March Dates in Women's History
by Susan G. Butruille

March is Women's History Month!



March is National Women's History Month
by Susan G. Butruille ©2019
This article appeared in the Wenatchee World March 2, 2019.

Can you name 13 accomplished women from history? Inventors . . . composers . . . artists . . . explorers . . . warriors . . . writers . . . scientists . . . educators . . . pharaohs . . . orchestra conductors . . . athletes . . . politicians . . . revolutionaries . . . peacemakers. Women have been all these things, but U.S. history books still ignore women as history makers, devoting less than 10 percent of content to women and their history. Each March, Women's History Month seeks to set the record straight.

Women's History Month in the U.S. has its roots in a series of marches by thousands of women workers beginning in the 19th century and extending into the next. Women marched for decent working conditions, living wages, and ultimately voting rights in the United States and abroad.

For centuries worldwide, women have marched for justice. In the early 20th century, March 8th became the traditional day to celebrate International Women's Day. Sonoma County, California celebrated the first Women's History Week in 1978, leading to a Congressional declaration of the first National Women's History Week in 1980, and then National Women's History Month in 1987.

The 2019 theme for Women's History Month is "Visionary Women: Champions of Peace and Nonviolence." The National Women's History Project, now the National Women's History Alliance (nationalwomenshistoryalliance.org), annually coordinates the observance. This year's 12 honorees "have devoted their lives to the cause of peace and justice, from opposing nuclear weapons and ending domestic violence to promoting nonviolent action and advocating peaceful co-existence." Among those honored is Zainab Salbi, the Iraqi founder in 1993 of Women For Women International, a humanitarian organization dedicated to women survivors of wars.

  • In addition to Zainab Salbi, here are 12 more accomplished women from my list of 13:

  • Hatshepsut, 15th-century Egyptian pharaoh of the 18th dynasty whose successors attempted to destroy all evidence of her successful reign

  • Jane Addams, founder of the settlement house movement for immigrants, a cofounder of the Women's International League for peace and Freedom, and the first American woman awarded a Nobel Peace Prize. Addams for a time was called "the most dangerous woman in America."

  • Ida Wells Barnett, Black suffragist, activist and journalist who documented lynching, despite having her newspaper's presses torched by her adversaries

  • Hedy Lamarr, Hollywood actor whose beauty overshadowed her brilliance as the co-inventor of a "Secret Communications System" which, after technology caught up with the invention, was extremely useful to the military and to the development of cell phones

  • Ethel Smyth, British composer and champion of female musicians and women's right to vote

  • Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a founder of the American suffrage movement and an author of The Woman's Bible, which challenged traditional religion and drew opposition from mainstream suffragists

  • Dolores Huerta, co-founder and secretary-treasurer of the United Farm Workers and 2012 recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom

  • Leymah Gbowee, who organized women to demand an end to the second Liberian civil war in 2003, one of three African women to win the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize

  • Hypatia, 4th century C.E. pagan head of the Platonist school in Alexandria, inventor, astronomer, mathematician and teacher, murdered by monks as a heretic - a woman who refused to stay in her place

  • Marie Curie, Polish researcher in radioactivity who won two Nobel prizes, in physics and in chemistry

  • Helen Keller, author, lecturer and activist as a suffragist and a socialist who overcame the challenges of being both deaf and blind

  • Sarah Winnemucca, Paiute author and activist who fought the U.S. government to win back her people's lands, and whose statue now represents her state of Nevada in the U.S. Capitol

    As Northwest suffragist, newspaper publisher and Oregon Trail emigrant Abigail Scott Duniway noted, "The young women of today, free to study, to speak, to write, to choose their occupation, should remember that every inch of this freedom was bought for them at a great price. It is for them to show their gratitude by helping onward the reforms of their own times, by spreading the light of freedom and of truth still wider. The debt that each generation owes to the past it must pay to the future."

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