March is Women’s History Month. Throughout the entire month, we celebrate the countless contributions of women, and the actions and talents that have shaped the society and culture.
Each year, the National Women’s History Alliance chooses a theme for Women’s History Month. In 2023, the theme is “Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories.” Throughout the month of March, we focus on women who have contributed to our culture as writers, on radio and TV, on stage, the big screen, in news, and modern storytellers who create podcasts, blogs, and social media.
Women’s History Month – a Brief History
Women’s History Month was born out of International Women’s Day, celebrated March 8. The history of Women’s Day is a point of controversy. The first time it was celebrated, the organizers were members of the Socialist Party of America, in 1909. A fraught time in history, women were seeking the right to vote, and thousands of women participated in support of the suffragettes and socialist ideals.
The Right to Vote
Women finally gained the right to vote in 1920 – just over 100 years ago, when the the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified. Since that time, women have traditionally treasured the right to vote. Statistically, even today, women are more likely to vote than men. In 2020, the U.S. Census Bureau reported voter turnout was 68.4% women, and 65.0% men.
Acknowledging the contributions of women spread to socialist European nations, with the first International Women’s Day held in 1911, with an estimated 1 million people, mainly women, attending rallies. International Women’s Day was then established in several communist countries, including Soviet Russia and China.
In 1975, designated as “National Women’s Year,” March 8 was chosen to celebrate National Women’s Day, now celebrated in over 100 countries.
Fast forward to more recent times, in 1978, Women’s History Month was born out of the actions of a school district in Sonoma, California where a celebration of women’s contributions spanned an entire week. The event was focused on students, and an essay contest with the title “Real Woman.” The idea expanded, with President Carter issuing a proclamation that declared the entire week of March 8 as Women’s History Week. Six years later, the National Women’s History Project lobbied Congress to expand the weeklong celebration to be celebrated for the entire month.
2023 Women’s History Month – The Storytellers
Women’s contributions to culture and society are extensive, ongoing, and stretch back to the farthest days of known human history to the present day. Focusing on these contributions allows people to delve into the hidden stories of women, working publicly or behind the scenes, and the influence their actions had on the culture at large.
From Chattel to World Leaders
From the perspective of today, it is difficult to imagine that until the early 20th century, women were the chattel property of men, and were not allowed to own property or vote. With women now serving in governmental and corporate leadership roles, with laws enacted at the state and federal levels to ensure gender equality. Women’s History Month allows us to focus on the countless women storytellers, past and present, who have influenced the society.
How to Celebrate Women’s History Month
Any organization, from educational, to corporate, to governmental, or social, can celebrate the contributions of women by featuring local leaders, historical female figures in the city, town, or state, and taking a fresh, unbiased look at how our women storytellers, over the generations, have changed the world for the better.