Growing out of a small-town school event in California, Women's History Month is a celebration of women's contributions to history, culture and society. The United States has observed it annually throughout the month of March since 1987. The 2012 theme, “Women’s Education—Women’s Empowerment,” honors pioneering teachers and advocates who helped women and other groups gain access to advanced learning.
More to Explore
American history has been full of pioneering women who made great strides in science, politics, sports and art.
The coming of the Civil War challenged the ideology of Victorian domesticity that had defined the lives of men and women in the antebellum era.
In 1920, American women voted for the first time, thanks to activists such as Susan B. Anthony, Alice Paul and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
American women helped the World War II effort, both in uniform and by joining the industrial workforce.
Did You Know?
To coincide with Women's History Month 2011, the White House issued a 50-year progress report on the status of women in the United States. It found that younger women are now more likely than their male counterparts to hold a college degree and that the number of men and women in the labor force has nearly equalized.
The Origins of Women's History Month
Women’s History Month in the United States grew out of a weeklong celebration of women’s contributions to culture, history and society organized by the school district of Sonoma, California, in 1978. Presentations were given at dozens of schools, hundreds of students participated in a “Real Woman” essay contest and a parade was held in downtown Santa Rosa.
A few years later, the idea had caught on within communities, school districts and organizations across the country. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter issued the first presidential proclamation declaring the week of March 8 as National Women's History Week. The U.S. Congress followed suit the next year, passing a resolution establishing a national celebration. Six years later, the National Women’s History Project successfully petitioned Congress to expand the event to the entire month of March.
Women's History Month 2012
Each year, the National Women’s History Project selects a theme that highlights achievements by distinguished women in specific fields, from medicine and the environment to art and politics. The 2012 theme, “Women’s Education—Women’s Empowerment,” pays tribute to pioneering teachers and advocates who helped women and other groups gain access to advanced learning. Honorees include Emma Hart Willard, a higher education pioneer; Charlotte Forten Grimké, an educator and advocate for the education of African Americans; Annie Sullivan, a disability education architect known for her work with Helen Keller; Gracia Molina de Pick, a feminist educational reformer; and Brenda Flyswithhawks, an American Indian educator.
International Women's Day
International Women’s Day, a global celebration of the economic, political and social achievements of women, took place for the first time on March 8, 1911. Many countries around the world celebrate the holiday with demonstrations, educational initiatives and customs such as presenting women with gifts and flowers. The United Nations has sponsored International Women’s Day since 1975. When adopting its resolution on the observance of International Women's Day, the United Nations General Assembly cited the following reasons: “To recognize the fact that securing peace and social progress and the full enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms require the active participation, equality and development of women; and to acknowledge the contribution of women to the strengthening of international peace and security.” The United Nations’ theme for International Women’s Day 2012, “Empower Rural Women—End Hunger and Poverty,” aims to bring attention to the critical role that rural women play in the global economies of both developing and developed nations.
Women's History Month: Topics of Interest
- Famous Firsts in American Women's History
- The Fight for Women's Suffrage
- Women Who Fought for the Vote
- Women in the Civil War
- American Women in World War II
- American Women in the Vietnam War
- Black Women in Art and Literature
- Black Women in Sports
- Rosie the Riveter
- Eleanor Roosevelt
- Susan B. Anthony
- Sojourner Truth
Fact Check We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, contact us!
This Day in History
At 2:10 p.m., five U.S. Navy Avenger torpedo-bombers comprising Flight 19 take off from the Ft. Lauderdale Naval Air Station in Florida on a routine…
Keep up with the latest History shows, online features, special offers and more.Sign up