Celebrating Women's History Month
This week we begin to observe Women’s History Month which can be an exciting time for celebration but also a reminder of its importance and meaning. So, as the month goes on, celebrate, but remember to take the time to appreciate why we are able to celebrate today.
The first International Women’s Day was suggested in 1910 to be March 8th, and the following year, it was celebrated in countries like Austria, Switzerland, Germany, and others. By 1975, it began spreading to the rest of the world, including the United States. Finally, in 1980 President Carter established a Women’s History Week starting on March 8th. Then in 1987, March was declared by Congress to be Women’s History Month.
While this timeline outlines the beginning of what we know as Women’s History Month, the women’s rights movement in the US has a history going back to the 1800s. In fact, it can be traced back to Seneca Falls Women's Convention of 1848 when leaders in the women’s suffrage movement came together to encourage women in the country to stand up for their rights. At this convention, the women produced the Declaration of Sentiments, which outlines the grievances of American women and the natural rights they were deprived of.
This meeting launched a decades-long struggle for equal rights for women. It took 72 years following the initial meeting for women to be awarded the most basic right of participating in a democracy. Multiple generations of women and men alike had to carry on the fight of their mothers and grandmothers to make real change. Though the first march for women's suffrage on Washington D.C. happened in 1913, women wouldn't get the vote for another seven years. Even after this right was awarded in 1920, there were still areas in which women were not being given equal opportunities. So, they continued to march until 1972, when the Equal Rights Amendment was passed. It recognized women’s equality under the law and outlawed forms of discrimination on the basis of sex. In the same year, Title IX was passed, which outlawed discrimination on the basis of sex in school or educational programs that are backed by federal funding. These milestones were only achieved because women didn’t stop or accept things the way they were after their first victory. It is important to remember exactly how long it took to meet some of these landmarks which awarded our ancestors basic rights.
So, this Women’s History Month, take some time to learn a little more about the history of the movement and how we got to where we are today. It can also be an empowering and insightful experience to learn about the participation of members of your family in this struggle. There are women from every generation who have experienced some form of discrimination based on their gender. It is worthwhile to listen to their stories and learn about how they handled those situations. This month is really about appreciating how long women had to fight for equal respect and continuing to empower and connect with each other.
By Kristen Lopiano