Suffragettes on the picket line in front of the White House in 1917. Suffragettes fought for the equal right to vote between men and women. Photo provided by Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.
President Ronald Reagan authorized the proclamation of the observance of “National Women’s Week” starting March 7, 1981. However, that week grew, and thus, 1994 brought the passing of the Congressional Bill Pub. L 100-9, declaring March as National Women’s History Month. This was made certain by a group called the National Women’s History Project, a team working towards honoring and celebrating female accomplishments since 1985. Each year following the declaration, Presidents Bush, Clinton, Obama, and Trump have made annual proclamations declaring the continuation of the nationally recognized month.
The purpose of National Women’s Month is to acknowledge women of every age, background, and era for their challenges, accomplishments, and movements toward equality. Presidents will recognize specific outstanding women each year – past honorees have included Rachel Carson Harriet Tubman, Amelia Earhart, and physicist Chien-Shiung Wu. President Trump’s National Women’s Month proclamation was posted to the White House website March 1.
The 2018 International Women’s Day (IWD) will be celebrated on March 8, 2018. This day has been observed as early as the 1900’s, starting with European countries such as Denmark and Austria. In 1908, the United Kingdom’s Women’s Social and Political Union began developing the campaign, through speakers and public events. This was the same year that a march of more than 15,000 women took place in New York City, in favor of safer working conditions and higher wages. 1911 was the official debut of the named day, with observance by Denmark, Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. Presently, IWD is celebrated by millions of women across the globe. There are opportunities to see speakers, and attend local events. Listings can be found on the IWD website. The IWD organization has announced that the 2018 theme is the #PressforProgress. All events, campaign material, and more can be found online.
Observance of National Women’s Month and Day allows for time of reflection of the history of women in the United States and the world, as they overcame challenges including race equality, suffrage, and more. Acknowledging the faults in treatment of women of the past discourages the repetition, ensuring a brighter future for girls.
This month is about celebration, but also about the push towards equality. This means that in addition to cheering on female sisters, it is very important to extend the celebration to encompassing transgender women as well. Trans-inclusivity was initially excluded from the feminist movement in the 1970’s, but activists such as Marsha P. Johnson, who fought for equality during the Stonewall riots, or Miss Major, who strives for equality for trans people of color, have pushed the feminist movement towards expanding its range of inclusivity.
The City of Austin offers several events to celebrate National Women’s Month. Austin Public Libraries will offer an evening of women’s history presentations by the Austin History Center on March 27.