Women’s History Month and the Power of Women’s Voices
Maya Angelou once said, "each time a woman stands up for herself, she stands up for all women," and she was exactly right. Only through the efforts of previous women have any others been able to receive the recognition and celebration they have now. In fact, Women's History Month was not nationally established until the late 1980s after centuries of feeling discredited and ignored was combated by the lobbying of several groups and historians across the country.
The first celebration of women's history was only five days long when schools across Sonoma County, CA, decided to hold a Women's History Week on March 6-10, 1978. It featured classroom presentations from women throughout the community and a "Real Woman" essay contest culminating with a program and parade in downtown Santa Rosa. Fortunately, the event was met with great interest and zest from the public. Many other schools followed Sonoma County's example and hosted celebrations of women and their rights, contributions, struggles, and more. School districts across the country were creating curriculums for the week, and organizations hosted programs complete with essay contests. This national support soon caught the attention of Washington, D.C. In 1980, National Women's History Week was established and set to always fall on the week of March 8, International Women's Day. President Jimmy Carter noted in his message surrounding the inaugural week that "too often… 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." He emphasized that women have always been key components of our country, but their efforts typically remained unknown. Determining that a week was not enough, 14 states had declared a Women's History Month by 1986. Using the support from states as justification, various organizations began lobbying for Congress to expand the nationally recognized holiday, and the legislature took action quickly. Women were granted their month in 1987, and each year, presidents deliver a special proclamation to officially kick off the time period where the past, present, and future of all women are placed at the forefront of society. Though it all seems to be the perfect happy ending, most women continue to face oppression, discrimination, and double standards in their daily lives. Still, the limelight of their dedicated month's platform allows them to remind Americans of the changes that must be made to water the ever-reaching roots of equality.
However, the only women honored are not those concerned with social justice alone. On top of remembering the past, March continues to uplift modern women inspiring those around them. One example of someone highly well-known for empowering other women is Sadie Robertson Huff. She utilizes her platform to witness the love of God to others and urge them to believe in the Gospel. She has written books, runs a podcast, maintains a social media presence, and speaks at conferences regularly. While she focuses on the spiritual side of life as a woman, other female figures have earned a reputation for advocating for mental well-being. For instance, former Olympic gymnast Simone Biles helps others care for themselves and improve by, ironically, discussing why she left behind the sport that characterized so much of her life. Even though she never set out to be an advocate, she serves as a reminder that it's okay to step back to avoid burnout, make choices that benefit yourself regardless of what others say, and rely on the support system around you. Finally, just as important as spirit and mind is the body. Jen Gunter, MD, helps women care for their physical selves by calling out misleading or false claims used to sell women's health products by preying on fear, shame, and lack of education. Though she is lesser known than the previous woman mentioned, she still reaches hundreds of thousands of people. Regardless of the size of one's platform or the message shared, every woman has a unique voice full of potential for helping those around them. In just nine years, what started as a week of celebration in a single county quickly grew into the month of national recognition it is now.
The rapid spreading of this holiday reminds everyone of the impact when all members of society are given a fair chance and equally celebrated for their achievements. While women continue fighting for further equality and credit, the holiday inspires individuals to honor the feminine figures and learn something new about an indispensable global community.