- Michael L Bergonzi
12 Women Who Changed the World and their H(er)istory
By Michael L. Bergonzi
March is Women's History Month. Last week the department of Gender and Women's Studies and the Women's Resources Center co-sponsored an event held at the Levis Faculty Center for International Women's Day.
Titled "12 Women who Changed the World," several high profile women in the Champaign-Urbana community spoke on a woman who changed their life. Some people of note included Champaign's Mayor Deborah Frank Feinen. Speakers also included University of Illinois faculty and staff across lines related to a person's biological sex as well as the community around Champaign-Urbana. One long-time attendant Lisa Chason comes every year. She said she enjoyed the format of the event at Levi where speakers "weren't talking about themselves. They were talking about someone they honored ... it's heart warming to hear those stories."
Cultural anthropology major, Chloe Chan said "I think it's really important to have representation and to make sure the universities are showing up for days like this."
The history of the month dedicated to women has a long and winding road similar and inextricably linked to the woman's suffrage movement. Before 1920, women couldn't vote in the United States. The passage of the 19th amendment to the United State's constitution made denying or abridging voters based on sex illegal. Nine years earlier and the origins of Women's History Month began to take root.
The month can trace its lineage to Women's History Day (March 8), which began in 1911. The day was all but forgotten about until the 1960s. Women's rights activist Laura Shaw Murra (known then as Laura X) organized a march on the eighth of March to rediscover the day forgotten for almost 50 years since Women received the right to vote and 58 years since the day originated.
Eventually Women's History day evolved into a Women's History week when President Jimmy Carter in 1980 declared the first ever Women's History month with a proclamation
Unlike other United States National holidays, Women's History Month isn't guaranteed each year. Every United State's president since Ronald Reagan has renewed the celebratory month. Thanksgiving had a similar story a century earlier. Once people celebrated the holiday on different days of the year. Sometimes across the states. Abraham Lincoln in 1863 made it the day we now celebrate it on: the second to last Thursday in November.