3 Things Most People Don't Know About Women's History Month
It's not about equality or women's rights
Theresa Malkiel was a 35 year old garment worker when she got a crazy idea and published it in a daily newspaper.
She said Feb 23, 1909 was the very first “National Women’s Day” and asked readers to meet her on 34th Street.
She made that up. There was no nationally declared holiday.
Pulled it right out of her backside.
As a garment worker, she was sick to death of the dangeous working conditions and lousy pay she got because she was a working woman at the turn of the century. She’d been moonlighting as a writer for a while. An early suffragist, screaming for equality and fair working conditions for women.
2000 people showed up.
That’s not what women’s history month is about.
Yes, suffrage is part of womens’ collective history.
But it’s not what Women’s History Month is about.
It’s not a Hallmark moment, either…
Did you know there are cards? They get it wrong, too.
Some people think “Women’s Day” and Women’s History month is about empowering women. Yay girl power. Women can do anything!
Nevermind that all those slogans are gender biased to begin with. You think little girls are too dumb to notice that boys don’t wear “boy power” and “boys can do anything” shirts? God save me from the SHE-E-O squad.
March isn’t about equality or woman power, either. Sorry.
We’ve been celebrating Women’s History month since 1980 and even women don’t know what it’s about.
Maybe that’s why we celebrate?
1. It’s not a celebration, it’s an apology
Women’s history month started as “Women’s History Week” in Santa Rosa, California in 1978. They started lobbying to make it nationally recognized.
In Feb.1980, President Jimmy Carter issued a Presidential Proclamation. The Week of March 8th 1980 would be National Women’s History Week!
Here’s what he said.
“From the first settlers who came to our shores, from the first American Indian familied who befriended them, men and women have worked together to build this nation. Too often, 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.”
— President Jimmy Carter (source)
It was not a celebration of women.
It was an apology. For writing us out of history.
Like Rosalind Franklin who discovered the double-helix structure of DNA only to have two men take credit and win the Nobel Prize for her work.
Like Lise Meitner who discovered nuclear fission, only to have Otto Hahn remove her name from the paper and win the 1944 prize in chemistry from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. For her work.
To all the women who invented stuff you don’t even know about.
Alice Parker who invented central heat.
Margaret Wilcox, who invented car heaters.
Florence Parpart, who invented the electric refrigerator.
Melitta Benz who invented the coffee filtration system and was a woman before she was brand.
Without a bunch of women, man would not have walked on the moon and every vaccine is injected with a syringe invented by Letitia Geer. All those and more. Women who invented stuff and changed the world with their work but weren’t credited or taught in history classes.
It was an apology. For erasing women’s from history.
2. It must be sanctioned by a man. Every year.
For seven years after Carter’s Presidential Proclamation, Women’s History Week was a week. Not a month.
Seven years later, in 1987, Congress passed Public Law 100–9, designating every March as “Women’s History Month.”
But like Goldilocks porridge, that wasn’t quite right.
Didn’t quite sit right with Congress.
So Congress passed a few extra resolutions until they got it right.
In 1994, they finally got it just right. Every year, the President would sit at his big desk in the Oval office and sign a document proclaiming that March will be women’s history month again.
“Between 1988 and 1994, Congress passed additional resolutions requesting and authorizing the President to proclaim March of each year as Women’s History Month” (source)
Yup, even Donald Trump who crowed about grabbing “kitty” because he can — he gave us permission to “have” Women’s History month.
Every year, we celebrate Women’s History Month in America because the man in the big office gives his permission.
Oh, the irony.
3. Women’s History month is proof of inequality
At Harvard, there’s an office for equity, diversity, inclusion and belonging. The acronym they use is OEDIB. They publish a list of heritage months.
February: Black History Month
March: Women’s History Month
May: Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month
June: Pride Month
July: Disability Pride Month
September: Latinx Heritage Month
October: LGBTQ+ History Month
November: Native American Heritage Month
Please understand that I’m not crapping on any minority. A human is a human and should be treated equally.
That said, most minorities are minorities. Indigenous people comprise 6% of the world’s population. Black people comprise almost 25% of the world’s population. Does that mean they should be discriminated against for not being white? No. Absolutely not. That’s ridiculous. People are people.
But women? We’re half the damn world.
50.5% of Americans are female. Women and girls.
49.6% of the world is female. Women and girls.
It’s 2023. Why aren’t little girls taught that women invented chemotherapy, computers, CRISPR gene editing, electric water heaters, electron microscopy, fire escapes, globes, home security, immunosuppressive drugs, laser cataract surgery, and the birth control pill.
Why aren’t little girls taught that women invented both the Space rocket propulsion system and the Hydyne rocket fuel that put men into space?
And for the alpha males out there, women also invented beer and the refridgerator that keeps your damn sandwich cold.
But hey, why teach this to our children? Much easier to buy our little princesses a bright pink “girl power” tshirt and tell her she can do anything, right?
Did you know?
Every year, Women’s History Month has a theme. The theme this year is women who tell our stories. I will be highlighting some women who write about women’s issues this month. If you know any that deserve a shoutout, leave a comment and let me know.
More Women’s History Month Posts on Medium
Women’s Day Is Not A Frigging Hallmark Moment. Go Ask Alice.
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I really hope the next president to declare March as Women's History Month will be a woman. That would give it meaning.
These months are often used as a "band aid" to say "You are seen" until someone decides "We have had enough" as in Florida.
I wonder:Why aren't we taught comprehensive history. As in war, it is written by the victors or dominant group, selectively chosen to maintain their views of themselves and consolidate their power.