Women's History Month is a relatively new invention, dating back to the 1970s, when women were fighting for greater recognition of female accomplishments. (Also at that time, the Equal Rights Amendment debate was in full swing.)
According to the National Women's History Project, the idea for a month dedicated to women's history sprouted in 1978.
That year, the Education Task Force of the Sonoma County (California) Commission on the Status of Women declared the week of March 8 "Women's History Week," selecting March 8 because it is International Women's Day. The event was a success, with schoolchildren learning about women's contributions to history, and a parade bringing the week to a close.
The following year a member of the Sonoma County commission told colleagues at the Women's History Institute at Sarah Lawrence College about the Women's History Week experiment. Excited by the idea, the Sarah Lawrence group decided to replicate the efforts in schools across the country and to begin pushing for National Women's History Week.
Their efforts paid off quickly: In 1980, President Jimmy Carter issued a message asking people to recognize National Women's History Week from March 2-8. He said, "[T]he 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."
But National Women's History Week was still not yet formally recognized. So then Rep. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., and Sen Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, co-sponsored legislation to ask that the president make National Women's History Week official in 1981. It passed, and in 1982, President Ronald Reagan issued the first official proclamation naming the week including March 8 as National Women's History Week.
Since 1987, the president has proclaimed March to be Women's History Month; for the first few years, Congress was involved, but since 1995, our presidents have done so without congressional prodding.
This year, the National Women's History Project has declared Women's History Month's theme to be "Our History Is Our Strength."
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