Today, March 8, is International Women’s Day. Moreover, the entire month of March has been designated as Women’s History Month. As one can discern from the foregoing, the purpose of IWD and WHM is to recognize and honor the contributions of women to society in various countries throughout history and to promote gender equality. This year, the focus is on women in the workplace.
The first WHM took place in 1911. Over the years the celebration was expanded to encompass the entire week of March 8. In 1980 President Carter issued a proclamation designating the month of March as WHM. Over the next several years various states followed suit. Finally, in 1987 Congress formally designated March as WHM, and it became an annual event.
In my opinion women have not yet achieved gender equality, but, to paraphrase that old slogan, “they’ve come a long way” from the days, only a couple of generations ago, when society believed “a woman’s place was in the home.” For example, according to a study by Statistica beginning in 2014 a higher percentage of women than men have completed four years of college. In 2016 the percentage was 33.7% for women, slightly ahead of men. Furthermore, women have been increasingly making their mark in all fields of endeavor, including business, finance, entertainment and politics.
Women who graduated college in the 1970s and earlier basically had three career paths: nurse, teacher and secretary. I remember one of my high school teachers disparagingly telling a group of girls in my class that the college degree for them was “MRS.” Today, for example, women are attending law school and medical school in record numbers. Moreover, 20% of the members of Congress are female (106 of 535).
Quiz question: the first female was elected to Congress in 1916 from the State of Montana. She was a pacifist, a women’s rights advocate, and an isolationist and in 1941 was the only member of Congress to vote against the declaration of war against Japan after they had bombed Pearl Harbor. Who was she? See below.
Below please find a brief thumbnail sketch of some of the women who, throughout history, have exemplified the spirit of WHM. Some are famous; others are known only to students of history.
- Eleanor Roosevelt – Former First Lady, social activist.
- Sojourner Truth – Born a slave named Isabella circa 1775, escaped to the North in 1827, could not read or write, but was a very effective speaker, travelled throughout the US preaching abolition, temperance and women’s rights.
- Rosa Parks – Arguably ignited the modern civil rights movement when she refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white man.
- Susan B. Anthony – leading 19th century advocate for women’s suffrage.
- Elizabeth Cady Stanton – leading 19th century activist for women’s suffrage and abolitionist.
Below please find some inspiration quotes by leading women:
- “We still think of a powerful man as a born leader and a powerful woman as an anomaly.” – Margaret Atwood
- “I was surrounded by extraordinary women in my life who taught me about quiet strength and dignity.” – Michelle Obama
- “I just love bossy women. …To me, bossy is not a pejorative term. It means somebody’s passionate and engaged and ambitious and doesn’t mind learning.” – Amy Poehler
- “I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.” – Rosa Parks
- “I don’t want other people to decide who I am. I want to decide that for myself.” – Emma Watson
- “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” – Alice Walker (Pulitzer Prize-winning author- The Color Purple)
Quiz answer: Jeanette Rankin