WOMEN'S HISTORY MONTH 2023: CELEBRATING WOMEN WHO TELL OUR STORIES
Much like Black History Month, Women's History Month has evolved over its existence. Prior to 1978, there was only March 8th, International Women's Day. To address the near-absence of women's history in K-12 public education and in the culture-at-large, a task force right here in California--Sonoma County, to be exact--established the celebration of Women's History Week around the March 8th day of recognition. This year is the 45th anniversary of the very first Women's History Week.
In 1979, Molly Murphy McGregor, a member of the Sonoma County task force and co-founder of the National Women's History Project, was invited to speak at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, NY. While there, she spoke about the work that had been done back in Sonoma County to establish Women's History Week. The idea caught fire. The women who heard McGregor speak moved quickly to adopt it within their own communities and schools and organizations. These women also agreed to support the pursuit of a national week of awareness and celebration.
The first big leap forward for Women's History Week came just the following year. President Jimmy Carter signed a Presidential Proclamation that designated a week in March 1980 as National Women's History Week. The following year, congressional Reps. Barbara Mikulski and Orrin Hatch co-sponsored a resolution to recognize Women's History Week 1981. Each year, lobbying efforts had to be renewed to maintain the week's status as a national event.
Such high-profile attention, however, aided the National Women's History Alliance (formerly, the National Women's History Project) in the fortification of their platform. It also spurred the creation of curriculum for US public schools. The momentum was only growing.
By 1986, fourteen states had already adopted the entire month of March as Women's History Month. In 1987, not only did Congress officially designate March as National Women's History Month, but Congress also designated it to be so for all time to come, which meant no more annual lobbying efforts.
This year, the National Women's History Alliance, so crucial to the establishment of this celebration of women's history, has chosen "Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories" as the month's theme. It offers us the opportunity to reflect on the collective story of Woman and the individual stories of women. Are we listening? Are we learning? Are we using the hard-earned wisdom and joy of diverse women's stories to forge a path to greater freedom for all women and girls and for all people in our society?
With this theme in mind, let us consider the following two thoughts:
1) There is more than way to tell a story. Whether through the ancient art form of storytelling or the literal writing of poetry, stories, journalistic reports, or scholarly works, whether through painting or sculpting or dancing or filmmaking, whether through teaching, preaching, counseling, leading--women have a great deal to say and a multitude of ways to say it. How might we pursue deeper, wider appreciation of the various ways in which women express the truths they know best?
2) Women's telling of their stories has historically been a very costly, and therefore, a very courageous thing. Patriarchal power has most often required women's silence and obedience in the face of dehumanizing subjugation and abuse. A woman's decision to tell her story in her own words has often been momentous and worthy of special honor. How might we make our corner of the world a safer and more welcoming place for women we know and women we don't to tell their own stories?
The Equity Team proudly lifts up all the women of CV. We see you. We salute your brilliance and your courage. We are listening. The floor is yours.
Let's Think About It!
1) Every generation of women has its leading tellers of women's truths. If you were to recreate the digital card above with the women whose stories have most influenced and inspired you, whose pictures would appear? Why? Consider putting this question and task to CV students. Another approach would be to ask students to create a card bearing the images of women whom they believe have been most influential on 21st century culture.
2) Can you name any of the women on the image above? (Don't stress! Top: Toni Morrison, Maxine Hong Kingston, Jovita Idar, Maya Angelou; Middle: Gerda Lerner, Gloria Steinem, Winona La Duke, Lillian Hellman; Bottom: Betty Soskin, Willa Cather, Gertrude Stein, Marjory Stoneman Douglas) After refreshing your memory of some of these folks and learning about others, with whom would you most want to spend an afternoon discussing the state of our world? Why? Consider asking our students this question. Another approach would be to direct students to select a conversation partner from their own recreation of the card.
3) The women on the card above are actual writers (among other things). However, remembering that there is more than one way to tell a story, name a woman from a field beyond writing whom you consider to be an excellent teller of women's stories. How does this woman's work express women's truths? What do those truths seem to be? What might our students say about this? Consider asking them.
4) This month offers a perfect opportunity to consider the impact of intersectionality on women's stories. How do things like race, culture, religion, geography, socio-economic status, visible disability, invisible disability, education level, language, gender identity, relationship status, skin complexion, sexual orientation, hair texture, body size, and more affect the lives which women live and the stories they have to tell? How have these elements of identity and experience shaped your own life and stories? How about those of women you know? How might our students answer these questions? Consider asking them.