It’s Women’s History Month
March 31, 2022
March is Women’s History Month.
It’s difficult to figure out what to write. Women have made great strides in recent decades. However, so much remains to be done. And, what needs to be undertaken now and going forward so that women are include in the history of the United States and the world?
I remember studying the Great Depression at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, in the 1970s. One of the required reading books was on the Populist Movement of the 1890s. It was all about men – farmers, producers, and landowners. It was like women didn’t exist.
Maybe there weren’t any women leaders in the movement. But, they were working on farms, making homes, and taking care of their husbands and children. It was one of the strangest books I’ve ever read. It was like women didn’t exist. And for many history books, that’s how they were written.
This year’s theme for Women’s History Month is “Women Providing Healing, Promoting Hope.”
To mark the history month, President Joe Biden said in a proclamation:
Every March, Women’s History Month provides an opportunity to honor the generations of trailblazing women and girls who have built our nation, shaped our progress, and strengthened our character as a people.
Throughout our history, despite hardship, exclusion, and discrimination, women have strived and sacrificed for equity and equality in communities across the country. Generations of Native American women were stewards of the land and continue to lead the fight for climate justice. Black women fought to end slavery, advocate for civil rights, and pass the Voting Rights Act. Suffragists helped pass the 19th Amendment to the Constitution so that no American could be denied a vote on the basis of sex.
Standing on the shoulders of the heroines who came before them, today’s women and girls continue to carry forward the mission of ensuring our daughters have the same opportunities as our sons. Women of the labor movement are achieving monumental reforms to help all workers secure the better pay, benefits, and safety they deserve. LGBTQI+ women and girls are leading the fight for justice, opportunity, and equality – especially for the transgender community. Women and girls continue to lead groundbreaking civil rights movements for social justice and freedom, so that everyone can realize the full promise of America.
But despite the progress being made, women and girls – especially women and girls of color – still face systemic barriers to full participation and wider gaps in opportunity and equality. The covid-19 pandemic has exposed and exacerbated those disparities which have disproportionately impacted women’s labor force participation, multiplied the burden on paid and unpaid caregivers, and increased rates of gender-based violence.
Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi said:
During Women’s History Month, Americans reflect on the generations of women whose courage, relentlessness and patriotism have helped write our nation’s story. At every stage of our history, the ambitions and voices of women have weathered extraordinary adversity to fight for our rights and move America closer to realizing its greatest ideals. Today, Americans stand on the shoulders of trailblazing pioneers and everyday heroes alike, and we honor their legacy by reaffirming a simple truth: when women succeed, America succeeds.
While Americans celebrate the progress of the past, we also recognize the inequities that continue to plague our society: from pay inequality and workplace discrimination to rising maternal deaths, particularly among Black and Hispanic women.
Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said:
During Women’s History Month at HHS, we honor the contributions women have made in shaping our country and our health care and human services systems. This year’s theme, ‘Women Providing Healing, Promoting Hope,’ shines a light on the critical role that women caregivers and health care workers play every day in our lives. This is especially true during the pandemic where many women are serving on the frontlines while often juggling the challenges of parenting and child care. In particular, to the selfless women serving in our health care workforce: I see you, I hear you, and we at HHS are doing everything we can to support and help you.
During Women’s History Month as we reflect on the achievements of women throughout history and pay tribute to the those who have accomplished so much, let’s take action get women’s stories more adequately represented in history.
For information on how Women’s History Month came about, take a look at this video:
Update: See the comments below for links about women who were leaders in the Populist Movement of the 1890s.
There were at least a few including at leaset one in the PNW, even if the description I've linked to is somewhat dismissive of one woman populist's activities: https://www.kshs.org/kansapedia/mary-elizabeth-lease/12128
A populist in the PNW was Laura Hall Peters (Washington) https://www.jstor.org/stable/40490746 if you look at this list of texts/references for a college level course in Women & Populism, you'll also see listed populist Mary A. Wright, of Idaho (elected to the ID state legislature), and Eva McDonald Valesh of Minnesota, populist, listed. https://courses.missouristate.edu/bobmiller/Populism/texts/Documents/Bibliography/women_and_populism.htm
I don't think it's that women weren't active in the public arena, or, as shown above that once they won the right to vote, to be elected to public office, that they weren't elected. It's that historians (usually male until relatively recently) weren't interested in doing research or writing about them. Just like I never learned (in school) about women who filed & proved homestead claims in the US, I learned it as an adult 20's & 30's) through reading widely in history and some PhD. theses that were later published (or about the first --self-made--woman millionaire in the US: Madam C. J. Walker, until I read a biography about her maybe 20 years ago). Way too often, women & their achievements, are omitted from "official" US history, whether they were politically active, successful businesswomen, or scientists (particularly black women scientists & mathematicians) & elsewhere as well. It was so often more difficult for them to get the education they needed and wanted, to be hired, paid a living wage, and given credit for their work. All are still a problem, at least in the US, I don't know about about attitudes & pay, etc. for women in the UK, EU nations, southeast Asia, etc. to have an opinion, although I certainly noticed former German chancellor Chancellor of Germany, got a PhD in 1986 (apparently while living in East Germany, before unification) and worked as a research scientist before entering politics "in the wake of" the "Revolutions of 1989. Seems like the US has lagged western Europe, the UK, India (and Burma & Argentina) in that respect.
Posted by: azure | April 01, 2022 at 05:07 PM
Hi azure, thanks for the references. Very interesting reading. The book I read on the Populist Movement stick with me through the years. It was written like there weren't any women in the world. Your references show there were women leaders in the movement. Thanks for taking the time to write about this topic.
Posted by: Rita | April 01, 2022 at 10:19 PM