This year marks the 30th anniversary of the passage of a law making March Women’s History Month in the United States.
The observation, which was born out of a California school district’s celebration of women’s achievements, now is celebrated across the country, and includes parades, lectures, health screenings, art exhibits and other activities that highlight women’s contributions to society.
Here’s a look at the history of the movement, why it’s celebrated in March, this year’s theme and the National Women’s History Project honorees.
What is it?
Women's History Month is a celebration of women's contributions to society.
When is it?
In the United States, it is celebrated each year in March.
March was chosen as the month to celebrate women’s history because the first observances of Women’s History Week revolved around International Women’s Day, which is March 8. International Women’s Day, which honors women’s achievements worldwide, was first celebrated on March 8, 1911. The United Nations has sponsored International Women’s Day observances since 1975.
How did it start?
In 1978, a school district in Sonoma, California, decided to honor women's achievements by participating in a Women's History Week event. According to the National Women's History Project, schools hosted essay contests, presentations by women were given at many of the schools in the district and a parade was held in downtown Santa Rosa, California.
The following year, a two-week conference examining women’s history was held at Sarah Lawrence College. Those participating in the conference learned about Sonoma County's Women's History Week celebration and decided to organize similar celebrations within their own schools and organizations.
During the following seven months, they lobbied for a declaration of Women’s History Week and in March 1980, President Jimmy Carter issued a presidential proclamation declaring the week of March 8, 1980, as National Women's History Week.
In 1981, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Rep. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., co-sponsored a joint congressional resolution calling the week of March 7, 1982, Women's History Week.
Schools across the country began to incorporate Women’s History Week into their curriculum and, eventually, the week grew into a monthlong observance.
Fourteen states had declared March Women’s History Month by 1986. In 1987, the National Women’s History Project asked Congress to establish March as Women’s History Month. On March 12, 1987, the celebration became official when legislation was passed to designate March as Woman’s History Month in the United States.
What is this year’s theme?
The 2018 National Women’s History Month theme is “Nevertheless, She Persisted: Honoring Women Who Fight All Forms of Discrimination against Women.”
The theme refers to remarks made by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., after he objected to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., reading a letter from civil rights leader Coretta Scott King that condemned then-Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. The Senate was debating Sessions nomination to become U.S. attorney general. McConnell objected to the reading of the letter on the grounds of “Rule XIX” which prohibits ascribing "to another senator or to other senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a senator.” He called for a vote to silence Warren, which passed on party lines.
Who is being honored this year?
Here, from the National Women’s History Project, is a list of those being honored this year.
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