Why Is March Women’s History Month?

(Last Updated On: February 22, 2021)

Starting in March America, the UK, and Australia will observe Women’s History Month in correspondence with International Women’s Day (March 8). The National Women’s History Alliance has a theme for every year, and in 2021 it’ll be a continuation of 2020’s theme: Valiant Women of the Vote. Canada observes Women’s History Month in October though, so why did some of us choose March as Women’s History Month? 

Further Reading: What Is International Women’s Day?

Gaining (American) National Recognition

International Women’s Day has been kicking around in America since 1909 (as a national affair before becoming an international one). A multi-day celebration of women in America would have to wait until the 1978–because we’re pretty slow at progress. But if you thought about 70 years was upsettingly slow, you might be more upset to know that Women’s History Month started as Women’s History Week, as a local celebration in Santa Rosa, California. Why March? Pretty simple reason if you’ve thought about the timeline for a hot second. The Education Task Force of the Sonoma County Commision on the Status of Women (the people in Santa Rosa, CA who first kicked off Women’s History Week) wanted to line it up with International Women’s Day.

Following 1978 Women’s History Week would expand out of California, though Women’s History Week wouldn’t gain federal recognition until 1980. The National Women’s History Alliance (back then they were the National Women’s History Project) were able to successfully lobby for the national recognition of Women’s History Week. Then President Jimmy Carter would declare the week of March 8th National Women’s History Week in February 1980. 

It would take another handful of years for Women’s History to evolve into Women’s History Month. 14 states had declared March Women’s History Month by 1986. With state backing and momentum still going, Congress would declare March National Women’s History Month in 1987 with the passing of Public Law 100-9. Presidential proclamations for Women’s History Month are issued every year for Women’s History Month. 

This is a quirk of Congress and you might find it a bit baffling. From 1982-1987 (until Public Law 100-9 was passed), Congress had to be lobbied to declare a week Women’s History Week every single year. Instead of Congress just saying “yeah, we should probably make it a thing.” 

Australia, the UK, and Canada

Women’s History Month kicked off a little differently in Australia, starting in 2000 and pushed by the National Women’s Media Centre and the Women’s Electoral Lobby. The UK observes Women’s History Month, though womenshistorymonth.org.uk was apparently only kicking around in the early 2010s and has since been abandoned. Someone in the UK should get on that, probably. 

The big question you might have is Canada; why October? Women’s History Month was officially proclaimed by Canada in 1992 to line up with Persons Day (October 18th). It’s the anniversary of Edwards v. Canada, known in the popular lexicon as The Persons Case. It was a constitutional case decided on October 18th, 1929 that held women were eligible to be a part of the Canadian Senate. 

About the Author:

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Kyler is a content writer at Sporcle living in Seattle, and is currently studying at the University of Washington School of Law. He's been writing for Sporcle since 2019; sometimes the blog is an excellent platform to answer random personal questions he has about the world. Most of his free time is spent drinking black coffee like water.