March is Women's History Month — a national event with local beginnings
During Jeff Sessions’ confirmation hearing for U.S. Attorney General in Feb. 2017, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-MA, read an opposition letter penned by Coretta Scott King back in 1986. During the reading Warren was silenced.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, later said, “Senator Warren was giving a lengthy speech. She had appeared to violate the rule. She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless she persisted.”
It was from this statement that the phrase, “Nevertheless she persisted” was taken and shared over and over again with hashtags and tweets. It became an empowering battle cry for feminists everywhere.
It is the theme for National Women’s History 2018, celebrated in March, and it honors women who fight all forms of discrimination against women.
On March 8, International Women’s Day is celebrated and March is recognized as Women’s History Month.
The recognition of Women’s History Month in the U.S. originated in Sonoma County in 1978 when the Education Task Force of the Sonoma County Commission on the Status of Women initiated a “Women’s History Week” celebration. The recognition was made in response to the lack of educational curriculum in K-12 schools about women’s history.
In 1980, the National Women’s History Project (NWHP) was founded in Santa Rosa by Molly Murphy MacGregor, Mary Ruthsdotter, Maria Cuevas, Paula Hammett and Bette Morgan to broadcast women’s historical achievements.
Macgregor said the most challenging part of the process in bringing women’s history into curriculum was the lack of resource materials.
“No one had asked the question,” she said.
With the help of funding from grants and local women serving as volunteers visiting classrooms to speak to students, the NWHP expanded.
Over time, Women’s History Week gained acknowledgment and in Feb. 1980, President Jimmy Carter issued the first Presidential Proclamation declaring the week of March 8, 1980 as National Women’s History Week.
In 1987 the NWHP led a campaign that ultimately led to the U.S. Congress designating March as National Women’s History Month. The organization acknowledges the history and achievements of women as strengthening the nation and creating a brighter future.
Macgregor said the most encouraging part of the journey to bringing women’s history into U.S. history has been seeing the impact it has made.
“The validation has been the most surprising and overwhelming success of Women’s History Month,” she said. “It first started at K-12, we had no idea how much effect it would have on the community and government.”
The NWHP website proclaims a message of hope, stating, “We are retelling history. And changing the future. We believe that knowing women’s history gives all of us — female and male — the power and inspiration to succeed. We believe that Our History Is Our Strength.”
For more information on the National Women’s History Project, visit nwhp.org.