March is a notable month for women throughout the course of United States history, but the fight for a National Women's History Month was a long one.
For those curious about why we celebrate National Women's History Month in March, the answer lies in history (although a little bit of it can be chalked up to coincidence as well). While the month is celebrated across the nation, it is also Women's History Month in the United Kingdom and Australia. In Canada, however, it is celebrated in October. Here is how the month came to be in the United States.
Origins: Women's History Week
The origins of Women's History Month begin with a single day: International Women's Day, which is celebrated every year on March 8. The occasion has been observed across the world in some way, shape, or form ever since the year 1911, CNN reports. Nonetheless, it was only officially commemorated by the United Nations in 1975. The global organization formally recognized the holiday two years later, in 1977. During the 1970s, local groups and municipalities chose to extend the day-long celebrations and eventually began celebrating Women's History Week. As per the National Women's History Museum, one of the most memorable events took place in Santa Rosa, California, where the Education Task Force of the Sonoma County Commission on the Status of Women planned and executed a Women’s History Week celebration in 1978. The event coincided with International Women's Day. Observing the success of the celebration, similar events took place around the nation. Several local communities organized their own Women's History Week celebrations the following year. In fact, folks began lobbying for a more formal recognition of the week-long affair. Then, in 1980, President Jimmy Carter designated the first official National Women's History Week, beginning on March 8 of that year.
States Push for Month-Long Celebrations
Soon enough, schools, governments, and other organizations came to realize that having more time to look at women's history gave them the opportunity to more critically evaluate the opportunities women had and the challenges they faced, in addition to celebrating the achievements of women. It also meant these institutions had more time to educate people about women's history. From there on, it did not take long for the celebrations to take place over a whole month rather than just over the course of a single week.
Up until the year 1986, states across the country declaring the whole month of March as Women's History Month. A national movement gained traction. In the year that followed, Congress finally declared March 1987 as the first official Women's History Month.
In addition to these celebrations, March holds several important milestones for women. For instance, Title IX, which criminalizes gender discrimination in all federally funded education programs, was passed by the Senate on March 1, 1972. It became law later that year. Furthermore, although it is yet to be fully ratified, the Equal Rights Amendment, a constitutional amendment that guarantees rights regardless of gender (above and beyond those assured by the 19th Amendment), passed in the Senate on March 22, 1972. Finally, two significant women's suffrage events took place in March: the first major suffragist parade took place in Washington, DC, on March 3, 1913, and the National Woman's Party, a political group dedicated to women's suffrage, was formed in March 1917.