Why March is for Women

Art/Art/Liana Cervantes

Art/Art/Liana Cervantes

Editor’s Note: This article was written by past Defiant writer, Mari Kramer.

Women’s history has often been overlooked by school curricula and the general public. In response, the Sonoma County Commission on the Status of Women celebrated Women’s History Week in 1978, planned around International Women’s Day.

International Women’s Day was first celebrated on March 8, 1911. The United Nations has sponsored this holiday since 1975 in order to “recognize the fact that securing peace and social progress and the full enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms require the active participation, equality and development of women; and to acknowledge the contribution of women to the strengthening of international peace and security.”

Sonoma County’s original week-long celebration was well-received, with dozens of schools putting on special programs in response. Women in the community gave presentations across the country and an essay contest garnered hundreds of entries before a parade closed out the festivities.

In February 1980, Jimmy Carter issued the first presidential proclamation declaring the week of March 8th as National Women’s History Week. Soon after, Representative Barbara Mikulski and Senator Orrin Hatch demonstrated political support by sponsoring a resolution to celebrate again the following year.

Across the nation, states began to encourage a week-long celebration in March as an effective means of achieving equity in the classroom. Within a few years, thousands of schools and communities were celebrating, encouraged by local, state, and national governments and organizations. But, each year, lobbying efforts had to be renewed in order to see widespread celebration.

By 1986, 14 states had deemed March as Women’s History Month and Congress permanently declared it a national celebration the following year. To this day, a presidential proclamation is issued each March honoring the extraordinary achievements of American women.

This year’s theme, as designated by the National Women’s History Alliance, is Visionary Women: Champions of Peace & Nonviolence. As we enter the month of March, it’s important to recognize the women that have shaped our history, especially those who have long been unwritten from it. And, as we look back on Black History Month, it is especially important to remember the contributions of women of color and the hard work we must put forth to better understand, support, recognize, and celebrate all women.