The Story Behind Women's History Month

A group of women by Joel Muniz on Unsplash

Since the 1980s, March has been dedicated to Women’s History Month to celebrate the contributions women have made to society throughout history, Ancestry  reported. Everyone has remarkable women in their families worthy of acknowledgement and celebration, and Ancestry can assist with documenting and discovering the impressive, empowering stories hiding in your family tree. Women’s History Month stories are meant to help you highlight the achievements of the women in your past.

But how did Women’s History Month gain traction over the past several decades and become the worldwide celebration it is today? The celebration is loaded with remarkable dates and interesting facts.

Women’s History Month Origins

Women’s History Month was first introduced as Women’s History Week in Santa Rosa, California, in 1978. Organizers chose to hold it in early March to align with International Women’s Day, a global celebration that started on March 8, 1911, when 15,000 women marched through New York City to demand shorter hours, better pay, and voting rights. Although Women’s History Week was not initially intended to be a recurring annual event, communities nationwide began organizing their own celebrations. Many feminist activists and organizations started lobbying to create a National Women’s History Week.

In 1979, the Women’s Action Alliance, an organization founded by Gloria Steinem, Brenda Feigen, and Dorothy Pitman-Hughes, and the Smithsonian Institute co-sponsored a 15-day conference at Sarah Lawrence College to raise awareness about women’s history. Their efforts resulted in President Jimmy Carter’s signing a presidential proclamation in 1980 to declare the week of March 2-8 National Women’s History Week.

In 1987, the National Women’s History Project, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving and celebrating women’s history, led a campaign to have the entire month of March declared National Women’s History Month. The motion was passed by Congress, making Women’s History Month official.

Important Moments in the History of Women’s Rights

When women’s rights are human rights, those at the forefront of the battle become historical heroes and Women’s History Month offers the perfect opportunity to reflect on and honor their contributions. As abolitionists, civil rights leaders, suffragists, labor activists, advocates for reproductive rights, and champions of racial justice and LBGTQI+ rights, women have been on the frontline of the fight for equal rights.

With the overruling of Roe v. Wade in June 2022, this is a battle that is far from over and women across the nation are advocating tirelessly to ensure access to basic reproductive healthcare. The United States’ Women’s History Month is one part of a broader global movement advocating for women’s rights that stretches back several centuries. It has involved many noteworthy moments and continues to this day.

How to Celebrate Women’s History Month

Celebrate Women’s History Month by learning more about the remarkable women in your family. For instance, searching for your mother’s or grandmother’s maiden name may uncover a whole new branch of the family tree you didn’t know about or exploring women’s history with Ancestry can reveal connections to women who shaped history. You can also look up local Women’s History Month events to attend to learn more about the issues impacting women.

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