From the arts to science to the military, women have been integral to shaping our nation’s history. Yet until the late 1970s, women’s contributions were largely unrecognized by the public. This all changed with the creation of Women’s History Month.
A California celebration becomes a national event
The roots of Women’s History Month sprouted in Santa Rosa, California, when the Education Task Force of Sonoma County Commission on the Status of Women planned a Women’s History Week to expand on International Women’s Day on March 8, 1978. The idea kindled an enthusiastic response, with scores of women among the local community giving presentations around the country. The grassroots movement grew year by year.
Then, the National Women’s History Alliance successfully lobbied for national recognition. In February 1980, President Carter issued the first presidential proclamation declaring the week of March 8, 1980 as National Women’s History Week. The celebration picked up even more traction, and since 1995, each president annually issues a proclamation designating the entire month of March as Women’s History Month
The theme of Women’s History Month 2021
The National Women’s History Alliance selects a theme for the annual event that mirrors the changing times. The theme for Women’s History Month 2021 is “Valiant Women of the Vote: Refusing to Be Silenced.”
The 2021 theme is an extension of 2020’s theme. Last year marked the 100-year anniversary of women’s suffrage through the ratification of the 19th Amendment. The National Women’s History Alliance explains: “A victory as important as women winning the right to vote deserves an extended celebration.”
This very important point in history must not be silenced, even by the pandemic. Recognizing the major advancement of women in our evolving history, The National Women’s History Alliance is “determined that the important roles of multicultural suffragists and voting rights activists continue to be recognized and honored.”
Women making history today
This was a historic year in our country for women, and in particular women of color. On January 20, Kamala Harris was sworn in as the first female and first Black and South Asian vice president. More than 100 women of color ran for Congress, and 51 of the 141 women elected are women of color. Both the House and Senate include more women than ever before, including record numbers of Blacks, Latinas, and Asian or Pacific Islanders. And, more women than ever before will serve in their state legislatures in 2021.
This was a historic year in our country for women, and in particular women of color.
“… We the successors of a country and a time where a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president …”
— Amanda Gorman, National Youth Poet Laureate
These are indeed historic times that will go down in the annals of women’s role in shaping the future of our country. Although the pandemic may alter how we honor Women’s History Month, taking time to read and applaud our sisters, mothers, and grandmothers makes for a more tolerant and inclusive world.
Ways to celebrate Women’s History Month 2021
International Women’s Day — March 8 events recognize the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women worldwide. Check out the 2021 International Women’s Day lineup of virtual events in support of women’s equality.
Shall Not Be Denied: Women Fight for the Vote — This beautifully curated online exhibit from the Library of Congress presents the history of the women’s suffrage movement.
Because of Her Story — The Smithsonian features the stories behind some of the greatest women contributors to U.S. history, from performing arts and social activism to from sports and government. Read inspiring stories of women who have shaped our nation’s story.
Women’s History Month Events & Exhibits — The National Women’s History Museum has several upcoming Women’s History Month events. Check out their online exhibits to learn about fascinating women in articles such as “The Women of NASA” and “Breaking in: Women in STEM.”
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Victoria Lasin is a freelance editor who helps professionals elevate their business communication.