Every March, the country celebrates the accomplishments of women in American history. Even though these accomplishments go back a long way, most schools didn't start focusing on women pioneers and their achievements until recently. Today, most colleges offer classes in women's history and most schools teach kids about the many contributions women have made to our country. How did this shift come about?
International Women's Day Is Born
On March 19, 1911, a German woman named Clara Zetkin organized the very first International Women's Day. Inspired by American working women, the annual event took on the causes of peace (in an effort to end World War I) as well as women's rights. Over the years, interest in International Women's Day dwindled. It gained momentum again in the 1960s, when the women's movement caused women to wonder why they weren't included in the history books.
National Women's History Week Is Celebrated
By the 1970s, more female historians began to look back at the contributions of women in history. In 1978, a California school district started Women's History Week to promote the teaching of women's history. School officials picked the week of March 8 to include International Women's Day. It was so popular that, in 1981, Congress passed a resolution making the week a celebration for the entire country. The concept of studying women's history continued to grow in popularity. In 1987, a group of women (supported by people working in museums, schools and libraries) asked Congress to expand the celebration. That same year, Congress declared the entire month of March National Women's History Month.
National Women's History Museum
Today, schools and communities across the country celebrate the month with special lessons and activities designed to teach the ways women have helped shape the U.S. The women who have worked hard to make Women's History Month a reality would like to see women's history studied all year, not just every March. In 1996, the National Women’s History Museum was founded. It is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and celebrating the various historic contributions of women. The organization is working with Congress to open a permanent museum site in Washington, D.C.
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