Celebrating Women’s History Month From 1978 to Now

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UNC School of Medicine

A picture from UNC School of Medicine. This is a drawing for Women’s History Month showing a diverse group of women. It represents the many types of women around the world who are appreciated this month.

Marin Durkee

Women’s history is a women’s right — an essential, indispensable heritage from which we can draw pride, comfort, courage, and long-range vision.”

— Gerda Lerner, women’s history author and activist

As Women’s History Month is coming to an end, it is important to learn about the origins of Women’s History Month. In 1978, Women’s History Week started as a small celebration in Sonoma County, California, where a local Education Task Force, a group of women led by Molly Murphy McGregor (a local teacher in Santa Rosa), decided to make the week of March 8 (International Women’s Day) Women’s History Celebration Week. It started out as a small celebration and was not planned to return as an annual event. However, former President Jimmy Carter contacted the Education Task Force with interest in what they were doing. In 1980, Carter proclaimed the week of March 8 as National Women’s History Week. In 1982, after pressure from female activists, President Ronald Reagan made the week of March 8 annual National Women’s Week.  

Women like Gerda Lerner and the National Women’s History Project/Alliance petitioned for Women’s History Week to become a designated month in 1987. Their efforts worked, and that year, America had its first National Women’s History Month (WHM). But it was not until 1988-1994 that Congress requested and authorized WHM to be annually recognized in the month of March. In 1995, people started celebrating and acknowledging women during Women’s History Month.

Women’s History Month is not just celebrated in the United States. It is also celebrated in the United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada (Canada celebrates in October). In the U.S., it is a month dedicated to recognize and honor women’s contributions to American history. We celebrate the month, week, and day as a time to recognize influential women in history and our lives. Throughout history, women and their inventions/contributions have been put in the shadows. Lots of things created by women were credited to men. Even in 2021 women are not given an equal chance in the world, as shown through a survey taken in the UK that found that 97 percent of women from ages 18-24 have experienced sexual harassment.

Women’s History Month is celebrated by the media and individuals in different ways.  On social media, many people repost posts about women’s history, post about women in their own lives they appreciate and take time to bring attention to women’s issues around the world. Many like to educate themselves about female writers, artists, companies, and musicians. Schools bring in female speakers to talk to students about their experiences and lives. Most people, however, simply like to appreciate the women in their lives and to learn about those who came before them.

If you are interested in learning more about impactful women, check out @middletongirlup on Instagram.  Girl Up is a club in many high schools around the world that is represented by the United Nations.  Girl Up was started as a way to teach students about important women and the difference they have made and to inspire the younger generation to do the same. Women’s History Month is an awesome time to really appreciate the women in our lives. It is so important to support each other in the world, especially the women of our past, present, and future to create a better, more equal world for everyone.