March: National Women's History Month
March 01, 2004
by Robyn Zaneski,
Young Adult Librarian Trainee,
March is National Women's History Month, a month reserved for the celebration of the achievements and contributions women have made to society. Many countries, including China, Russia and the United Kingdom, celebrate International Women's Day on March 8th, but the United States is the only country that devotes an entire month to the recognition of women.
International Women's Day can trace it roots back to 1857 and the revolt of American women in New York City protesting working conditions in the textile and garment industry, although it wasn't proclaimed as a holiday until 1910. It dwindled over the years, but experienced a revival during the women's movement of the 1960's. Other countries soon followed suit and in 1975 the United Nations began sponsoring International Women's Day.
In March 1980, President Jimmy Carter issued a Presidential Message to the American people, encouraging the recognition and celebration of women's historic accomplishments during the week of March 8th, Women's History Week. In 1981 Congress declared the week of March 8th International Women's History. However, it wasn't until 1987, at the request of women's organizations, museums, libraries, youth leaders, and educators throughout the country, that National Women's History Project successfully petitioned Congress to expand the celebrations to the entire month of March.
The National Women's History Project is an educational non-profit organization striving to recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of women by providing information and educational materials and programs. Their Website (www.nwhp.org) contains lots of great information, including an article on the history of National Women's History Month. Also given are suggestions on celebrating and promoting National Women's History Month.
Every year The National Women's History Project has a new theme for National Women's History Month. For 2004 the theme is Women Inspiring Hope and Possibility. The 2004 National Women's History Month nominees are women who represent the vision of this theme. These eight women, including author Maxine Hong Kingston and Latina civil rights activist Vilma Martinez, serve to remind us all what can be accomplished if we focus on the goal at hand.
Another great Website honoring the achievements of women is The National Women's Hall of Fame (http://www.greatwomen.org/home.php). The National Women's Hall of Fame is located in Seneca Falls, NY. It was created in 1969 by men and women who believed that the contributions of American women deserved a permanent home. The Website offers a complete list of all 207 inductees. Louisa May Alcott, Maya Angelou, Lucille Ball, Amelia Earhart, Helen Keller, Sandra Day O'Connor, Annie Oakley, Rosa Parks, Sacagawea, Harriet Tubman, and Oprah Winfrey are just some of the amazing women who are in The National Women's Hall of Fame.
There are also many great books honoring women. Every year the Amelia Bloomer Project produces a list of recommended feminist books for youth. This bibliography of challenging and engaging feminist books for young readers from birth through age 18 memorializes the legacy of feminist activist Amelia Bloomer, a supporter of women's rights. The 2004 book list, along with the lists from the past two years, can be found at http://www.libr.org/FTF/bloomer.html.
If none of those books appeal to you, there are many more books that can be found at your local library. Look at this book list for some suggestions of non-fiction books that celebrate women:A Celebration of Women
33 Things Every Girl Should Know About Women's History Tonya Bolden (Ed.) ISBN #0-375-91122-7 Crown, 2002
Uses poems, letters, essays, photographs and more to present the actions and achievements of women in the United States throughout history, up to the present day.
The New York Public Library Amazing Women in American History: A Book of Answers for Kids Sue Heinemann ISBN #0471192163 John Wiley & Sons, 1998
Provides hundreds of facts presented in an informative, easy to read question-and-answer format. Attention is given to individual women as well as to important women's movements throughout American history.
America's Daughters: 400 Years of American Women Judith Head ISBN #0-9622036-8-8 Perspective Publishing, 1999
An overview of what life was like for women in the past, and today. Pocahontas, Susan B. Anthony, Eleanor Roosevelt, Toni Morrison, and Sandra Day O'Connor are among the more than 50 women profiled.
Girls: A History of Growing up Female in America Penny Colman ISBN #0-590-37129-0 Scholastic, 2000
The history of the United States as told through the stories of young girls from all regions of the country and from all walks of life.
The Sky's the Limit: Stories of Discovery by Women and Girls Catherine Thimmesh ISBN #1618076980 Houghton Mifflin, 2002
This book honors the curious and brilliant women who have changed the world with their findings in such fields as astronomy, biology, medicine, and anthropology.
Girls: Ordinary Girls and Their Extraordinary Pursuits Jenny McPhee, Laura McPhee, & Martha McPhee ISBN #0-375-50167-3 Random House, 2000
The McPhee sisters spent two years traveling across the United States meeting and talking to young women of all walks of life -- from a 12-year old stock market investor to a formerly homeless actress who used to live in a car. Their amazing stories make up this unforgettable chronicle.
And Not Afraid to Dare: The Stories of Ten African-American Women Tonya Bolden ISBN #0590480804 Scholastic, 1998
Contains the biographical portraits of ten African-American women who have made significant contributions to American life. Oprah Winfrey, Toni Morrison, Jackie-Joyner Kersee, Ida B. Wells, and Leontyne Price are all included.
Grrrls: Viva Rock Divas Amy Raphael ISBN # 0-312-14109-2 St. Martin's Press, 1996
This book is a celebration of women who rock. Includes Courtney Love (Hole), Kim Gordon (Sonic Youth), the girls from Veruca Salt, Bjork, and Liz Phair.
33 Things Every Girl Should Know: Stories, Songs, Poems, and Smart Talk by 33 Extraordinary Women Tonya Bolden (Ed.) ISBN # 1276412 Crown, 1998
A mix of short stories, essays, interviews, poems, and more, which offer insights and advice for young women.
Hands On!: 33 More Things Every Girl Should Know: Skills for Living Your Life from 33 Extraordinary Women Suzanne Harper (Ed.) ISBN # 0517800985 Crown, 2001
A companion to 33 Things Every Girl Should Know. Thirty-three extraordinary women, including Miss Manners, and authors Lois Lowry and Norma Mazer Fox, share their advice on life with young women.