Women’s History Month
Women’s History Month commemorates the many accomplishments and contributions made by women throughout history. In the United States, Women’s History Month is observed annually during the month of March.
Origins of Women’s History Month
The beginnings of Women’s History Month date back to 1978 in Sonoma, California. The Sonoma school district organized a weeklong celebration honoring women’s contributions to culture, history, and society. The idea caught on in many communities across the country, which led women’s groups to successfully lobby for national recognition. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter made the first presidential proclamation declaring the week of March 8th as Women’s History Week.
The following year, in 1981, the U.S. Congress and President Ronald Reagan passed further resolution to establish Women’s History Week as a national celebration. It wasn’t till 1987 that the National Women’s History Project successfully petitioned Congress to expand the celebration to a month.
Women’s History Month coincides with International Women’s Day, celebrated on March 8th. This day has been sponsored by the United Nations since 1975.
Notable Women in History
During Women’s History Month, we pay tribute to the women who have impacted both U.S. history and world history. The following list features notable female figures in the fields of science, politics, literature, art, entertainment, sports, and more.
- Sojourner Truth – An American abolitionist and women’s rights activist. A former slave, Sojourner Truth is best known for her speech on racial inequalities titled, “Ain’t I a Woman?” Truth dedicated much of her life to the abolitionist cause. During the American Civil War, she recruited black troops for the Union army.
- Susan B. Anthony – A women’s rights activist and pioneer of the U.S. women’s suffrage movement. Susan B. Anthony’s work paved the way for the nineteenth amendment to the Constitution, granting women the right to vote.
- Marie Curie – Polish-born French physicist and chemist. Marie Curie conducted research on radioactivity and discovered the chemical elements of polonium and radium. Her works were critical in the development of the X-Ray. In 1903, Curie became the first woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. She received a second Nobel Peace Prize in 1911.
- Eleanor Roosevelt – American diplomat, humanitarian, and activist. As First Lady of the United States, Eleanor Roosevelt worked for political, racial, and social justice. She served as a delegate of the United Nations and an advocate for human rights issues.
- Amelia Earhart – American aviation pioneer and author. In her short career, Amelia Earhart set numerous aviation records. In 1932, Earhart became the first woman to fly solo over the Atlantic Ocean. Congress awarded her the Distinguished Flying Cross for her achievements in aerial flight.
- Frida Kahlo – Mexican painter. Frida Kahlo is best known for her vibrantly-colored self-portraits. Her pieces explore the themes of identity, the human body, and death. Kahlo’s art was exhibited in Paris and she became the first 20th century Mexican artist to be displayed in the Louvre museum’s collection.
- Mother Teresa – Albanian-Indian Roman Catholic nun, missionary, and humanitarian. Mother Teresa devoted much of her life helping the sick and poor. In 1950, she founded the Missionaries of Charity, a Roman Catholic congregation of women dedicated to helping the poor.
- Sally Ride – American physicist and astronaut. In 1983, Sally Ride became the first American woman in space aboard the space shuttle Challenger. After her work with NASA, Ride cofounded the company Sally Ride Science, which creates educational STEM programs and products to inspire girls and young women to pursue interests in science and math.
- Maya Angelou – American poet, award-winning author, and civil rights activist. Maya Angelou is the author of the 1969 acclaimed memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Her literary pieces focus on the themes of racism, identity and family. As a civil rights activist, Angelou worked with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.
- Mia Hamm – American soccer player. Mia Hamm competed with the U.S. women’s soccer team for 17 years. During that time, Hamm won the 1991 and 1999 Women’s World Cup and took home Olympic gold medals in 1996 and 2004.
- Sonia Sotomayor – Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2009, Sonia Sotomayor became the first Latina Supreme Court Justice in U.S. history. She is known for her rousing dissents on issues of race, gender, and ethnicity.
- Oprah Winfrey – Billionaire media mogul and philanthropist. Oprah Winfrey is best known for her talk show The Oprah Winfrey Show, which was the highest-rated program of its kind. Winfrey has gone on to launch her own television network, OWN, and has become one of the wealthiest women in the U.S.
Women’s History Month Resources
Honor Women’s History Month in your classroom with our teaching resources. Supplement a lesson on women’s history with varied word lists on prominent female figures and key historical events. Pair these, and other monthly holiday spelling lists, with interactive games and activities to provide extensive vocabulary practice.