What is Women's History Month, and why do we celebrate it?

Here's the history behind Women's History Month and International Women's Day.

BySandra Bookman WLS logo
Monday, March 11, 2024
Celebrating Women's History Month
Sandra Bookman has more on what it is and why we celebrate it.

This month, we celebrate the achievements of women and the progress made towards equality during Women's History Month.

Note: This video originally aired in 2021.

Although the fight to protect and support women continues as we work to through challenges as a society, including pay disparities and domestic threats, we are taking time to celebrate women and to reflect on our past and examine the path forward.

"I think it really is about that history does not operate in a straight line, and that it's about persistence," said Jen Gaboury, lecturer with the Hunter College Department of Women and Gender Studies. "Understanding that women are leaders, but also that women have always been leaders."

Women's History Month is a relatively recent observance.

"There's an awful lot of women's history that goes unrecognized and goes undocumented," said Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. "And when our kids have their history books, women aren't very visible."

When is Women's History Month?

Women's History Month is observed every March. International Women's Day also occurs every year on March 8.

What are the origins of Women's History Month?

The United Nations first recognized International Women's Day back in 1975. And around that same time, historians came up with the idea for Women's History Week.

One of the first celebrations was in Sonoma County, California, in 1978.

"And then there was a push to encourage Jimmy Carter to recognize it, and so, in February 1980, that was when it began to be recognized and then picked up in different states," Gaboury said. "And then has turned into the tradition that it is today."

As with Black History Month, organizers for Women's History Month wanted to make sure future generations will inherit an accurate account of the contributions of women throughout history.

"What they knew is that there were all these stories not being told," Gaboury said. "That was true in the 1970s, it was true prior to that, and unfortunately, it's still true today."

They want those future generations to gain a true sense of self.

"And that's actually, in many ways, one of the most important aspects of Women's History Month," Walsh said. "By highlighting women who have made a difference in history, it opens up that world of possibilities to young girls."

Also this month, we'll be sharing inspiring stories to salute the countless women making an impact in their communities, their nation, and the world.