March is Women’s History Month. Perhaps you’ve overlooked it in the past, but this year, make this celebration of women a priority.
What exactly is Women’s History Month, and why do we celebrate it? Moreover, how should we celebrate it? Here’s what you need to know, plus 11 ideas for making the most of this important month.
What Is Women’s History Month?
Celebrated in March in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia and in October in Canada, Women’s History Month recognizes women who have made an impact in a wide range of areas, including research, medicine, law, art, culture, and more, on history and today. International Women’s Day, which originated in New York in 1909 as National Women’s Day, is celebrated on March 8th.
Why Do We Celebrate It?
Women have made significant contributions to their societies and the world yet have been frequently overlooked and disenfranchised throughout history. It’s hard to believe, but women only gained the right to vote just about a century ago.
Recognizing these achievements and advancements by women not only enables us to pay them their due but also encourages today’s women and girls to follow in their footsteps. Women throughout history can serve as role models for women and girls who also have the power to make a substantial impact on their communities and the entire world.
The Origins of Women’s History Month
Women’s History Month was established in the United States in 1987, but its origins trace back to more than a century ago. Here is a brief timeline of how Women’s History Month came to be.
The Socialist Party of America organized and observed National Women’s Day in New York.
In part inspired by the celebration in the United State, the International Socialist Women’s Conference organized and observed International Women’s Day in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland. More than one million people participated in the first IWD celebration in Europe.
The Education Task Force of the Sonoma County Commission on the Status of Women introduced Women’s History Week in California, selecting the week of International Women’s History Day for observance through school programs, presentations, a parade, and more.
At the Women’s History Institute at Sarah Lawrence College, participants in the event learned of and followed the example of Sonoma Country’s celebration by organizing similar events in their communities.
President Carter issued a Presidential Proclamation declaring the week of March 8, 1980, National Women’s History Month. Representative Barbara Mikulski and Senator Orrin Hatch then co-sponsored a Congressional Resolution for National Women’s History Week 1981.
Lobbying and efforts by the National Women’s History Project led to Congress declaring March National Women’s History Month annually. At that point, 14 states were already celebrating the entire month of March as Women’s History Month.
Every year, the president of the United States proclaims the month of March Women’s History Month, a tradition initiated by a series of resolutions from Congress.
How to Celebrate Women’s History Month
1. Read books about and by women.
Check out books by feminist authors, such as Toni Morrison, Virginia Woolf, Margaret Atwood, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and biographies and memoirs of key figures throughout history. You could also organize a book club dedicated to your favorite reads by and about women.
2. Write a letter to a woman who inspires you.
She doesn’t have to be famous! Even someone like your mom has surely made an impact on your life and would appreciate knowing how much you admire her.
3. Visit your local library or museum.
Many libraries and museums offer cheap or free events to celebrate Women’s History Month. Visit to learn about women who have changed the world. See if there are any lectures or celebrations at nearby colleges and universities, too.
4. Spread the word through social media.
Share Women’s History Month and feminist memes on Instagram, and change your Facebook profile picture to something that connotes female empowerment—whether it’s an image of a woman who inspires you or a picture that spreads awareness about the celebration.
5. Volunteer with a female-friendly organization.
Try local women’s shelters and organizations that empower girls like Girl Up.
6. Having a Women’s History Month party.
Invite your friends to a celebration of women who have changed history for the better. Make everything, from the food to the decorations, women-inspired. For example, you might have cupcakes emblazoned with “Notorious RBG.” Ask guests to bring supplies to donate to local women’s shelters, such as maxi pads and tampons.
7. Teach your friends.
Share trivia about inspiring women with your friends and family via email or social media.
8. Have a feminist movie night.
Check out our list of the best 45 Feminist Movies to Add to Your Binge List and hunker down with some popcorn (and your friends) for a girls night.
9. Make sure you’re registered to vote.
Women didn’t fight for your right to vote so you could squander it! If you’re not registered, sign up now. You can look up your registration and find out how to register in your state at usa.gov.
10. Teach children about women’s history.
Whether you’re a teacher, parent, or friend, it’s important to make children aware of women’s history (not just girls!). If you’re a teacher, devise lesson plans around women’s history; for example, in a science class, you could focus on a few key female scientists like Marie Curie. Parents can read books about and by women with their kids. Others can partner with local organizations that work with kids or discuss women’s history with the children in their lives.
11. Be nice to yourself.
Take this month to celebrate the number one woman in your life: you! We’re constantly too hard on ourselves, so remember to be kind to yourself. Don’t forget to put self-care activities like alone time and a nice bubble bath on your to-do list, and spend some time reflecting on your own accomplishments.