By Anna Popnikolova
Women’s History Month, the month of March, was established to celebrate women’s contributions to history, society, and culture. It was first celebrated in 1987 and has been present annually every year since.
It started as a celebration of Women’s History at a California high school, in 1978. This trend caught the attention of schools and communities nearby and soon spread across the country. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter issued a presidential proclamation, declaring the week of March 8th as National Women’s History Week. Later, in 1987, the National Women’s History Project petitioned to expand the event to the whole month of March.
The National Women’s History Alliance designates a theme for Women’s History month annually; 2021’s national Women’s History Month theme is the 19th amendment and women’s suffrage, the fight to win the vote for women across the country. Before the ratification of the 19th amendment, women fought for voting rights for nearly 100 years. Before that, women like Harriet Tubman fought for the abolishment of slavery, and after that, women like Ruth Bader Ginsburg still fought and advocated for women’s rights. Women like Malala Yousafzai are still fighting for women’s rights today. There is an entire young generation of women advocating for their rights, and in a few decades, there will be another generation of bold young women who are still fighting for those rights. Women’s History Month celebrates those who fought, those who are fighting, and those who will fight for the rights of women across the world.
Worldwide, March is not recognized as Women’s History Month, but International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated internationally on March 8th. This year, International Women’s Day had a new theme, as designated by the IWD campaign—the #ChooseToChallenge campaign, which included posting a picture holding your hand up to show solidarity, and using the hashtag in the image caption, on social media. The IWD website currently contains hundreds of different events for women throughout the month of March, ranging from Women’s empowerment art exhibitions to Women’s cybersecurity webinars. These events are hosted virtually from all around the world and are open for registration.
This year and for several years past, the campaign “Herstory” has been trending and gaining in popularity in the media. The idea is to tell historical events from women’s perspectives and to talk about women’s roles in history, especially where they were not mentioned in the past. The campaign also strives to spotlight significant women in society today and empower young women.
Many schools and communities host gatherings and women’s history events in the month of March to celebrate, however, many of those gatherings will not be taking place this year due to the COVID pandemic.
On Nantucket, the Nantucket Chamber of Commerce is hosting two different Women’s History Month events: a program titled “Women’s Financial Empowerment Hour”, taking place on March 30th, and a self-care program titled “How Women can Accomplish More By Doing Less” on March 24th.
The Nantucket Whaling Museum has a Nantucket women’s suffrage exhibition, which fits this year’s Women’s History Month theme. The Museum is open to the public from Monday through Saturday, 10AM — 4PM.
Even though physical celebrations cannot be taking place as easily this year, TV stations are still broadcasting their own Women’s History Month showings, and many stations are playing feminist films—HULU launched their “Made By Her” category of films, highlighting creations with a gender-balanced production, like “Shrill” and “The Handmaid’s Tale”. On Disney+, the streaming network also collected a “Women’s History Month” group of films and shows, including the animated movies “Tangled”, “Frozen”, “Moana”, the film “Hidden Figures” and the series “WandaVision.”
Overall, COVID restrictions may have affected how some people celebrate Women’s History Month, but there are virtual and distanced alternatives, along with films and movies which can help bring the feminist spirit back to the holiday.