March Dates in Women's History
March is Women's History Month!
by Susan G. Butruille
- Early Spring Feast of the Passover Jewish holiday that commemorates the emancipation of Israelites from slavery in Egypt.
- Between March 19 and March 21 Spring Equinox (Vernal Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere), the day in which the sun sits directly over the equator, so that day and night worldwide are of equal length. Ancient festivals at this time celebrated the ancient Greek story of the reunion of Kore, daughter of the Earth, and her mother, Demeter, assuring the return of spring. A Celtic / Germanic spring festival honored the Goddess Ostara or Eostre, inspiring the later Christian observance of Easter.
- Tuesday before Ash Wednesday / Lent Mardi Gras (Shrove Tuesday) Translates from French to "Fat Tuesday," a time of carnival and indulgence before the austerity of Lent.
- Forty-six days before Easter Ash Wednesday (Christian) Beginning of Lent, a time of contemplation, austerity and fasting in preparation for Easter.
- Fourth Sunday of Lent / Mothering Sunday, a day to honor mothers in European countries, beginning hundreds of years ago when children of poor households who were domestic servants to the wealthy were allowed to visit their mothers and present them with gifts such as flowers. Inspired by Anna Jarvis, who herself inspired the official Mothers Day in the United States beginning in 1908, Constance Penswick-Smith reinstated Mothering Sunday in England as "a day in praise of mothers." A traditional food of Mothering Sunday is the Simnel Cake, a light fruit cake topped with 11 round balls of almond paste representing the 11 apostles (leaving out Judas). [Author's note: I would top the cake with 12 balls, the twelfth to represent "The Apostle to the Apostles," Mary Magdalene.]
- March 1 Matronalia, Roman celebration of women and celebration of
Juno-Lucina, protector of women and the family. Temple fires welcomed the coming of spring.
- March 1, 1978 Women’s History Week first observed in Sonoma County, California.
- March 1, 1987 March is designated by Congress as Women’s History Month.
- March 1, 1864 Rebecca Lee of Boston, MA became the first African
American woman to earn a medical degree.
- March 2, 1903 the Martha Washington Hotel, the first exclusively for women, opened in New York City.
- March 3 Hinamatsuri, Japanese Doll Festival, dedicated to the three Munakata goddesses, daughters of Amaterasu, the Sun.
- March 3, 1913 Woman Suffrage Parade of perhaps 10,000 in Washington, D.C, organized by Alice Paul and led by Inez Milholland riding astride a white horse. Hundreds of spectators attacked the women while police stood by.
- March 3, 1913 Birth of Margaret Bonds, composer and pianist noted for her musical adaptations of Shakespeare, and frequent collaborator with poet Langston Hughes.
- March 3, 1962 Birth of Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Olympian in the heptathlon and long jump, ranked among the world's greatest athletes.
- March 4, 1917 Peace activist and suffragist Jeanette Rankin became the first woman elected to the US House of Representatives.
- March 4, 1933 Frances Perkins became U.S. Secretary of Labor, the first woman member of a presidential cabinet.
- March 4, 1948 Birth of Jean O'Leary, lesbian and gay rights activist and co-founder of National Coming Out Day.
- March 6, 1924 Birth of Sarah Caldwell, violin protégée, the first woman to conduct a Metropolitan Opera performance, and founder and artistic director of the Opera Company of Boston.
- March 7, 1870 Wyoming women allowed on juries; the right later was taken away until the 1950s, when women once again were admitted to serve.
- March 8, 1908 First International Women's Day, founded in part by German labor activist Clara Zetkin.
- March 10 Hypatia’s Day, honoring the scholar of the University of Alexandria. A pagan, Hypatia was murdered by a mob of monks because she was a woman who taught men.
- March 10, 1913 Death of Harriet Tubman, Underground Railroad conductor who rescued more than 300 of her people from slavery.
- March 10, 1903 Birth of Clare Booth Luce, socialite, magazine editor, Republican Congresswoman, ambassador, and playwright who observed, "American playwrights do not like or understand women - at least not normal women."
- March 11, 1903 Birth of Dorothy Schiff, first woman newspaper publisher in New York, who sold her New York Post in 1976 to Australian magnate Rupert Murdock, who turned the paper into an ultra conservative rag.
- March 12, 1993 Janet Reno became the first woman U.S. Attorney General.
- March 13, 1986 Susan Butcher won the first of three straight and four total Iditarod dog sled races in Alaska.
- March 14, 1833 Birth of Lucy Hobbs Taylor, community activist and suffragist who became the first American woman to earn a degree in dentistry. "People were amazed when they learned that a young girl had so forgotten her womanhood as to want to study dentistry," she wrote. After she became a dentist, Hobbs Taylor mentored her husband to earn his degree in dentistry.
- March 17 St. Patrick’s Day, honoring the "Apostle of Ireland."
- March 20, 1852 Publication of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s best-selling, and best known, novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
- March 23, 1857 Birth of Fannie Farmer, whose cookbook, The Boston Cooking-School Cookbook included specific ingredient measurements for the first time, standardizing cooking practice.
- March 24, 1826 Birth of Matilda Joslyn Gage, undervalued champion of women's rights who brought attention to the relative equality of Seneca Indian women, influencing the other founders of the 19th century women's rights movement. She also contributed largely to The History of Woman Suffrage, The Woman's Bible, and many women's rights documents.
- March 20, 1925 Birth of Romana Banuelos, first Mexican American woman to serve as U.S. Treasurer.
- March 25, 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City. The fire killed 146 workers, most of them immigrant women age 14-23, trapped because of locked exits. Reaction to the disaster led to improved safety legislation and the growth of the International ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU).
- March 29, 1918 Birth of Pearl Bailey, blues and jazz singer, actor, and Goodwill Ambassador to the United Nations.
- March 29, 1928 Birth of Joan Kelly, who, with Gerda Lerner, founded a Master of Arts Program in Women's History at Sarah Lawrence College in 1972.
- March 31, 1776 Abigail Adams wrote her famous "Remember the ladies" letter to her husband, John, the future President, urging him to include women as he helped construct the U.S. Constitution. He laughed.
March is National Women's History Month
by Susan G. Butruille ©2019
This article appeared in the Wenatchee World March 2, 2019.
Can you name 13 accomplished women from history? Inventors . . . composers . . . artists . . . explorers . . . warriors . . . writers . . . scientists . . . educators . . . pharaohs . . . orchestra conductors . . . athletes . . . politicians . . . revolutionaries . . . peacemakers. Women have been all these things, but U.S. history books still ignore women as history makers, devoting less than 10 percent of content to women and their history. Each March, Women's History Month seeks to set the record straight.
Women's History Month in the U.S. has its roots in a series of marches by thousands of women workers beginning in the 19th century and extending into the next. Women marched for decent working conditions, living wages, and ultimately voting rights in the United States and abroad.
For centuries worldwide, women have marched for justice. In the early 20th century, March 8th became the traditional day to celebrate International Women's Day. Sonoma County, California celebrated the first Women's History Week in 1978, leading to a Congressional declaration of the first National Women's History Week in 1980, and then National Women's History Month in 1987.
The 2019 theme for Women's History Month is "Visionary Women: Champions of Peace and Nonviolence." The National Women's History Project, now the National Women's History Alliance (nationalwomenshistoryalliance.org), annually coordinates the observance. This year's 12 honorees "have devoted their lives to the cause of peace and justice, from opposing nuclear weapons and ending domestic violence to promoting nonviolent action and advocating peaceful co-existence." Among those honored is Zainab Salbi, the Iraqi founder in 1993 of Women For Women International, a humanitarian organization dedicated to women survivors of wars.
In addition to Zainab Salbi, here are 12 more accomplished women from my list of 13:
Hatshepsut, 15th-century Egyptian pharaoh of the 18th dynasty whose successors attempted to destroy all evidence of her successful reign
Jane Addams, founder of the settlement house movement for immigrants, a cofounder of the Women's International League for peace and Freedom, and the first American woman awarded a Nobel Peace Prize. Addams for a time was called "the most dangerous woman in America."
Ida Wells Barnett, Black suffragist, activist and journalist who documented lynching, despite having her newspaper's presses torched by her adversaries
Hedy Lamarr, Hollywood actor whose beauty overshadowed her brilliance as the co-inventor of a "Secret Communications System" which, after technology caught up with the invention, was extremely useful to the military and to the development of cell phones
Ethel Smyth, British composer and champion of female musicians and women's right to vote
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a founder of the American suffrage movement and an author of The Woman's Bible, which challenged traditional religion and drew opposition from mainstream suffragists
Dolores Huerta, co-founder and secretary-treasurer of the United Farm Workers and 2012 recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom
Leymah Gbowee, who organized women to demand an end to the second Liberian civil war in 2003, one of three African women to win the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize
Hypatia, 4th century C.E. pagan head of the Platonist school in Alexandria, inventor, astronomer, mathematician and teacher, murdered by monks as a heretic - a woman who refused to stay in her place
Marie Curie, Polish researcher in radioactivity who won two Nobel prizes, in physics and in chemistry
Helen Keller, author, lecturer and activist as a suffragist and a socialist who overcame the challenges of being both deaf and blind
Sarah Winnemucca, Paiute author and activist who fought the U.S. government to win back her people's lands, and whose statue now represents her state of Nevada in the U.S. Capitol
As Northwest suffragist, newspaper publisher and Oregon Trail emigrant Abigail Scott Duniway noted, "The young women of today, free to study, to speak, to write, to choose their occupation, should remember that every inch of this freedom was bought for them at a great price. It is for them to show their gratitude by helping onward the reforms of their own times, by spreading the light of freedom and of truth still wider. The debt that each generation owes to the past it must pay to the future."
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