Women’s History Month is an excellent time for genealogists to focus on their female ancestors. The story of how Women’s History Month got started is important to know about.
International Women’s Day was celebrated for the first time on March 19, 1911, in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland. Russian women observed their first International Women’s Day on the last Sunday in February of 1913. Other European countries celebrated International Women’s Day on March 8 of 1914.
In 1975, during International Women’s Year, the United Nations began celebrating International Women’s Day on March 8.
In 1978, the Education Task Force of the Sonoma County (California) Commission on the Status of Women started a “Women’s History Week” celebration. March 8 was selected as the focal point for the celebration because it was International Women’s Day.
By 1979, Molly Murphy MacGregor, a member of the National Women’s History Project, was invited to attend the Women’s History Institute at Sarah Lawerence College. It was chaired by historian Gerda Lerner and attended by the national leaders of organizations for women and girls. After participants learned about Sonoma County’s “Women’s History Week”, they decided to initiate similar celebrations. They also agreed to support an effort to secure a “National Women’s History Week.”
In 1980, President Carter issued the first Presidential Proclamation declaring the Week of March 8, 1980, as National Women’s History Week. Also in 1980, then Representative Barbara Mikulski and Senator Orrin Hatch co-sponsored a Congressional Resolution for National Women’s History Week (which would begin in 1981).
By 1986, 14 states had already declared March as Women’s History Month. The state-by-state action was used as the rational to lobby Congress to declare the entire month of March 1987 as National Women’s History Month in perpetuity. Every year since then, a special Presidential Proclamation is issued that honors the extraordinary achievements of American women.
You can find plenty of information on exhibits relating to Women’s History Month on its official governmental website. Genealogists might want to focus on the list of Historic Newspapers (from the Library of Congress and National Endowment for the Humanities).
They also have a lot of information on women’s voting rights and women’s suffrage. The list includes a selection of Resource Guides from the Library of Congress about specific important American women of history.
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