In the Western world, women have held the right to vote since the late 1920s. Even then, those rights were only distributed to white women; women of colour were not granted the right to vote until the late 1960s. The movement, formally known as the Suffragette Movement, began in the late 19th and very early 20th century. The Suffragette Movement fought for women to gain the lawful right to be recognised as equal, and therefore hold the ability to vote.
Prior to this movement, a woman’s ability to live her life legally without the aid of a man was incredibly slim and dehumanizing. After gaining the right to vote in the first wave of feminism, women continued to push for equality. Throughout the second wave, women argued for greater recognition of their contributions to society. Despite the lawful recognition of women occurring only within the last one hundred years, women have been contributing to the narrative of history since the beginning of time.
Women’s History Month, a globally recognised event, celebrates the contributions of women to historical events and contemporary society. The recognised month-long celebration originated in Santa Rosa, California. In 1978, the Education Task Force of the Sonoma County Commission planned and executed an event called ‘Women’s History Week’. Only a year prior did the UN recognize International Women’s Day (8th March) for the first time.
In 1980, the National Women’s History Project successfully lobbied for national recognition, after the event in Santa Rosa had gained traction in previous years. President Jimmy Carter issued the first Presidential Proclamation of Women’s History Week in February of that year for the succeeding month to coincide with International Women’s Day. The following year, in 1981, the United States Congress passed Pub. L. 97-28 which, “authorized and requested the President to proclaim the week beginning 8 March 1982 as ‘Women’s History Week’”. By 1987, Congress passed Pub. L. 100-9 which, “designated the month of March 1987 as ‘Women’s History Month’”. Since 1995, the President of the United States has issued proclamations annually designating the month of March as “Women’s History Month”, recognising and celebrating the contributions and achievements of women throughout American history. Other countries have been slower to adopt this annual celebration, however, the speed and intensity are increasing.
Each year, the National Women’s History Project declares a theme, all of which can be noted here along with the presidential proclamations. The National Women’s History Project and International Women’s Day committees spearhead the celebrations and themes. Each country that recognises Women’s History Month typically celebrates and teaches about the women that are specific to their own history. This years’ theme is a continuation from 2020, “Valiant Women of the Vote: Refusing to Be Silenced”. For educational purposes, having a theme is important as it allows for the creation of exhibits and specific topics regarding women’s history to be explored in depth.
For example, museums such as the Royal Museums Greenwich in London, England, are celebrating Women’s History Month with a digital collection highlighting some of the important roles women played in British history. The BBC have also put together a collection of digital teaching resources this year for youth to learn about the significance of women in British history, and the overall importance of Women’s History Month. Lastly, History.com has created an excellent collection examining the importance of celebration, some key players, and an extensive photo gallery of women who have historical significance.
For more information on International Women’s Day, Women’s History Month, the Suffragette Movement, please visit:
 National Women’s History Museum, “Women’s History Month”, https://www.womenshistory.org/womens-history/womens-history-month.