2021 Women’s History Month Theme

By Grace Kilander
Women's History Month

Originally known as Women’s History Week, a grassroots organization pushing for recognition of all women’s contributions to our history. In March of 1987, Congress finally passed a law designating Women’s History Month as a time to dedicate the vital role of women in American history. 

Women everywhere continue to demand equal rights, non-discrimination in the workplace, equal pay and make their political voices be heard. We must first understand where the injustice started in history and celebrate the victories.

Valiant Women of the Vote: Refusing to be Silenced

The 2020 pandemic curtailed many in-person celebrations and events worldwide and the Women’s Suffrage Centennial amongst one of the historic events. The National Women’s History Alliance believes that the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment was not something to be lightly celebrated, and decided to extend the annual 2020 theme ‘Valiant Women of the Vote: Refusing to be Silenced’ into 2021. Today, multicultural suffragists and voting rights activists continue to fight the good fight for women everywhere. 

Seneca falls convention of 1848

In 1848 the women’s suffrage movement had the first women’s rights convention ever held in the United States. The meeting was held from July 19- 20 in Seneca Falls, New York with over 300 attendees. Originally known as the Woman’s Rights Convention, this event fought for women’s social, civil, cultural, and religious rights. The meeting was led and organized in part by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Mary M’Clintock, Martha Coffin Wright, and Jane Hunt. 

15th amendment vs 19th amendment conflict

The 15th Amendment granted African American men the right to vote in 1870 stating “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” Even with the victory of Thomas Mundy Peterson becoming the first black person to vote, not all African American men were given this right. The 15th amendment passing should have been a victorious time, but white women suffragists were outraged by black men being able to vote before them. This caused a divide amongst all gender activists and deteriorated many allyships and coalitions on both sides. 

Decades later, on August 18th, 1920 the 19th amendment passed giving women the right to vote. However, this law did not include minority women. Both African American men, women, and other marginalized races continued to face voter suppression by outlawing citizenship or voting rights on a state level with literacy tests, poll taxes, voter ID requirements, intimidation and threats, and acts of violence. Finally, on August 6, 1965, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 prohibiting racial discriminatory voting practices give all races and gender equal rights to vote. 

Women who made history

Here are a few moments where women broke barriers and made history: 

  • In 1849, Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman to earn a US MD degree. She later founded a women’s medical college, the New York Infirmary, to train other women physicians.
  • On September 21, 1891, Sandra Day O’Conner was the first woman to ever serve on the Supreme Court. She was appointed by Ronald Reagan.
  • In 1915, Edith Smith was the first woman to be sworn in as a police constable and have the legal power to arrest.
  • March of 1933, Eleanor Roosevelt held the first women-only White House press conference and followed that up with 347 such press conferences covering women’s interests and topics over 12 years. 
  • In 1939, Jane Bolin was the first black woman to graduate from Yale Law School and became the nation’s first black woman judge.
  • It wasn’t until 1974 when the Equal Credit Opportunity Act passed that women were allowed to hold credit cards in their own name.
  • Before the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, women could be legally fired for being pregnant.
  • 1980, Women’s history week celebration was started by Molly Murphy MacGregor, Mary Ruthsdotter, Maria Cuevas, Paula Hammett, and Bette Morgan in Santa Rosa, California. 
  • March 8th, 1980, President Jimmy Carter issued the first proclamation declaring the week of as National Women’s History Week.
  • 1983-1986, Susan Kare developed much of the Apple Macintosh’s interface elements that have shaped the look and feel of Apple products today.
  • In 1987, Congress passed a law designating March as Women’s History Month. 
  • In 1992, Dr. Mae Jemison became the first black woman astronaut to travel into space.
  • 2009, Michelle Obama became the first African American first lady, during her time as the first lady focused heavily on child welfare and physical education in her “Let’s Move” campaign. 
  • 2016, Faith Spotted Eagle became the first Native American person to hold an electoral college vote. 
  • 2018, Oprah Winfrey became the first woman to win the Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award which honors the highest achievements in the world of entertainment. 
  • 2021, Kamala Harris became the first female and the first woman of color to be elected as Vice President of the United States. 

Women’s strength changed the world

Not too long ago, women were denied the right to freedom, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Now, over a century later we look back on the brave women who took a stand for injustice and changed the world. As we move forward into an all-inclusive unity, we can focus on honoring those who have continued to rise day after day. 

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