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Why We Need Women's History Month

Today marks the final day of Women’s History Month, the annual celebration of women in history, culture, and society. This month has been celebrated in the United States since 1987, and happens in March in part due to the fact that we celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8.

In 2021, it may seem that celebrating Women’s History Month isn’t as vital as the dozens of other urgent issues facing us. Yet there are two good reasons why we still honor women in March: (1) because women’s history matters; and (2) we still have not achieved anything close to gender parity (equality).

Spanish philosopher George Santayana is credited with the saying, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Learning about history is important, as it gives us examples of how individuals and societies have handled complex challenges in the past — which gives us the insight that we need to solve current problems. For example, examining the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic has given us a framework for addressing the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

More specifically, learning women’s history is critical because it helps to ensure that we have a broader frame of reference when it comes to understanding both past struggles and modern-day issues. Throughout American history, men have sat at the top of the power structure. As a result, much of our history is focused on men and their achievements. Women’s History Month helps to correct the historical narrative that focuses on men, giving us perspectives and resources that we otherwise would not have.

A re-framing of history has allowed us to learn that many ideas and discoveries that were thought to originate with men actually came from women. This includes:

  1. The DNA Double-Helix Structure, discovered by Rosalind Franklin

  2. Computer programming, founded in part by Ada Lovelace

  3. The game Monopoly, created by Elizabeth Magie Phillips

  4. Nuclear fission, discovered in part by Lise Meitner

  5. Neuroscience research on how opiates affect the brain, discovered by Candace Pert.

By celebrating Women’s History Month, we have an opportunity to learn about these and other incredible women — and to make sure that the mistakes of the past (such as crediting men for the work of women) do not happen in the future.

Beyond learning about history, Women’s History Month is a time for us to confront the reality that despite making substantial progress in the past decades, we have not achieved equality. According to the World Economic Forum, gender parity is still 99.5 years in the future. In other words, we won’t see truly equality between men and women in the fields of education, health, and political empowerment for another century. One of the best examples of the current disparity between men and women is the gender wage gap. For every $1 earned by men in 2018, women earned:

  • 82 cents (women of all races)

  • 79 cents (white women)

  • 62 cents (Black women)

  • 54 cents (Latinx women)

  • 90 cents (asian women)

  • 57 cents (American Indian or Alaska Native)

And so in March, we look to the past to learn about the women who came before us — while simultaneously looking to the future to see how we can make a real, lasting change.

At Blackburn Center, we are dedicated to ending all forms of gender-based violence in our community. To do so, we must address the root causes of gender-based violence — including inequality. We also provide a range of services to victims and survivors of violence and crime. If you, or someone you love, need help, we are available 24 hours a day at 1-888-832-2272. Calls to our hotline are free of charge, and can be anonymous.


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