March is Women's History Month! Each year, this month is set aside to honor and celebrate women's contributions throughout American history. There's a lot of history to pack into one month, but Women's History Month has a history of its own: it wasn't always celebrated for an entire month - it started out as Women's History Week.
In Santa Rosa, California in 1978, the Education Task Force of the Sonoma County Commission on the Status of Women planned and executed the very first "Women's History Week" celebration. Organizers selected this week to coincide with International Women's Day on March 8, which has been celebrated worldwide since 1911. The very next year the Women's History Week movement spread across the country. However, it wasn't until 1980 when a consortium of women's groups and historians successfully lobbied for national recognition and President Jimmy Carter issued the first Presidential Proclamation declaring the week of March 8th as National Women's History Week. Several years later, in 1987, Congress passed Public Law 100-9, designating March as Women's History Month.
Women's History Month is a great opportunity to celebrate all the female-identifying individuals in our lives a little extra, but it's also a great time to learn about all of the influential women that have made a difference in Pennsylvania and beyond!
Here are a few important women from Pennsylvania that helped make a difference locally, nationally, and even globally:
- Betsy Ross (1752-1836), American upholsterer. Betsy Ross is most famously known for the design of the American flag. She convinced George Washington to change the stars on the flag from a 6-pointed star to a 5-pointed star. Ross was a revolutionary patriot and major figure in United States history. She made flags for the Pennsylvania Navy and supported America in the fight for independence by fixing uniforms, making tents and blankets, and even prepared ammunition.
- Nellie Bly (1864-1922), American journalist. Nellie Bly inspired changes to the nation's mental health care system by going undercover to investigate the conditions at Blackwell's Island Asylum in New York. After going undercover and having herself committed to the institution, Bly spent 10 days speaking to patients and documented the horrific conditions they endured. She grabbed the world's attention and pioneered a new style of reporting.
- Rachel Carson (1907-1964), marine biologist, author, and conservationist. Rachel Carson was best known for being a marine biologist and conservationist whose book Silent Spring, among other books, is credited with advancing the global environmental movement. Her work also inspired a grassroots environmental movement that led to the creation of the US Environmental Protection Agency. A building bearing her name can be found in Harrisburg.
We can appreciate and honor the actions and difference that women have made throughout history all year long, but March gives us a special opportunity to say "thank you" and give extra thought to all the contributions women have made that are part of our lives today!