The History of Women’s History Month

It’s easy to forget that “as recently as the 1970s, women’s history was virtually an unknown topic in the K-12 curriculum or in general public consciousness. ” That’s a quote from the National Women’s History Alliance, the group that fought for it to become a federally recognized month – which occurred, after an initial state-by-state adoption, in 1987.

Although vast strides have been made since the 1970’s, women’s history is still a culturally marginalized topic. The vast majority of commemorative statues in the United States are of male historical figures – of the 5,193 public statues, only 394 (or 7.5%) are of women. New York City, for example, boasts 150 statues of men, and a corresponding 5 statues of historically notable female figures.

Not a historical figure, but a prominent statue nonetheless. Image credit: Statue of Liberty, nps.gov.

An interesting report, published by the National Women’s History Museum (an organization that seeks to establish a museum of that title in Washington, D.C.), delves deeply into the problem of women’s representation in history textbooks. They suggest that our collective understanding of history would have to radically shift to re-center women, noting that: “As long as history curriculum follows the traditional [historical] timeline, the study of women’s experiences is subject to marginalization. ”

Headline from Slate, January 6, 2016

And finally, to bring us back into the traditional library realm of books, there are huge imbalances in the publishing of books about women (biographies, history, etc.). If the month of March inspires you to do nothing else, consider reading a book about, or authored by, a woman from the past – it may help to bring the present moment into sharper focus.

Resources / Reading Suggestions

Where and When I Enter: The Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America, by Paula Giddings. Call number: E185.61 .G42

Living Chicana Theory, edited by Carla Mari Trujillo. Call number: E184 .M5 L58 1998

Transgender Warriors: Making History from Joan of Arc to RuPaul, by Leslie Feinberg. On Order

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