The history behind Women’s History Month 

Joy Webb 

jwebb4@uccs.edu 

     It was only 50 years ago that women were first allowed to have their own bank accounts in the United States. Women have fought to be heard and respected since the beginning of time, but to celebrate Women’s History Month, let’s set the record straight with 14 historical facts about women, their history and their fight for equality: 

  1. Marie Curie 

     Born Maria Skłodowska, the Polish scientist was the first woman in history to receive two Nobel Prizes for her research on radioactivity and her discovery of two new periodic elements. Curie won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903 and the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1911. 

  1. 1909  

     This was the first women’s history day. It followed garment workers’ strikes when 15,000 women demanded better working conditions. The Triangle Shirtwaist Company epitomized the oppression, inequality and tragedy that women have had to face.   

     Women’s History Day would later evolve into Women’s History Week in 1980 when Jimmy Carter was president, and seven years later, women activists lobbied Congress to declare March Women’s History Month. 

  1. 19th Amendment  

     Aug. 26, 1920 marked the day the 19th amendment passed, and this granted women the right to vote. However, this amendment did not apply to all women. According to Womensday.com “a number of other laws prohibited Native American women, Black women, Asian American women and Latinx women from voting, among others.”  

     Also, according to PBS, “It wasn’t until 1924 that Native women born in the United States were granted citizenship, allowing them to vote. But even after that, Native women and other women of color were prevented from voting by state laws such as poll taxes and literacy tests. It wasn’t until 1965, when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law, that discriminatory tactics such as literacy tests were outlawed, and all women could vote.” 

     This is why intersectionality is crucial to women’s studies and women’s rights activism. 

  1. Eleanor Roosevelt 

     March 6, 1933 was the first day that First Lady Roosevelt held an all-women press conference. In the preceding 12 years, the First Lady held 348 press conferences for women reporters. During these conferences, Roosevelt would cover any issue “of special interest and value to the women of the country,” according to the National Women’s History Museum. 

  1. Claudette Colvin 

     I’m sure many people have not heard this women’s name, but she refused to give up her bus seat to a white person 9 months before Rosa Parks did. Claudette was only 15 years old at the time. She was then arrested on March 2, 1955. 

  1. Jerrie Cobb 

     Geraldyn Cobb was the first women who passed astronaut testing in 1962. However, she was not allowed to go to outer space because she was a woman.  

  1. 1974 

     Until this year, women were not even allowed to have credit cards under their own name. With the work of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Congress passed the Equal Credit Opportunity Act. This act paved the way for many other basic rights women have today, such as the ability to attend state-funded schools, protection from pregnancy discrimination at work and the ability to serve on juries, according to USA Today. 

  1. Sally Ride 

     Sally Ride made history on June 18, 1983, when she became the first woman to travel to outer space. She was the first gay astronaut, as well, and she flew on the space shuttle “Challenger.” 

  1. Education 

     Women earn about 57 percent of all bachelor’s degrees, meaning more women earn college degrees than men as of 2018, according to Forbes.  

  1. Gender-pay gap 

     Yes, it undeniably still exists. Women who work full-time and year-round are paid about 82 cents for every dollar that a man makes, with that gap widening even more for women of color, according to the National Women’s Law Center. 

  1. 46.8 percent 

     This is the percent of women who make up the workforce. “57 percent of women age 16 and older work outside of the home,” according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Not only are women going to jobs all day that require them to work long hours in unfair conditions, but they also come home to a family that they must take care of.  

  1. 14.4 percent 

     This is the percent of women who serve in active-duty military. In January 2013, the U.S. government lifted its ban on women serving in combat positions. Women are fighting for our rights, even though they used to not even be allowed to be in the military, let alone in combat. 

  1. 117th Congress 

     As of the latest election, women now fill 144 seats in Congress, forming 27 percent of the legislative body: the highest percentage in history. 

  1. 2021 

     Currently, Vice President Kamala Harris holds office after being elected in November 2020. Harris is not only the first woman Vice President, but the first Black woman and Asian American woman to hold this position. 

     While there are countless more dates, women and stories to share about the progress that has been achieved and all of the oppression that has been endured, hopefully these 15 facts inspire you to reach out to the women in your life and thank them for existing.  

     Let us use this month to spread awareness and use our voices and resources to educate ourselves and help women succeed: let us think of the Uighur women being held in detention camps in Xinjing, China; the 5,600 Indigenous women who were reported missing last year alone; the 99 percent out of 400 million who make up victims of human sex trafficking that are women; the countless Black transgender women who were murdered for fearlessly being who they are in a world that does not accept their identity; and so many more. 

     Women need the help of other women; we are stronger together. 

     Women should not be murdered, tortured, exploited or treated unfairly due to their gender. 

     Happy Women’s History Month to all of the powerful women out there. Use this month to celebrate, but also use this month to act and educate yourself. Do not stop until justice is served, for all women, not just some. 

     If you are interested in supporting, donating or volunteering at an organization/non-profit that helps women, here are links to a few local organizations in Colorado Springs: 

     TESSA, a domestic violence and abuse shelter: https://www.tessacs.org/volunteer/

     St. Francis, a faith-based Women Partnering network that supports financially vulnerable women: http://stfrancis.org/wp/ 

     The Place, an organization that supports youth experiencing homelessness: https://theplacecos.org/contact-us/

     Springs Rescue Mission, an organization that supports community members experiencing homelessness, poverty and addiction: https://www.springsrescuemission.org/

     Planned Parenthood, an organization that specializes in women’s healthcare and sex education: https://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-center/colorado/colorado-springs/80907/colorado-springs-westside-3967-90210?utm_campaign=colorado-springs-westside-health-center&utm_medium=organic&utm_source=local-listing