Each time a girl opens a book and reads a womanless history, she learns she is worth less. – Myra Pollack Sadker
March is Women’s History Month. How we arrived to setting aside this month to highlight women’s contributions in history is a 34 year road. Longer if we consider that International Women’s Day began in 1911 in Europe.
The purpose of Women’s History Month is to increase consciousness and knowledge of women’s history: to take one month of the year to remember the contributions of notable women, in hopes that the day will soon come when it’s impossible to teach or learn history without remembering these contributions.
Recognizing the achievements of women in all facets of life – science, community, government, literature, art, sports, medicine – has a huge impact on the development of self-respect and new opportunities for girls and young women.
Most of us who attended high school and college in the early 80’s until present or have children in school easily recognize some of the most notable achievements that are highlighted during this month.
But how do we, as ‘non-famous’ ordinary everyday men and women fit into women’s history?
In our own lives, we can make women’s histories personal. We have a huge resource in our own families. This month can be a time when we discover the stories about our own mothers, grandmothers, and great grandmothers.
In turn we share our discoveries with our children so they can better understand their lives, the challenges they faced, and who they are as a result. We can easily start these conversations (okay, maybe there will be an eye roll or two when we start talking about grandma’s day) with our kids. And which kid doesn’t enjoy asking his/her parent about how life was without PC’s in every home or a cell phone. Recognizing the strength and accomplishments of women in our own families and those from other backgrounds leads to higher self-esteem among girls and greater respect among boys and men.
A multi-cultural perspective is also important to pass onto our children.
An extensive selection of women
in the military, Civil War, Science, and Politics can be found in the National Archives. An interesting article on Native American
women’s contributions in women’s history, written by Denise Oliver Velez, goes beyond Sacajawea. This article on five Latina
contributions describes authors, activists, and artists. Huffington Post lists more achievements by Latinas.
In the blog “Race Relations,” the entire month is devoted to remembering women of color.
I hope your children have WHM events in their schools. Take a few minutes to talk with them about what they’ve learned about women’s contributions. And sometime this week, sit down and tell them your own stories, your mother’s stories, or her mother’s stories. Let them hear about adversities, their values, and the triumphs of women who are important to them every day not just one month out of the year.