How a School Project Turned Into Women's History Month

It all began back in the late '70s in California.

In 1978, a school district in Sonoma, California, organized a Women’s History Week as a way to teach children about some of the important women who made an impact on the world. These students and teachers had no idea their presentations of essays, poster boards, and a parade of school children would turn into a national month-long celebration, but it did. Annually, schools, organizations, and communities around the country use the month of March to honor the influential women who have helped shape our world today.

As you prepare to celebrate the 34th annual Women’s History Month, take inspiration from the origins of the holiday and look for ways you can support or celebrate women's accomplishments in your own community. Whether that's encouraging other women in your workplace or volunteering with an educational program for girls, women supporting women is what it's all about.

Suffragettes of the National Woman's Party
FPG/Getty Images

The Story Behind Women’s History Month

Two years after the Women’s History Week celebration in California, President Jimmy Carter proclaimed a National Women’s History Week during the week of March 8, 1980. When he announced the proclamation, he said, “Too often the women were unsung and sometimes their contributions went unnoticed. But the achievements, leadership, courage, strength, and love of the women who built America were as vital as that of the men whose names we know so well.”

On March 12, 1987, Congress passed legislation designating the month of March 1987 as Women's History Month.

As communities around the country adopted Women’s History Week celebrations, many areas found that one week just wasn’t enough. By 1986, fourteen states had declared their own month-long celebrations of women’s history, and in 1987 the National Women’s History Project (now known as the National Women’s History Alliance) asked Congress to declare an official Women’s History Month. On March 12, 1987, Congress passed legislation designating the month of March 1987 as Women's History Month. Between 1988 and 1994, Congress also passed resolutions authorizing future presidents to proclaim the month of March as Women’s History Month. Since this legislation was passed, every president has issued an annual proclamation for the month of March.

This Year's Theme

Since there are millions of women worth celebrating, the National Women’s History Alliance (NWHA) chooses a theme each year and selects featured honorees who have advanced the world for women within that category. The 2022 theme is “Providing Healing, Promoting Hope." The theme pays tribute to the frontline workers, healthcare providers, and other caregivers who have given their services during the past several years of the pandemic.

"The 2022 theme proudly honors those who, in both public and private life, provide healing and promote hope for the betterment of all," the NWHA explains on their website.

Oftentimes, the NWHA selects national honorees that fit the theme, but this year they're taking a different route: Rather than name national honorees, the NWHA asks that you use the theme to honor women in your own communities that are working to provide care for others during this time. Write thank you notes to local female healthcare workers, drop off a meal or snack box for nurses and doctors, or reach out to a woman you know to personally thank her for the work she does.

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