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Women's History: About

To explore the achievements and events in women's history

About Women's History

Women's History month celebrates the often overlooked accomplishments and contributions to society that women have made throughout history, as well as their strength and resilience in their historic (and ongoing) fight for equal rights under the law.

Selected to correspond with International Women's Day (March 8th), the celebration and commemoration of women was originally executed as "Women's History Week", in 1978 by the Education Task Force of the Sonoma County Commission on the Status of Women.  The following year, a consortium of women's rights historians and groups lobbied for an official national recognition of the week.  President Jimmy Carter made a Presidential Proclamation designating the week of March 8th as "National Women's History Week."

In 1987, Congress passed a public law designating March as "Women's History Month."  Every U.S. President has issued proclamations each year (since 1995) recognizing the month of March for women (National Women's History Museum, n.d.).


Significant Dates

  • 1848 - The first women's rights convention, The Seneca Falls Convention, is held in New York state.
  • 1869 - Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton found the National Woman Suffrage Association.
  • 1869 - Wyoming territory passes America's first woman suffrage law.  When Wyoming was admitted to the Union as the 44th state, it was the first state to grant women the right to vote - in 1890.
  • 1916 - The first birth control clinic in the United States is opened by Margaret Sanger.
  • 1920 - With the passing of the 19th Amendment, women win the right to vote in America.
  • 1955 - Rosa Parks refuses to give her seat to a white man on a public bus, which helps launch the Civil Rights Movement.
  • 1960 - The F.D.A. approved the first ommercially produced birth control pill in the world.
  • 1963 - The Equal Pay Act is signed into law by President John F. Kennedy.
  • 1964 - The Civil Rights Act is signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson.  Title VII of the law bans employment discrimination based on sex, race, religion, and national origin.
  • 1966 - The National Organization for Women is founded by Betty Friedan (author of The Feminine Mystique).
  • 1971 - The National Women’s Political Caucus is formed by Gloria Steinem, Bella Abzug, and Betty Friedan.
  • 1971 - Gloria Steinem starts Ms. Magazine, the first magazine to address and discuss women's issues.
  • 1972 - President Richard Nixon signs Title IX of the Education Amendments into law.
  • 1973 - The U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Roe v. Wade case declares that the U.S. Constitution protects a woman's legal right to abortion.  This ruling was overturned in 2022.
  • 1994 - President Bill Clinton signs the Violence Against Women Act.
  • 2013 - The U.S. military removes a ban on women serving in combat positions.
  • 2016 - Hilary Clinton becomes the first woman of a major political party to receive a presidential nomination.
  • 2021 - Kamala Harris becomes the first woman to hold the office of the Vice President of the United States.  She is also the first woman of color to hold the position.

Modern day Speeches

American abolitionist and women's rights activist Sojourner Truth gave her "Ain't I a Woman" speech at the Women's Convention in Akron, Ohio, in 1827.  Nkechi recites it at this TEDx event.

A few quick clips of the "Best Speeches on Gender Equality."

Michelle Obama speaks on International Women's Day, 2017.

Tarana Burke founded the #MeToo movement in 2006.  In this 2019 Ted Talk, she explains that "Me Too is a movement, not a moment."


Presidents Address Women's History

  • In 1918 President Woodrow Wilson addressed the United States Senate in an effor to get senators to pass the Susan B. Anthony Amendment.  The Senate failed to approve the Amendment by two votes.
  • In 1980, President Jimmy Carter issued a presidential proclamation that the week of March 8 would be celebrated as National Women's History Week.  Congress passed a resolution to establish a national celebration one year later.  In his speech, President Carter said that "the achievements, leadership, courage, strength, and love of the women who build America was as vital as that of the men whose names we know so well."
  • In 1987, a petition by the National Women's History Project convinced Congress to pass new legislation that designated the month of March as "Women's History Month."  President Ronald Reagan issued a proclamation to Americans to observe and honor the achievements of American women.

Since the establishment of Women's History Month, it has become a tradition that the sitting President of the United States issues a presidential proclamation to commemorate the impact women have had on American society and to address the current events of the time regarding women and women's rights.  These proclamations are all around 500 words each and are definitely worth reading to gain insight into what each President thought were the pressing issues of the time and which historic women figures they decided to mention in their speeches.


  • “Remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.” - Abigail Adams, 1776, in a letter to her husband, John Adams
  • "...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 sex.” - 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution, 1920
  • “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance." - Title IX of the Education Amendment, 1972
  • Men often ask me, 'Why are your female characters so paranoid?' It’s not paranoia. It’s recognition of their situation.” - Margaret Atwood
  • "Whether I am meant to or not, I challenge assumptions about women. I do make some people uncomfortable, which I'm well aware of, but that's just part of coming to grips with what I believe is still one of the most important pieces of unfinished business in human history—empowering women to be able to stand up for themselves." - Hillary Clinton
  • "Feminism is for everybody." - bell hooks
  • "Men are never so absurd as when they urge the inferiority of women." - Helen Keller, speech to delegates of the New Woman's Party, Chicago, Illinois, 1916
  • "While others sought to show that there was no valid reason why woman should be treated socially and politically as a being inferior to man, I boldly entered the arena of politics and business and exercised the rights I already possessed. I therefore claim the right to speak for the unenfranchised women of the country…I now announce myself as a candidate for the Presidency. I am quite well aware that in assuming this position I shall evoke more ridicule than enthusiasm at the outset. But this is an epoch of sudden changes and startling surprises. What may appear absurd to-day will assume a serious aspect to-morrow." - Victoria Woodhull, Letter to the New York Herald on April 2, 1870

Citations and Image Credits


  • National Women's History Museum Editors. (n.d.). Women's history month. National Women's History Museum.

Image Credits:

  • President Jimmy Carter with prominent women’s groups in the Cabinet Room, immediately after signing the week into existence. 1980. Courtesy of Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum / NARA
  • The First Picket Line - College Day in the Picket Line. 1917. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Collection, Washington, D.C., USA.
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