This month is National Women’s History Month. I like Women’s History Month because it’s about women and their achievements. But I also like it because I’m always learning new things about women who got completely ignored or glossed over or minimized when I was in school. You’d think we were a rare species, with how infrequently women appeared! Other than Betsy Ross, Abigail Adams, and Florence Nightingale, who warranted perhaps a paragraph each in my high school U.S. history book, I can’t recall a single woman of consequence we studied — or who was even mentioned. Sojourner Truth Who? Alice Paul Who?
For instance, while gathering material for this post, I learned a fascinating historical tidbit. Did you know that Women’s History Month in the U.S. started in California in 1978, when the Sonoma County school district held a week of events focusing on women’s contributions to society, history, and culture?
I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t, and I live here! One of the activities students participated in was a “Real Woman” essay contest.
Since this was not long after the women’s liberation movement exploded, I can only imagine what those young writers might have described as a “real woman” back then.
Oh, if only those essays were online! Two years later, a handful of those enterprising California women founded the National Women’s History Project, and somehow convinced Congress and the White House of the need for a national campaign devoted to women’s history. And in 1987, the month of March was declared Women’s History Month.
Every year, the celebration is marked by a new theme. This year’s theme, “Women Inspiring Innovation and Imagination,” is honoring women in science, technology, engineering, and math, more popularly know as STEM fields.
Still, I hate the idea of having to squeeze women’s stories and achievements of the past, oh, 300 years into a measly 30 days. It’s impossibly unfair, and some fabulous woman is bound to be left out. Thank god it was just the 50th anniversary of The Feminine Mystique, so at least I don’t need to include Betty Friedan. Also, BlogHer’s Morgan Shanahan just covered MAKERS, the brilliant PBS series about women who shaped American history.
So in lieu of trying to capture the whole fascinating panorama of women in American history, I found this clever mash-up tribute to Lady Gaga and Alice Paul, commemorating the fight for women’s suffrage in 1917. Yes, really. (Paul, by the way, was played by Hillary Swank in the wrenching 2004 HBO film, Iron Jawed Angels. If you missed it, that’s another way you can enjoy women’s history this month.)
Here’s the video updating women’s suffrage, which is choreographed to the edgy Lady Gaga hit, “Bad Romance”:
Do you have a favorite woman in American history you’d like to see get recognized this month? We’d love to hear your suggestions and read your posts. It doesn’t have to be someone famous — maybe it’s your grandmother or a mentor or some other woman who made an enormous difference in your life. And has a woman in the STEM fields had an impact on you?
Credit Image: © Famous – Ace Pictures/Ace Pictures/ZUMAPRESS.com/