I went to college in the early 1980’s. At that time, I majored in History and English and experienced a new wave in the study of history with the inclusion of the history of “common man”. The days of researching “Great Men’s” history – it seems, had eclipsed much of the truth of an accurate historical experience. So, instead of another course devoted to George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin (and the like), I read excerpts from the journals of gentlemen farmers, tradesmen, trappers – ordinary men. Even at this, I was fairly certain that part of the story was still missing. My studies – so far – depicted a fictional world in which the universe revolved around men and somewhere behind them, was a “good woman.”
Then, in 1983 – I took a course entitled “Women’s History”. This was the first time in my relatively, young life that I understood feminism, that I understood the need for a designated history class and a more deliberate course of study; that equality shares an inextricable link with an accurate and complete knowledge of history. It was only five years earlier – in 1978 – that a group of women from Sonoma, California held a Women’s History Week celebration. In 1979, Sarah Lawrence College began its Women’s History Institute and while in its first year – the participants decided to work together to create a “National Women’s History Week”. President Jimmy Carter (1980) issued the first Presidential Proclamation to identify the week of March 8th – as National Women’s History Week. By 1987 – and after much lobbying – Congress declared March as National Women’s History Month.
Following university, I worked for 30 years in various human and social services fields – always sticking close to advocacy and social change – and also continued to study women’s history. Then, nearly a decade ago, I finally caught-on to the fact that women had led, supported, or expanded upon every social change movement in our nation’s history. We have all heard the old adage – “Why fix it if it ain’t broke?” And for half our population – it wasn’t broke. And while no one believed that the recognition of a month dedicated to women’s history would prove a panacea for all of society’s inequities, it certainly has proven a way to educate young women and young men to the possibilities of life and to move us one step closer to achieving equal status.
In 1995, at the United Nations Women’s Conference, then First Lady Hilary Clinton stated, “If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference, let it be that human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights – once and for all.” In the nearly two decades since Beijing, Clinton said, “no country in the world has achieved full participation, and women and girls still comprise the majority of the world’s unhealthy, unfed and unpaid…When women succeed the world succeeds. When women and girls thrive, entire societies thrive. Just as women’s rights are human rights, women’s progress is human progress.” Then, therefore, women’s history is human history. But until the entire story is told in one volume, let’s dedicate ourselves to learn more about women’s history to influence our future history. Peace!
Here are some useful links to learning something new about women’s history: