Today we begin the annual month-long celebration of women’s history. During the last few decades there has in recent years been a sea-change in the amount of information about women’s lives and our past that is readily available. Despite centuries of concerted patriarchal effort, the story of women is slowly becoming fully visible. But there is still much more to be done until we can truly see the full measure of women’s lives throughout the ages.
Perhaps the most important thing is that we need to continue to get this knowledge into the schools so that girls can grow up knowing that they too have a past, a foundation of herstory on which to build their lives. Another crucially important thing is to continue to push for women’s participation and visibility in the media and full representation in government. Last week it was incredibly disheartening to find out that only 5 of the people invited to the healthcare summit were women. In what way this is representative government, I have no idea, but it it is all too typical of business as usual in this country and that needs to change.
As you celebrate Women’s History Month, here are some interesting facts to consider and some resources for teaching women’s herstory. There is only one problem–it would be impossible to celebrate everything there is to celebrate about women in one month. Starting now, let’s continue to celebrate throughout the year and refuse to have the lives of half the population relegated to only one month.
Some interesting facts about women in the U.S. courtesy of the Census Bureau:
- There are 155.8 million females and 151.8 males in the United States as of Oct. 1, 2009.
- At 85 and older, there were more than twice as many women as men.
- There are an estimated 82.8 million mothers of all ages in the United States.
- $35,745 –The median annual earnings of women 15 or older who worked year-round, full time, in 2008, down from $36,451 in 2007 (after adjusting for inflation). Women earned 77 cents for every $1 earned by men.
- 29.4 million–The number of women 25 and older with a bachelor’s degree or more education in 2008, higher than the corresponding number for men (28.4 million). Women had a larger share of high school diplomas, as well as associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees. More men than women had a professional or doctoral degree.
- 197,900–Total number of active duty women in the military, as of Sept. 30, 2008. Of that total, 34,300 women were officers, and 163,600 were enlisted.
- 14%–Proportion of members of the armed forces who were women, as of Sept. 30, 2008.
- 1.7 million–The number of military veterans who were women in 2008.
- 18%–Percentage of married couples in which the wife earned at least $5,000 more than the husband in 2008.
- 5.3 million–Number of stay-at-home mothers nationwide in 2008.
- 3.1 million–Number of girls who participated in high school athletic programs in the 2007-08 school year. In the 1979-80 school year, only 1.75 million girls were members of a high school athletic team.
This is the 30th anniversary of the National Women’s History Project:
The overarching theme for 2010 and our 30th Anniversary celebration is Writing Women Back into History. It often seems that the history of women is written in invisible ink. Even when recognized in their own times, women are frequently left out of the history books. To honor our 2010 theme, we are highlighting pivotal themes from previous years. Each of these past themes recognizes a different aspect of women’s achievements, from ecology to art, and from sports to politics.
When we began our work in the early eighties, the topic of women’s history was limited to college curricula, and even there it languished. At that time, less than 3% of the content of teacher training textbooks mentioned the contributions of women and when included, women were usually written in as mere footnotes. Women of color and women in fields such as math, science, and art were completely omitted. This limited inclusion of women’s accomplishments deprived students of viable female role models.
Today, when you search the Internet with the words “women’s +history + month,” you’ll find more than 40,500,000 citations. These extraordinary numbers give testimony to the tireless work of thousands of individuals, organizations, and institutions to write women back into history. Much of this work was made possible by the generous support of people like you.
Big WOW and Happy Anniversary to the NWHP and thank you for your very important work!
If you are a teacher, here are some great resources for teaching Women’s History Month:
- Gale.com has some biographies of famous women.
- History.com has information on women in politics, black women’s history, the history of the sufferage movement and more.
- Time for Kids has a list of women’s history milestones.