This month marks National Women’s History Month, where businesses, organizations, groups, and individuals around the United States are celebrating amazing accomplishments that women have made throughout history — and will continue to make in the future.
So how did Women’s History Month begin? According to the National Women’s History Project, women’s history was completely missing from K-12 curriculum and public knowledge in the 1970’s. To find a solution, the Education Task Force and the Sonoma County Commission on the Status of Women created a “Women’s History Week” in 1978. The celebration was very successful, and included special presentations and programs honoring women throughout history. In 1980, President Carter officially declared the week of March 8th at Women’s National History Week.
As word spread, state departments of education began celebrating as well, and soon governors, city councils, and school boards were lobbying for the week each year. With so much support behind the cause, Congress officially declared the entire month of March as National Women’s History Month in 1987.
Year after year, awareness and support of Women’s National History Month has continued to grow, and many colleges and universities have joined in on the movement, holding events, presentations, and celebrations to honor and inform students on women’s history.
When integrated with educational institutions, women’s history programs and celebrations can have a huge impact on this generation and generations to come. So what’s the best way for a college or university to honor Women’s History Month (WHM)? We rounded up a six examples of colleges and universities across the US that are ensuring women’s voices from the past – and present – are heard.
Hold a conference
The City College of New York (CUNY) is celebrating WHM with a variety of events and activities that revolve around female empowerment and activism. One of their events includes their “I Am Women Conference 2018”, where a panel of women will speak to the college community about financial freedom, mental health awareness, domestic violence awareness and more. CUNY’s conference is a great example of how colleges can celebrate women’s history by supporting the female generations of today and ensuring they are equipped with the resources to succeed.
Create a theme for events
For WHM, Hartwick College planned a series of events around a central theme, “Nevertheless She Persisted: Honoring Women Who Fight All Forms of Discrimination Against Women”. By utilizing a central theme, Hartwick College was able to create a variety of impactful discussions and panels that focused on women’s experiences, battling stigma, and facing adversity. The month-long programming also includes an awards ceremony, celebrating contributions by women at Hartwick College.
Showcase lost work from women through history
Kennedy Library, the library of Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, has been working to digitize archives and collections from the past. In honor of WHM, they shared a special collection called “The Women’s Zine Collection”. This collection was donated to the Special Collections and Archives department, and showcases 160 works from women thought-leaders of the past. Topics include things like feminism, sexuality, religion, personal experience, and more.
A zine is typically a small, self-published work that is reproduced through a photocopier and created by a single person or small group. When zines were first introduced, they were very influential in the women’s movement, as they were a way for women to express their opinions and voice during times when they were suppressed or unheard. By showcasing these works, Kennedy Library is continuing to bring the women artists’ voices to life.
Hold a self-defense workshop
In addition to hosting prominent women speakers at their university, Old Dominion University is honoring WHM by highlighting the importance of safety and self-defense for women. Recent studies show that one in five women will be sexually assaulted during their undergraduate years. To address this, ODU is holding a workshop to empower women by teaching them self-defense techniques to escape a dangerous situation. They are also holding a “Green Dot Bystander Training” that aims to women how they can replace moments of potential hard with moments of safety and support, creating safer campus climate for all students.
Address gender equity in sports
It wasn’t until 1972 that President Richard Nixon signed Title IX into law, which is known best as the law that increased women’s participation in school sports. Thanks to Margaret Dunkle, a honoree of the National Women’s History Project, research showed that women did not receive the support, funding, or opportunities that male athletes received. Over the years, female athletes have become more visible, but studies show that women drop out of sports at two times the rate boys do. A gender imbalance is still very evident in school sports today, so addressing the issue is a crucial part of empowering women at an early age.
San Jose State University is helping to bring light to this topic by hosting a town hall, “Words to Action: Gender, Sport and Society”, that will feature leading voices of gender equity and women’s rights in the sports world. The panel features amazing women athletes including multiple Olympic gold medalists, a NCAA champion fencer, a Basketball Hall of Famer, a sports reporter and analyst, coaches and athletic directors, and the President of the International Women’s Basketball Center. Events like these can help bring awareness to the topic and find solutions to how we can continue to support and encourage women in sports.
Bakersfield College, a proud participant of WHM since the 1980’s, is holding a series of talks, panels, and screenings around a theme as well, “Women’s Voices: Narratives & Political Activism”. One event, “Lady Leaders: Local Political Leaders Explain Their Rise & Triumph” features local women to discuss what drew them to activism, how they pursued their political agendas, and how they’ve triumphed. This strategy of featuring local women can be very meaningful to local students and potentially make a larger impact than learning about women’s achievements that might seem out of reach. By “hitting close to home”, BC is not only highlighting women of the community, but they are also showing students that they too can be activists.