Every year, March is designated Women’s History Month by presidential proclamation. The month is set aside to honor women’s contributions in American history.
Did You Know? Women’s History Month started as Women’s History Week.
Women’s History Month began as a local celebration in Santa Rosa, California. The Education Task Force of the Sonoma County (California) Commission on the Status of Women planned and executed a “Women’s History Week” celebration in 1978. The organizers selected the week of March 8 to correspond with International Women’s Day. The movement spread across the country as other communities initiated their own Women’s History Week celebrations the following year.
In 1980, a consortium of women’s groups and historians — led by the National Women’s History Project (now the National Women's History Alliance) — successfully lobbied for national recognition. In February 1980, President Jimmy Carter issued the first Presidential Proclamation declaring the week of March 8,1980 as National Women’s History Week.
Subsequent Presidents continued to proclaim a National Women’s History Week in March until 1987, when Congress passed Public Law 100-9, designating March as “Women’s History Month.” Between 1988 and 1994, Congress passed additional resolutions requesting and authorizing the President to proclaim March of each year as Women’s History Month. Since 1995, each president has issued an annual proclamations designating the month of March as “Women’s History Month.”
The National Women’s History Alliance selects and publishes the yearly theme. The 2019 Women’s History Month theme is “Visionary Women: Champions of Peace & Nonviolence.” The theme honors "women who have led efforts to end war, violence, and injustice and pioneered the use of nonviolence to change society."
President Jimmy Carter’s Message to the nation designating March 2-8, 1980 as National Women’s History Week is as follows:
“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. As Dr. Gerda Lerner has noted, 'Women’s History is Women’s Right.' It is an essential and indispensable heritage from which we can draw pride, comfort, courage, and long-range vision.
I ask my fellow Americans to recognize this heritage with appropriate activities during National Women’s History Week, March 2-8, 1980. I urge libraries, schools, and community organizations to focus their observances on the leaders who struggled for equality – Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth, Lucy Stone, Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Harriet Tubman, and Alice Paul.
Understanding the true history of our country will help us to comprehend the need for full equality under the law for all our people. This goal can be achieved by ratifying the 27th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which states that 'Equality of Rights under the Law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.' "