March even feels like the longest month of the year. Of course, there’s St. Patrick’s Day, but even parades and green beer can’t make up for the clock-shock of daylight saving time and the rest of the not-pretty-winter, not-yet-spring days of March.
You know those days when the clock feels like it’s going backward? To me, March feels like the month that goes backward.
But that’s not entirely a bad thing.
In 1980 President Carter designated one week in March Women’s History Week. International Women’s Day had been in effect around the world since before WWI, but in the U.S., Women’s History Week was set aside to say, “We screwed up with your education and left half the population mostly out of your history books. Here are some women who did some really important things that deserve to be full entries, not footnotes.” (I paraphrase.)
Within 10 years, the Reagan administration expanded that week to a full month to focus on, highlight and celebrate the contributions of women to our history. (Ahh, see? One step at a time, Republicans and Democrats can work together to better our world!)
In January 2011 my friend, Beckett Graham and I began a women’s history podcast. Being in the thick of all things Women’s History should have forced us to have our act together and dive headfirst with trumpets blasting and flags waving into Women’s History Month. The truth of the matter is, we were so busy we didn’t even realize it was March.
To be fair, every month of our lives is a women’s history month. It’s our job to help people realize that women’s history is all history. Women played a role in those wars, treaties and discoveries that you learned about in your history class. They may not have shot the guns, signed the treaties or received the accolades for discoveries — but rest assured, women were there for all of it and did more than you have ever been taught.
I’m happy to report that the original purpose of Women’s History Month is working, but we have a very long way to go before taking a month to focus on the contributions of women isn’t necessary; a long way to go before people know as much about the women of history as the men.
We have a long way to go before the average American knows the name Sybil Ludington as readily as they know the name Paul Revere.
A long way before our schools teach about the life of Mary Todd Lincoln and her friend and dressmaker, Elizabeth Keckley when there is talk about Abe; before everyone knows that Clara Barton was on the battlefields and Harriet Tubman was leading spy missions during the Civil War.
We have a way to go before everyone knows the realities and accomplishments of abolitionists and civil rights activists not only thanks to Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington and Martin Luther King Jr. but by the work of Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells-Barnett and Coretta Scott King.
That the founding fathers didn’t do what Abigail Adams had implored of her husband, John, when she asked that he “remember the ladies” when establishing the framework for our government. That everyone is taught that while the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920 gave women the right to vote, there was still work to be done until 1965 to include all women of color.
And that’s just in the United States…world history is half full of women, too. One month, podcast, book, movie and annual unit in history class aren’t enough. Women’s history month should be long, it should be more than 31 days — it should be every day.
That might be enough.
Susan Vollenweider is a Kansas City based writer and podcaster. To listen to the women’s history podcasts she co-hosts or read more of her writing visit www.thehistorychicks.com or www.susanvollenweider.com.