When we hear the often-used quote “Well behaved women seldom make history” it is often attributed to famous women such as Eleanor Roosevelt or Marilyn Monroe. However, the quote is actually from Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, a Pulitzer Prize winning historian who studies early America and the history of women.
As we celebrate women’s history month in March, it is important to take time to recognize and learn about the women who have shaped the course of history and make sure their names are not forgotten.
The History of Women’s History Month
It was only in recent history that the United States designated March as Women’s History Month. Molly Murphy MacGregor, Executive Director and Co-founder of the National Women’s History Project, gives a brief background of this very recent history on the NWHP website. In 1978, the Education Task Force of the Sonoma County Commission on the Statues of Women in California proclaimed “Women’s History Week” on the week of March 8th to coincide with International Women’s Day. Women’s History Week gained momentum around the country, including support for an effort to start a “National Women’s History Week.”
In 1980, President Carter issued the first Presidential Proclamation recognizing Women’s History Week, and then Representative Barbara Mikulski and Senator Orrin Hatch co-sponsored a Congressional Resolution for National Women’s History Week the following year. Five years later, 14 states had declared March as Women’s History Month adding to the momentum to have a federally-recognized status. In 1987, Congress declared that March would be National Women’s History Month in perpetuity. Each year, there is a special Presidential Proclamation to honor and recognize the achievements of American women, and a number of federally-funded museums and institutions help to celebrate each year.
This Year’s Theme: “Nevertheless, She Persisted”
Each year, Women’s History Month organizers choose a theme that encapsulates how women – both past and present – address structural barriers. This year, the National Women’s History Project is recognizing 15 women “for their unrelenting and inspirational persistence, and for understanding that, by fighting all forms of discrimination against women and girls, they have shaped America’s history and our future.” The 2018 honorees are women who embody the perseverance required to fight for a wide range of issues, spanning from criminal justice reform, to education equality, to immigrant rights.