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Women’s History Month: An Unfinished Revolution

Venus Female Symbol

Fifty years ago, with some notable exceptions like Eleanor Roosevelt, women were invisible in history. White males led corporate America while secretaries took notes and made coffee. And marriage was the goal of most college educated middle class young women.

Though many issues remain unsolved, Women’s History Month is an opportunity to celebrate positive changes that have taken place for American women, as well as re-commit to the progress that still needs to be made.

Recognition for Women’s History

In 1978 the Education Task Force of the Sonoma County Commission on the Status of Women decided women’s history needed to be included in school curriculums, and chose March 8th, already celebrated as International Women’s Day, as a focal point for a Women’s History Week.

American Suffragists 1913

The concept was a success, and other communities and school districts introduced similar activities. In 1980 President Jimmy Carter issued a Presidential Proclamation declaring the week of March 8th as National Women’s History Week. States expanded the event to Women’s History Month. Congress declared March as Women’s History Month in 1987.

This year’s theme is Valiant Women of the Vote celebrating the fight for the 19th Amendment and the continuing effort to ensure voting rights fo all.

United Nations International Women’s Day

United Nations Logo

The United Nations began International Women’s Day events during the 1975 International Women’s Year.

So far, no country has achieved gender equality. Women and girls are still undervalued, work more while earning less, and remain subject to domestic and public violence.

The UN theme for 2020 International Women’s Day is I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights. The observance focus is to bring the next generation of leaders among women and girls and gender equality activists together with earlier women’s rights supporters who created the Beijing Platform for Action adopted at the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women.

American Women in the Board Room

One always wonders how much progress has occurred for women in all areas of American life. In September 2019 Fortune magazine published its annual list of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business. It’s an impressive list. I was particularly struck by women running companies like General Motors (Mary Barra) and Lockheed Martin (Marillyn Hewson). Women hold high positions in technology and finance. 

In fact, according to Fortune, women hold a record number of high positions at top companies. Sounds good, but when you break it down further, women comprise only 33 of all Fortune 500 CEOs. About 6.6 percent.

Sheryl Sandberg

There are many reasons why this might be so, but one of them is the high price women (and men as well) pay in their personal lives. Sheryl Sandberg wrote about “leaning-in.” In October 2018 when Indra Nooyi stepped down as CEO of PepsiCo Inc., she wrote a letter encouraging her staff to “be mindful of your choices on the road ahead.”

The long and continuing struggle for women’s equality and opportunity is about real choices. Women shouldn’t be denied a choice, because it’s outcome seems to difficult. Every women has the right to make that choice for herself. That’s the point of women’s equality. Women’s History Month is the opportunity to discover and celebrate women who blaze trails. It’s also a moment in time for girls and women to be inspired.

One Woman

In 2013 singers and musicians came together to record One Woman, a song written for UN Women by Beth Blatt, Graham Lyle, and Fahan Hassan. The lyrics are moving. Listening to and watching the singers even more so.

In Kigali, she wakes up,
She makes a choice,
In Hanoi, Natal, Ramallah.
In Tangier, she takes a breath,
Lifts up her voice,
In Lahore, La Paz, Kampala.
Though she’s half a world away
Something in me wants to say …

We are One Woman,
You cry and I hear you.
We are One Woman,
You hurt, and I hurt, too.
We are One Woman,
Your hopes are mine.
We shall shine.

In Juarez she speaks the truth,
She reaches out,
Then teaches others how to.
In Jaipur, she gives her name,
She lives without shame
In Manila, Salta, Embu.
Though we’re different as can be,
We’re connected, she with me

We are One Woman,
Your courage keeps me strong.
We are One Woman,
You sing, I sing along.
We are One Woman,
Your dreams are mine.
And we shall shine.
We shall shine.

And one man, he hears her voice.
And one man, he fights her fight.
Day by day, he lets go the old ways,
One Woman at a time.
Though she’s half a world away,
Something in me wants to say.

We are One Woman,
Your victories lift us all.
We are One Woman,
You rise and I stand tall.
We are One Woman,
Your world is mine
And we shall shine.
Shine, shine, shine.
We shall shine
Shine, shine, shine.
We shall shine.
Shine, shine, shine.


Women Suffragists Demonstrate 1913

Sheryl Sandberg. World Economic Forum 2011.

International Women’s Day 2020 Theme. UNWomen. Dec 11, 2019

National Women’s History Alliance

Kristen Bellstrom and Emma Hinchliffe. “Meet the 2019 Fortune Most Powerful Women in Business.” Fortune. Sept. 23, 2019.

Meera Jagannathan. “Do You Want to be CEO?” Market Watch. July 21, 2019.

Vandana Sinha. “Viewpoint: Women Business Leaders Can Confront a Precarious Balance.” Biz Journals. Oct. 4, 2019.

Author Sandra Wagner Wright

Sandra Wagner-Wright holds the doctoral degree in history and taught women’s and global history at the University of Hawai`i. Sandra travels for her research, most recently to Salem, Massachusetts, the setting of her new Salem Stories series. She also enjoys traveling for new experiences. Recent trips include Antarctica and a river cruise on the Rhine from Amsterdam to Basel.

 Sandra particularly likes writing about strong women who make a difference. She lives in Hilo, Hawai`i with her family and writes a blog relating to history, travel, and the idiosyncrasies of life.


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