. Young girls from all regions of the country, of different races, ethnicities, religions, and classes are given a voice in this story of triumphs and trials. Illustrated with many black-and-white photographs.
This month, the Nonfiction Minute is going to be featuring the contribution of many women to many different fields of knowledge. We begin by using the opening week to introduce you to four women who have made major achievements in the STEM areas --Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. We hope that their achievements will inspire you. We begin tomorrow with Vicki Cobb telling you about a young Polish girl who traveled to the Sorbonne to major in math and physics and became the top scholar in her class.