The idea of celebrating the achievements of women in the U.S. for an entire month sprang from the recognition of International Women’s Day on March 8th. In 1978, a group called the Education Task Force of the Sonoma County (California) Commission on the Status of Women began the work of recognizing women’s history for a week. They picked the seven days around March 8th and called the event Women’s History Week. By February 1980, President Jimmy Carter formally recognized this week in a presidential proclamation. In a speech regarding the proclamation, Carter said,
“From the first settlers who came to our shores, from the first American Indian families who befriended them, men and women have worked together to build this nation. 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 was as vital as that of the men whose names we know so well.”
Many educators were enthusiastic about including women’s history in their curriculum, to help promote gender equality in the classroom. Six years after the proclamation, 14 states had extended their curriculum to include the whole month of March. The following year, in 1987, Congress declared March to be National Women’s History Month.
This week, we are looking at some of the women who have had prominent leadership roles in recent U.S. History: