March is Women’s History Month.
A little background information:
Women’s History Month started off as “Women’s History Week” in 1982.
Beginning in 1987, March has been designated “Women’s History Month”, executed by either a Congressional resolution or Presidential proclamation.
According to the National Women’s History Project, since the signing of the Declaration of Independence until the twentieth-century, women’s rights were restricted in most states in the areas of:
- owning property
- rights to earned wages (keeping money earned instead of handing it over to a husband or father)
- reproductive issues (not just abortion)
- the right to claim spousal abuse
- the right to vote
- equal pay for equal work
- jury duty
- the right to pursue a professional career
- and many more.
People, men and women, worked to change the laws to give women the same legal rights rights and protection as men. In 1920, as a result of years of work by suffragists, the Nineteenth Amendment granted women the right to vote in federal elections.
It’s worth noting that equal rights are rarely granted without a fight.
Laws are in place protecting women, but they do not guarantee enforcement, such as the Equal Pay Act of 1963. The gender pay gap is real and well-known. Read more about the gender pay gap at Pay Equity and Discrimination at Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR.org).
And changing laws doesn’t change hearts and minds. It can take generations to shift attitudes.
Just the other day I had the great displeasure of hearing a guy who seemed to be stuck in early 1900s mentality:
I was having lunch in a small neighborhood restaurant and a group of about six men sat at a table next to me. One man in the group loudly expressed his attitude about women’s rights and women’s equality. I’ll paraphrase his words here,
“Women want equal rights and want to be equal to men, but that puts things out of order. It should be God, then men, then women. Women can’t come before men because that’s like putting on your shoes before you put on your socks.”
I thought this man was an ignoramus. Plus, he was loud and obnoxious in my opinion. But I wondered, “Does he have sons? Daughters? Married to a woman? What would it be like to be around this guy all the time?”
I only had to hear him for a few minutes. And truthfully, listened to what he was saying because I was stunned and amazed by his logic.
Laws don’t change people.
Women have choices now because of the battles fought by previous generations of women. My grandmother always said, “We had to put up with a lot but you don’t have to.”
It’s not just that equal pay for equal work is fair.
It’s that our grandmothers before us “put up with” injustice, bowed to men, fought for the right to vote, to participate fully in the freedoms granted by the Constitution for all Americans.
We need to know what’s at stake.
The saying goes, “He who fails to learn from history is doomed to repeat it.”
That’s why Women’s History Month is important. Let’s pay attention.
And for a detailed timeline of Women’s Rights, visit National Women’s History Project.
Read more about Women’s History Month at Women’sHistoryMonth.org.