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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.