The “herstory” of Women’s History Month
The idea to celebrate women’s achievements, contributions to society and history started in the school district of Sonoma, California in 1978. Presentations were given at many schools and students participated in essay contests and parades held downtown Santa Rosa. The celebration continued to spread throughout the country. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter issued National Women’s History week, starting March 8. Six years later, it became a month-long celebration.
Some nationally known organizations that honor women is the National Women’s Hall of Fame and National Women’s History Project (NWHP). The National Women’s Hall of Fame is the oldest membership organization dedicated to celebrating achievements of distinguished American women. It was founded in 1969 in Seneca Falls, birthplace of the American Women’s Rights Movement. It currently holds 247 women in the hall of fame.
For over 30 years The National Women’s History Project has established a nationwide presence as the number one resource for information and material about women in American history. This year’s NWHP’s theme is women inspiring innovation through imagination.
Throughout history, many movements, protests and organizations have fought to provide the life women are accustomed to today. Prior to the 1900’s women had no rights in America. The fight for Women’s Suffrage started in 1848 when a group of activists agreed that women should have their own political identity. The group caught some public attention, but lost its momentum due to the Civil War. Some advocates, such as Susan B. Anthony, believed that the war was the best time to push lawmakers to accept women as equal to men.
After the Civil War, women involved with the suffrage movement formed two separate groups. One group of women, called the National Women Suffrage Association, refused to support the 15 Amendment and allied with southern America, who argued women’s votes could be used to neutralize those cast by African-Americans. Others thought it would endanger African American’s freedom.
Eventually the two groups merged. The new association was less concerned with trying to be seen as equal to men, but focused on the fact women deserved the right to vote because they were different from men. These women proposed that women were purer and held a more moral “maternal commonwealth” when making decisions. By World War I the campaign proved just how important women were to the country, since many worked and took care of the house as the men were away at war. In 1920, the 19 Amendment was passed.
WSU has women history of its own. In 1993, the Women’s Center was created to put the university’s commitment to creating an environment where women received equal opportunities into action. In the 1970’s the first course about women’s issues was taught. In the 1980’s Wright State Organization for Women (WOW) formed to promote the interest of women employees at WSU. A task force of WOW was established to study childcare on campus, which played a major role in the creation of the childcare center on campus. By the 1990’s WSU started a degree program for Women’s Studies.
For more information about Women’s History Month visit: greatwomen.org, nwhp.org or go to the Women’s Center in 145 Millett Hall.
Information retrieved from: greatwomen.org, nwhp.org, wright.edu/womencenter and history.com.