Origins of Women's History Month
The actual celebration of Women’s History Month grew out of a weeklong celebration of women’s contributions to culture, history and society organized by the school district of Sonoma, California, in 1978. Presentations were given at dozens of schools, hundreds of students participated in a “Real Woman” essay contest and a parade was held in downtown Santa Rosa.
A few years later, the idea had caught on within communities, school districts and organizations across the country. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter issued the first presidential proclamation declaring the week of March 8 as National Women’s History Week. The U.S. Congress followed suit the next year, passing a resolution establishing a national celebration. Six years later, the National Women’s History Project successfully petitioned Congress to expand the event to the entire month of March.
The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution granted American women the right to vote, a right known as women’s suffrage, and was ratified on August 18, 1920, ending almost a century of protest. In 1848, the movement for women’s rights launched on a national level with the Seneca Falls Convention, organized by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mot.
Following the convention, the demand for the vote became a centerpiece of the women’s rights movement. Stanton and Mott, along with Susan B. Anthony and other activists, raised public awareness and lobbied the government to grant voting rights to women. After a lengthy battle, these groups finally emerged victorious with the passage of the 19th Amendment.
Despite the passage of the amendment and the decades-long contributions of Black women to achieve suffrage, poll taxes, local laws and other restrictions continued to block women of color from voting. Black men and women also faced intimidation and often violent opposition at the polls or when attempting to register to vote. It would take more than 40 years for all women to achieve voting equality.
Feminism, a belief in the political, economic and cultural equality of women, has roots in the earliest eras of human civilization. It is typically separated into three waves: first wave feminism, dealing with property rights and the right to vote; second wave feminism, focusing on equality and anti-discrimination, and third wave feminism, which started in the 1990s as a backlash to the second wave’s perceived privileging of white, straight women.
From Ancient Greece to the fight for women’s suffrage to women’s marches and the #MeToo movement, the history of feminism is as long as it is fascinating.
Eleanor Roosevelt's work for women began long before her husband Franklin D. Roosevelt won the presidency. After joining the Women's Trade Union League in 1922, she introduced Franklin to friends like Rose Schneiderman, which helped him to understand the needs of female workers.
In the political arena, Eleanor coordinated women's activities during Al Smith's 1928 run for president and later worked on her husband's presidential campaigns. When Franklin won the White House, Eleanor used her new position to support women's interests; even the press conferences she held for female reporters helped them in their jobs.
Eleanor continued to be an advocate for women after Franklin's death. She spoke out about the need for equal pay during John F. Kennedy's administration.
Shirley Chisholm is best known for her 1972 bid to win the Democratic presidential nomination; she was the first Black woman to make this attempt in a major political party. However, she had been active in state and national politics for more than a decade and had represented parts of Brooklyn in the New York State Assembly from 1965 to 1968.
She became the first Black woman to serve in Congress in 1968. During her tenure, she co-founded the Congressional Black Caucus. Chisholm left Washington in 1983 and devoted the rest of her life to civil rights and women's issues.
Sacagawea: The Woman Who Made Lewis and Clark a Success
A Shoshone Indian born circa 1788, Sacagawea was kidnapped by the Hidatsa when she was around 12 years old. Eventually, she and another captive were acquired by and married to Toussaint Charbonneau, a French-Canadian trader.
When Charbonneau was hired as a translator for the Lewis and Clark Expedition, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark also wanted to take advantage of Sacagawea’s linguistic knowledge (she could speak both Shoshone and Hidatsa). Sacagawea set out with the expedition on April 7, 1805, only two months after giving birth. She took her son, Jean Baptiste, on the journey, where the presence of mother and child was an indisputable asset — as war parties didn’t take along women and children, the group wasn’t seen as a threat by the tribes they encountered.
Sacagawea assisted the expedition in other ways: When a panicked Charbonneau almost capsized a boat, she saved navigational tools, supplies and important papers. She was able to locate edible and medicinal roots, plants and berries. The landmarks she remembered also proved useful in their travels.
When the group returned to the Hidatsa-Mandan villages in 1806, Sacagawea didn’t receive any pay (her husband got $500, as well as 320 acres of land). Clark acknowledged the unfairness of this in an 1806 letter to Charbonneau:
“Your woman who accompanied you that long dangerous and fatigueing rout to the Pacific Ocian and back diserved a greater reward for her attention and services on that rout than we had in our power to give her....”
A Bronx native of Puerto Rican descent, Sonia Sotomayor became the first Hispanic American to serve as a member of the Supreme Court.
Sotomayor was born in 1954 in the New York City borough, where she grew up in a predominantly Catholic and Puerto Rican community. She quickly made education a priority through her mother’s insistence after her dad died when she was 9 years old.
The future judge went on to graduate valedictorian from high school and earned a full scholarship to Princeton University. She graduated in 1976 after establishing herself as a student advocate, working hard to ensure Princeton began hiring Latin American faculty. She went on to Yale Law School and graduated in 1979, earning her acceptance to the New York Bar the next year.
After working for over four years as an assistant district attorney in New York and stepping away to work in private practice, Sotomayor was nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York by President George H. W. Bush in 1991 and to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit by President Bill Clinton in 1997.
Twelve years later, Sotomayor made history when President Barack Obama picked her as his first nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2009.
Not only was Patsy Mink the first Asian American woman elected to the U.S. Congress in 1964, she was also the first woman from an ethnic minority group to make it into the elite lawmaking body. Mink spent four decades in the House of Representatives, speaking out in favor of the rights of immigrants, minorities, women, and children.
She was also one of the major players involved in getting Title IX—the legislation that brought academic and athletic equity to American educational institutions—passed. In 1972, she became the first Asian American woman to seek the Democratic presidential nomination. Find out 57 other famous female firsts.
Why Is Social Justice Important?
Social justice promotes fairness and equity across many aspects of society. For example, it promotes equal economic, educational and workplace opportunities. It’s also important to the safety and security of individuals and communities.
Porterville College is committed to maintaining an equal learning and working environment for all. If you have experienced or witnessed acts of racism, discrimination, or social injustice, please report it. The below guide will help you find the appropriate office and contact information:
A complaint of alleged unlawful discrimination may be filed within one year of the alleged discrimination. For complaint forms or additional information, contact one of the following:
- Human Resources Manager - Human Resources
- Porterville College
- 100 E. College Ave. Porterville, CA 93257
Additional inquiries pertaining to federal, state, and local equal opportunity laws, and the governing board policies of Porterville College or Kern Community College District (KCCD Board Policy Section 11-D) may be directed to the following office:
- Vice-Chancellor Human Resources
- Kern Community College District
- 2100 Chester Ave. Bakersfield, CA 93301
Title IX and Sexual Misconduct:
Porterville College is committed to fostering a learning environment that is safe, conducive to academic success and supportive of healthy personal development for all members of the campus community. Everyone at Porterville College shares responsibility for maintaining this environment by following university policies and exemplifying respect for others.
- Title IX Coordinator
- Know Your Rights
- Porterville College
- 100 E. College Ave. Porterville, CA 93257
- Porterville College Safety & Security 559.791.2440
- Porterville Police Department 559.782.7400
- Tulare County Sheriff's Office 559.7829650
- Tulare County District Attorney 559.636.5494
- Behavioral Intervention Team
- Disability Resource Center: Right & Responsibilities
- PC Telehealth: Free Counseling and Medical Care for Enrolled Students
- Employee Assistance Program
- PC Student Complaint Procedures