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.
Origins: 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.
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.
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.