ACLS
Humanities E-Book
The Online Collection
Developed By Scholars

ACLS Centennial: Discussion with Steve Wheatley

Steve Wheatley, retired Vice President of the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), discusses the history of ACLS and more with HEB on the verge of the ACLS centennial campaign launching. 

This discussion has been edited for length and clarity. 


HEB: 2019 marks the 100th anniversary of ACLS’s founding and accordingly ACLS is preparing to embark on their centennial campaign to celebrate their work over the past century and continue building capacity for the future. What are the key functions and milestones of ACLS’s over the past century and during your time as Vice President now that you have had time to reflect in retirement? *Editor’s Note: Steve Wheatley spent 32 years at ACLS, including the past several years as Vice President until his retirement in 2018.

SW: ACLS advances the humanities by awarding fellowships and grants that allow scholarly creativity to flourish. More than 14,400 scholars received ACLS support in the past century. The creation of trusted peer-review mechanisms established democratic means of forging new knowledge. ACLS had no single “master-plan” for what the humanities should be. It did not direct from above, but built a structure through which new ideas could bubble up. 

ACLS has established scholarly journals, sponsored important scholarly reference works such as the American National Biography and exemplified the digital transformation through Humanities E-Book.

ACLS seeds and nurtures of new fields and methods of study. In 1919, the humanities largely focused on Western Europe and the ancient Mediterranean, with a side glance to our own country. ACLS helped move the study of other cultures and societies from the exotic periphery of scholarship to its forefront. Promoting China studies was one of the first ventures in the 1920s — in partnership with the Social Science Research Council—to a set of research-planning committees focused on all world areas. 

ACLS also plays an important role in the development of linguistics, the history of religions, musicology, and the history of ideas. This expands to exploring new methods of inquiry. For example, ACLS launched a committee on “computer-assisted research” in 1964 and continues to support digital scholarship today. Several of its programs promote collaborative research, often by transnational teams.

ACLS’s advocacy for the humanities helped win these fields a place in both: 1) a system of foundation funding that emerged in the 20th century with almost a singular focus on funding science and 2) in government funding— a commission created by ACLS and two other organizations was critical in convincing Congress and the Johnson Administration to create the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1965.  

ACLS pioneered modes of international academic exchange, especially with countries from which the US was politically estranged such as the USSR and Eastern bloc in the Cold War, and the People’s Republic of China and Vietnam before the establishment of diplomatic relations with both countries.

Because ACLS is committed to creation of new ideas, it facilitates the transmission of those ideas through the various modes of scholarly communication. ACLS has established scholarly journals, sponsored important scholarly reference works such as the American National Biography and exemplified the digital transformation through HEB.

Key developments during my time include:

  • Expansion of our capacity to award fellowships by creating endowment devoted exclusively to fellowships and increasing the breadth and depth or our foundation partnerships.
  • Creating new paradigms of empowering scholarship worldwide. Our programs in Africa and the former Soviet Union are not conventional academic exchange programs but efforts to build regional scholarly networks — proto-learned societies— that can provide leadership and support for the humanities independently.  For example, our partnership with the Ford Foundation’s International Fellowship program in Vietnam helped open study abroad to historically disadvantaged populations.
  • Intensification of work on the digital transformation. HEB is a part of this, along our Digital Innovation Fellowships and Digital Extension Grants. Our cyber-infrastructure report Our Cultural Commonwealth convinced the NEH to establish its Office of Digital Humanities.
  • Extending the reach of ACLS programs. The ACLS Public Fellows program brings scholars directly into government and non-profit organizations while new programs like the Mellon/ACLS Community College Faculty Fellowships program focus on a vitally important (and under-served) sector of higher education.

HEB: ACLS is going through changes. On an organizational level, you recently retired and are soon to be joined in retirement by ACLS President Pauline Yu, while ACLS is expanding staff elsewhere. And although “business is good” at ACLS, there seem to be increased expectations to fund more fellowships and programs. What can scholars and stakeholders in the humanities expect from ACLS moving forward? 

SW: ACLS certainly should, and will, continue to support the very best scholarship.  Building the capacity (with the resources) to increase fellowship giving is important but there is now an emphasis on extending the reach of ACLS programs. What does “extending our reach” mean? It means making sure that teaching scholars and scholars outside the confines traditional higher education have an opportunity to participate in ACLS programs. This can take the form of a new program, for example the recently created Mellon/ACLS Community College Faculty Fellowships. But this can also take the form adjusting central fellowship programs so that scholars conducting research from not just the Ivy Leagues but from other institutions and backgrounds are included in these programs. 

Another area of extending the reach is the public engagement. Examples include the Public Fellows program and pushing for more humanities scholars in government and non-profit positions where their capacities are particularly valuable. Trying to bring humanities out of just the monograph and on to the op-ed page. Those are the directions ACLS is heading: increasing knowledge, extending the reach and building ACLS’s capacity is what the change is about.

HEB: Glad that you brought up a recent ACLS/Mellon venture, considering Humanities E-Book itself originated largely from Mellon funds and it provides a nice transition to ACLS’s role developing digital scholarship in the humanities (with support from Mellon). HEB is seeing more emphasis in our marketplace on digital collections in the humanities and new ways of accessing humanities scholarship. Do you attribute the emphasis on humanities in digital spaces to ACLS in any way? 

SW: Yeah, I think so! Obviously there are a lot of proponents for digital publishing in the humanities and using digital methods in new scholarship. But the fact is that ACLS, starting in 1964 and up to the late 1990s, vehemently pushed the potential of digital technology to transform how people read, write, how access information, in a very positive way. The move to digital was legitimized because ACLS, and others such as Mellon, had the respect of peers and an authoritative voice on such challenges. This was critical at a time where many thought any digital enterprise in the humanities were frivolous or dangerous. 

People were tentative during the transition to digital and didn’t know if it was permanent…

SW: Exactly! 

HEB: But with the increased competition for publishers and aggregators in the humanities (i.e. JSTOR, Project Muse, etc.) and quite frankly an expanded definition of what the humanities are in a digital world, it is clear this digital transition is permanent. I think about the HEB subject areas, where we have far more subject areas now than just history and the larger scope of the projects HEB is involved with, like the upcoming Oplontis volume.

I think you’re right, the richness of the content in the humanities has grown. Now suddenly people understand what it means to have an aggregate collection of books (as opposed to journals) and how that can be particularly valuable to an individual or institution, basically the value of a database of knowledge that people can access. The business models are still being worked out but you have seen the university presses come around to embrace the digital landscape.

But yeah, Oplontis is a great example. The project has such a scholarly and market value. Plus [laughing], what’s more ancient than Pompeii and then what’s more modern then taking all digital tools and looking at [Oplontis] in almost three dimensions yet with such incredible scholarly rigor? It’s just phenomenal what they have done and their work is clearly more accessible via HEB than it would be if it sat on a shelf.

Highlight: National Poetry Month

What Is A Poem?

A poem is a collection of literary tools that use aesthetic and rhythmic qualities, such as phonaesthetics, sound symbolism, and meter to evoke meaning. The word “poem” derives from a variant of the Greek term, poiesis, “making.” “Poetry” is a late Middle English word, from the medieval Latin word poetry; from which Latin poet became ‘poet’. 

There are numerous different types of poems: the sonnet, haiku, villanelle, sestina, acrostic, ekphrastic poetry, concrete poetry, elegy, epigram, limerick, ballad, epitaph, tanka, ode, epic and the free verse; just to name a few.

Poetry is closely related to musical traditions…the earliest poetry exists in the form of hymns (such as the work of Sumerian priestess Enheduanna), and other types of song such as chants. Many of the poems surviving from the ancient world are recorded prayers or stories about religious subject matter, but they also include historical accounts, instructions for everyday activities, love songs, and fiction.The Epic of Gilgamesh often is cited as one of the earliest works of epic poetry, dating back to the 18th century B.C.

Elizabethan Era (Western) Poetry

The word sonnet is derived from the Italian word sonetto, which means “a little sound or song.” There are two types of Sonnet poems, the Petrarchan (or Italian) and the Shakespearean (or Elizabethan). Sonnets traditionally have 14 lines, are often about love, and written in iambic pentameter.

The Petrarchan sonnet typically follow an ABBA ABBA CDE CDE rhyme scheme while Shakespearean sonnets usually follow ABAB CDCD EFEF GG. 

Did You Know? Shakespeare is credited for writing 154 sonnets and 37 plays. His first group of sonnets (The Fair Youth Sonnets, 1-126) are addressed to a young man with whom the poet has a deep friendship. In Sonnets 127-152 the poet becomes infatuated with a mysterious women. The relationship with Shakespeare was not entirely clear but these sequence of sonnets are also known as ‘The Dark Lady Sonnets.’

Poetry’s Evolution Into Satire and Expressionism 

Following the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, the English Restoration period brought in a new demand for poetry. Writers created poems inspired by political events and immediately reflected the times. Over time these poem grew into poems that we know today, such as: Epigram, Limerick, Ballads, and Epic poems.

Breakdown

An Epigram is a short, pithy saying, usually in verse, often with a quick, satirical twist at the end. The subject is usually a single thought or event. The first-century epigrams of the Roman poet Martial became the model for the modern epigram. The term epigram derives from the Greek word epi-gramma meaning inscription or to inscribe. Emily Dickinson and Samuel Taylor Coleridge are classic examples of writers that like to write Epigrams.

A Limerick poem is a humorous poem consisting of five lines. The first, second, and fifth lines must have seven to ten syllables while rhyming and having the same verbal rhythm. The third and fourth lines only have to have five to seven syllables, and have to rhyme with each other and have the same rhythm.

A typical Ballad is a plot-driven song, with one or more characters hurriedly unfurling events leading to a dramatic conclusion. Ballads are generally used to tell a story in a poem. Ballads are written in quatrains, groups of four lines, and have a rhyme scheme of ABAB or ABCB. The lines alternate between having eight syllables and six syllables.

Around the World: Chinese and Japanese Poetic Form

Chinese poetry can be divided into three main periods: the early period, characterized by folk songs in simple, repetitive forms; the classical period from the Han Dynasty to the fall of the Qing Dynasty, in which a number of different forms were developed; and the modern period of Westernized free verse.

Breakdown

Early poetry: The Shi Jing (literally “Classic of Poetry”, also called “Book of Songs”) was the first major collection of Chinese poems, a collection of both aristocratic poems (Odes) and more rustic poetry, probably derived from folk song.

Classical poetry: During the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-A.D. 220), the Chu lyrics evolved into the fu, a poem usually in rhymed verse except for introductory and concluding passages that are in prose, often in the form of questions and answers. Later Classical Poetry After the Song dynasty, both shi poems and lyrics continued to be composed until the end of the imperial period, and to a lesser extent to this day.


A classic Japanese poem we know and use a lot in modern day is the Haiku. A Haiku typically contains 17 syllables, arranged in three lines, first five syllables, then 7, then 5. Haikus are most commonly about nature, often containing a seasonal reference and they tend to contain two juxtaposed images or ideas. A Haiku presents simple imagery, devoid of similes, metaphors, and eloquent adjectives and adverbs. When crafting haiku, think of a group of words that present an observation in a way that appeals to the senses. But A Haiku was not always called a Haiku.

Originally, During the Heian period of Japanese culture (700-1100), it was a social requirement to be able to instantly recognize, appreciate and recite Japanese poetry. Poems of this era were known as Renga of its later derivative, renku (or haikai no renga). A renga consists of at least two ku () or stanzas. The opening stanza of the renga, called the hokku (発句), became the basis for the modern haiku form of poetry. By (1644–1694), when Matsuo Bashō began to influence the hokku, the hokku begun to appear as an independent poem. was also incorporated in haibun (a combination of prose and hokku), and haiga (a combination of painting with hokku). In the late 19th century, Masaoka Shiki (1867–1902) renamed the standalone hokku to haiku.

The earliest westerner known to have written haiku was the Dutchman Hendrik Doeff (1764–1837), who was the Dutch commissioner in the Dejima trading post in Nagasaki, during the first years of the 19th century.

National Poetry Month

National Poetry Month was inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996. Over the years, it has become the largest literary celebration in the world with schools, publishers, libraries, booksellers, and poets celebrating poetry’s vital place in our culture. In 1998, the Academy of American Poets joined the American Poetry & Literacy Project to distribute 100,000 free books of poetry from New York to California during National Poetry Month. On April 22, President Clinton and the First Lady hosted a gala at the White House that featured Poets Laureate Robert Pinsky, Robert Hass, Rita Dove. 

Below we have provided you with a short list of poems we have in our collection. Please take a look and feel free to tweet at us your favorite poems this month! Also check out The Collected Writings of Walt Whitman available in our Special Series collection.

On extended wings: Wallace Stevens longer poems by Helen Vendler 

Transcendence and the Concrete: Selected Writings by Jean André Wahl, Alan D Schrift and Ian Alexander Moore

College Art Association and Humanities E-Book

Overview: College Art Association

The College Art Association (CAA) has a long standing in the world of visual arts, education and curation. Since it’s founding in 1911, the CAA  “[promoted] the visual arts and their understanding through committed practice and intellectual engagement. The Association advances the highest standards of instruction, knowledge and practice in the visual arts to stimulate intellectual curiosity and advance skills that enrich the individual and society.” In 1942 College Art Association was admitted into the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS).

CAA includes among its members those who by vocation or avocation are concerned about and/or committed to the practice of art, teaching, and research of and about the visual arts and humanities. Over 12,000 artists, art historians, scholars, curators, critics, collectors, educators, publishers, and other professionals in the visual arts belong as individual members. Another 2,000 departments of art and art history at colleges and universities, art schools, museums, libraries, and professional and commercial organizations hold institutional memberships.

CAA and Humanities E-Book 

In August 2006, HEB and CAA announce new partnership. HEB and CAA set out to explore many opportunities and challenges involved in bringing art-history scholarship into the digital realm. CAA thus became the ninth ACLS constituent society to join the project at the time. Together, HEB and CAA carefully chose a selection of titles from CAA’s highly-respected College Art Association Monograph Series to digitize and include as a special series in the HEB collection.  With the help of HEB, the the CAA monographs could reach a wider audience in the humanities, significant in an era when interdisciplinary studies across the humanities are becoming more commonplace. HEB also gained a valuable publishing partner with insights on subject areas that (at the time) were not well represented in the collection and who had a finger on the pulse of scholars engaging with online resources in Art History, Architecture, etc.

Cover, “Roman Black & White Figural Mosiacs”

This series began publication in 1944 and concluded in 1999. The series eventually issued 56 volumes with a variety of university presses and scholarly societies, including the Archaeological Institute of America, New York University Press, The Pennsylvania State University Press, and the University of Washington Press. We at Humanities E-Book are the only organization that distributes access to these digital copies. Note, due to restricted rights for some series entries, not all CAA monographs are represented in the HEB collection. 

Don’t forget, in anticipation for the upcoming release of Oplontis Vol.2,  the CAA Monograph Series on HEB includes a fully-encoded edition of John Clarke’s Roman Black-and-White Figural Mosaics. 

Below we have provided a short list of title that may peak your interest. If you would like to see the full list of available CAA monographs on HEB, check out the CAA series on the HEB website or our Pinterest page for the series! 

Interview: John R. Clarke

Introduction

ACLS Humanites E-Book (HEB) is pleased to announce the upcoming release of Oplontis Villa A (“of Poppaea”) at Torre Annunziata, Italy, Volume 2: The Decorations, Stucco, Pavements, Sculptures, edited by John R. Clarke and Nayla K. Muntasser. This is the second of four volumes devoted to the archaeological discoveries made at the Villa A site at Oplontis (Torre Annunziata, Italy). 

The Oplontis Project is an initiative operating under the direction of John R. Clarke and Michael L. Thomas of the University of Texas at Austin, in collaboration with the Parco Archeologico di Pompei, as well as an international team of scholars working in multiple disciplines. These titles are open-access and exclusively offered in the ACLS Humanities E-Book collection live on Fulcrum. 

Recently, Dr. Clarke sat down with HEB’s Lee Walton to discuss what readers and scholars can expect in Volume 2, details on some of the work conducted at the site, and why a digital publishing offering is critical to the work at Oplontis. 

Don’t miss Volume 1, Oplontis: Villa A (“of Poppaea”) at Torre Annunziata, Italy.

Interview

Bust of Hercules

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

HEB: Provide an introduction for yourself and your involvement in the Oplontis Project.

Clarke: I am Regents Professor of the History of Art at the University of Texas at Austin. I specialize in the study of ancient Roman architecture, mosaics, and wall paintings and I also work on the full range of Roman imagery insofar as it indicates people’s attitudes towards the practices of everyday life. I’ve published books on ancient sexuality, art in the lives of ordinary Romans, and humor.

I got involved with Oplontis in the 1980s when I studied and published some rare mosaics and wall paintings at Villa A (popularly called the “Villa of Poppaea”). The current Oplontis Project began around 2005, when Michael Thomas, who had done his Ph.D. with us at Texas, said:  “Let’s see if we can get a permit to work on Oplontis; it’s still not published after all these years.” To my surprise, the Italian Ministry of Culture gave us permission to conduct new excavations and to study all of the material in storage, including impressive amounts of wall painting, mosaics, and ceramics.

HEB: What are some of the challenges you faced in the site work for both Villa A and B?

Clarke: Immediately we realized that because Villa A is so big—there are 99 excavated spaces including a 61-meter swimming pool—it was going to be very difficult to publish it in a print format. In order to comply with contemporary archaeological standards, we had to study and illustrate every surface in its actual state. We realized that we could do this with much greater accuracy using digital photography and 3-D modeling. So we teamed up with the Kings Visualization Lab at Kings College London to create a navigable 3-D model that records both the current state of Villa A and allows a viewer to switch to views that show Villa A as it was in antiquity. 

We also discovered from scouring through all of the available documents that there were huge gaps in our knowledge. There are 7 years which are I call “the lost years,” for which we don’t even have excavation reports. So I went out into the community to find photographs, I dug in forgotten archives, and I found evidence that allowed me to reconstruct how they excavated the villa. That was one big problem—figuring out where they were digging, when and what they found. The records got better in the 1970s, but not good enough to show us everything we wanted to know, so we had to fill in the blanks through close analysis of the objects and the architecture that remains.

Vol. 2 Cover

Another big challenge was to analyze masses of wall painting that hadn’t been restored or put back into place. I took on the task of cataloging every single piece of painted plaster from the villa—about 5,000 items. One of the most exciting results came from one of our architects, Timothy Liddell. Using digital tools, Tim as able to reconstruct two enormous beautiful fresco decorations from many fragments. We were able to exhibit these reconstructions using the actual fragments in the exhibition, “Leisure and Luxury in the Age of Nero,” which traveled to three museums in the U.S. (2016-2017). 

The renown sculptures from Villa A have languished for 40 years in storage. Eric Moormann took on the challenge of cataloguing them, and we used 3-D laser scanning to record them so that we could also place them back in their original settings in our virtual model.

We knew very little about the provenance of the sculpture as well as the great quantity of precious marbles used for the decorative elements of Villa A. A team of scientists samples them and conducted isotopic and other analyses. By matching their isotopic signatures with those of quarries throughout the Mediterranean, we found that the owners were extremely wealthy. For instance, they brought in monolithic columns from the Island of Lesbos (which has a special kind of gray marble) and they employed precious colored marbles from all over Mediterranean for the floors and walls of the Villa.

Other specialists analyzed pollen, seeds, wood, and soil to understand what the planted areas of the garden. The gardens of Villa A  are particularly important because they were the first to be subjected to archaeo-botanical analysis back in the 1970s; we were able to extend this study with new scientific techniques.

Villa B (popularly called the “Villa of Lucius Crassius Tertius”) was not a villa at all, but rather a large commercial complex dedicated, among other things, to the bottling of wine for shipment around the Mediterranean. Our ceramics experts, led by Jennifer Muslin, have studied over 1,300 containers (amphoras), while Alessadra Pecci examined the organic residues (of wine and cork) using recently-developed techniques. We are currently studying other organic remains, including the 54 human skeletons of the individuals who perished in the eruption. Since the original excavations stopped at the A.D. 79 level, Ivo van der Graaff, our chief archaeologist, has guided a large team of excavators to explore the earlier history of the complex, which we can now date back to 120 B.C.

HEB: What is most exciting about Volume 2 of the Oplontis series?

Clarke: Volume 2 is amazing because it provides for the first time an in-depth view of the decorative apparatus of Villa A, illustrating in unprecedented detail all of the celebrated frescoes, pavements, and sculptures of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. The photography, directed by  Paul Bardagjy, is amazing. Readers will be able to study and enjoy over 2,700 high-resolution color images. There are details of everything from tiny birds and flowers to imposing whole-wall compositions, and this is only possible because of digital photography. For example, there are rooms that very deep with extremely high walls. The only way to you can record them is combine multiple images digitally, so that readers can examine entire spaces for the first time. Even if you go to the site you can’t see them because of the poor lighting and the safety barriers.

Peacock

I’m also really excited about the fact that we were able to reconstruct so much. One of our architects, Paolo Baronio, used archival photographs and drawings to make accurate reconstructions of rooms that were visible at the time of excavation in the 1960s and 1970s, but that today have faded beyond recognition. Thanks to these highly-detailed reconstructions, readers will be able to see what today, unfortunately, is invisible.

Then there are surprising discoveries coming from our excavations. For instance, deep in one of our trenches we found a large fragment of a wall painting that was discarded when the owner decided to remodel one of the rooms. We found that it matches the wall painting of a standing room, a fact confirmed by chemical analysis of the pigments. There’s also a wonderful chapter by Pietro Baraldi, a chemist who conducted pigment analysis using Raman spectroscopy, sampling, and high resolution digital microscopy. His work advances our knowledge of ancient painters and the materials they used.

HEB: What benefits does digital publishing offer scholarly authors?

Clarke: Well, first of all, it’s a capacious instrument. You have an  ample platform without the limits imposed by print publication, particularly on the size and number of illustrations. Also, the links are amazing. In Volume 1, we link you directly to the excavation notebooks; if you want to check something, you can look at the original handwriting. We will also link this series on Villa A to our 3-D model. Archival representation is also  extremely important. In every excavation there is a great amount of documentation that may be of interest to a few scholars but not to everybody. In a digital volume you can put that all together in a way that would be cost- prohibitive in a print volume.

HEB: Who is the primary audience for this work and are there any other audiences that can benefit from engaging with the title?

Clarke: The intended audience is the scholar of ancient history, art, archaeology, and scientific applications in archaeology. I would also include anyone interested in what life in ancient villas was like: readers who enjoying looking and learning about beautiful wall paintings, mosaics, and sculptures. These objects, presented in context, allow everyone to imagine themselves in this huge luxury space. The idea, of course, is that the wealthiest of Romans acquired imposing sites along the Bay of Naples to build their villas, and this volume. As detailed in volume 1, Oplontis had a breathtaking view. Here the owners entertained their peers and political allies; it was here that they exercised their power and brokered their social status.

Landscape

HEB: What do you hope readers take away from Vol. 2?

Clarke: That there’s a lot to be learned from not just from art history and archaeology, but also from science. That science can teach us so much about what the ancient world looked like and how it operated. What is more, readers will gather new insights into how painters, mosaicists, and sculptors worked, what kind of materials they used and even how much they cost. Above all, they will experience an aspect of the Roman world that has captivated both scholars and the general public since Pompeii was first discovered back in 1748.

HEB: While editing Villa A did the story or your ideas evolve?

Clarke: They did, particularly because I was able to engage authors from many different disciplines. Our 19 contributors include scholars as well as architects and visual artists; highly specialized scientists using cutting-edge technologies; and of course archaeologists and historians of Roman art and archaeology. Given this amazing team, so much new information and so many unprecedented perspectives emerged.

The other thing I’d say is that we went into great depth in a way that we didn’t think we were going to be able to because of all the new tools—especially the digital and scientific ones—that we were able to employ. These tools, in the hands of our experts, make this volume special and unique. We’ve also created a model—thanks to the HEB series—that demonstrates how effective digital publication can be for bringing the past to life.

Women’s History Month 2019

National Women’s History Month is celebrating its 31st anniversary. Since 1988 US presidents have issued annual proclamations designating the month of March a Women’s History Month. But before we Women’s History Month, International Women’s Day paved the way for US women to petition the government to pronounce March as Women’s History Month. 

In the early 1900’s the world saw population growth and the rise of radical ideologies. As ideas began to cultivate people began to stand up to the change in lifestyle and the oppression that followed. In 1908, 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights. In accordance with a declaration by the Socialist Party of America, the first “National Woman’s Day” (NWD) was observed across the United States on February 28th, 1909. Two years later, in 1911, “International Women’s Day” was honored for the first time in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland on March 19.

1917’s International Women’s Day

“International Women’s Day” was celebrated for the first time by the United Nations in 1975. Then in December 1977, the General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming a United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace to be observed on any day of the year by Member States, in accordance with their historical and national traditions.

Several years later in February 1980, President Jimmy Carter issued a presidential proclamation declaring the week of March 8, 1980, as “National Women’s History Week” (in the United States). 

President Jimmy Carter’s original message to the nation, designating March 2-8, 1980 as “National Women’s History Week” was as follows:

From the first settlers who came to our shores, from the first American Indian families who befriended them, men and women have worked together to build this nation. Too often the women were unsung and sometimes their contributions went unnoticed. But the achievements, leadership, courage, strength and love of the women who built America was as vital as that of the men whose names we know so well. As Dr. Gerda Lerner has noted, “Women’s History is Women’s Right.” – It is an essential and indispensable heritage from which we can draw pride, comfort, courage, and long-range vision.”

I ask my fellow Americans to recognize this heritage with appropriate activities during National Women’s History Week, March 2-8, 1980.

I urge libraries, schools, and community organizations to focus their observances on the leaders who struggled for equality – – Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth, Lucy Stone, Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Harriet Tubman, and Alice Paul.

Understanding the true history of our country will help us to comprehend the need for full equality under the law for all our people. This goal can be achieved by ratifying the 27th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which states that “Equality of Rights under the Law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.

In 1981, responding to the growing popularity of “Women’s History Week”, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Rep. Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland) co-sponsored the first Joint Congressional Resolution proclaiming a Women’s History Week. That same year, 1981, Congress passed Pub. L. 97-28; this authorized and requested the President to proclaim the week beginning March 7, 1982 as “Women’s History Week.” Throughout the next five consecutive years, Congress continued to pass joint resolutions designating a week in March as “Women’s History Week.” By 1986, fourteen states had declared March as “Women’s History Month”.

In 1987 after being petitioned by the National Women’s History Project, Congress passed Pub. L. 100-9 which designated the month of March 1987 as “Women’s History Month.” Between 1988 and 1994, Congress passed additional resolutions requesting and authorizing the President to proclaim March, of each year, as “Women’s History Month”. Since 1995, Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama have issued a series of annual proclamations designating the month of March as “Women’s History Month.”


The National Women’s History Theme for 2019
Visionary Women: Champions of Peace & Nonviolence

(Originally Posted on National Women’s History Alliance)

The theme for 2019’s “National Women’s Month” is “Visionary Women: Champions of Peace & Nonviolence.” This year we honor women who have led efforts to end war, violence and injustice, and pioneered the use of nonviolence to change society. These women embraced the fact that the means determine the ends and thus developed nonviolent methods to ensure just and peaceful results.

Suffragists Protest October 1916

For generations, women have resolved conflicts in their homes, schools and communities. They have rejected violence as counterproductive and stressed the need to restore respect, establish justice and reduce the causes of conflict as the surest way to peace. From legal defense and public education to direct action and civil disobedience, women have expanded the American tradition by using inclusive, democratic and active means to reduce violence, achieve peace and promote the common good.

From women’s rights and racial justice to disarmament and gun control, the drive for nonviolent change has been championed by visionary women. These women consciously built supportive, nonviolent alternatives and loving communities as well as advocating change. They have given voice to the unrepresented and hope to victims of violence and those who dream of a peaceful world.


President Jimmy Carter saw the potential of the women’s movement back in 1981 after the rise of popularity with “International Women’s Day”. Presidents who succeeded Carter followed his example and continued to declare March “National Women’s History Month”, acknowledging the importance of women and human rights and promoting the idea equality.

ACLS Humanities E-Book would also like to emphasize the work women have done in the humanities and beyond. Below we have provided a list of suggested titles, available on the topics of “Women Suffrage”, “Peace & Non-Violence”, “House & Home” and “Women’s Studies”. This by no means is a completed list of books categorized under these topics, but a glimpse into these topic. Please feel free to take a look at the suggested Titles or search Fulcrum for more!

You can also check out our other book lists under Women’s Studies and Women & Religion on Pinterest.