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Happy Women's History Month!

Women's History Month began over forty years in 1981 to honor women's contributions and achievements in society and has become celebrated in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. This monthly celebration coincides with International Women's Day (IWD), a holiday that started on March 19, 1911, when over a million people from Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland came together to protest women's suffrage and gender discrimination, and the right to hold public office. In addition, people first celebrated IWD on March 8, 1914, in Germany. In 1975 during International Women's Year, the United Nations started recognizing that date as an international holiday. Today more than one hundred countries celebrate this holiday.

Women have been fighting for equal treatment since the beginning of time. Every culture has its unique perspective concerning gender roles. In some cultures, women's primary roles are wives and mothers. However, women's physical differences were instrumental in that divide and solidifying societal roles because of their stature. Men were the sole providers of their households, which forced women to depend on them for financial support. However, during the 1800s, women began questioning their societal position and wanted more independence and political involvement.

The U.S. and Europe introduced the first wave of the women's movement during the Industrial Revolution. Rural jobs replaced factory jobs, giving women the right to work. Although women were able to work, their husbands managed their earnings. Middle-class women, who did not need to work, often used their downtime to do craftwork and needlework and participate in religious and charitable events. Women in those statuses also got involved in political clubs and temperance societies.

In 1848, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott organized the women's rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York. They declared that women should have "all the rights and privileges which belong to them as citizens of the United States." Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, another women's rights suffragist, created the National American Women Suffrage Association (NAWSA). Women were not only fighting for women's suffrage but rights to file for a divorce, children guardianship, and property ownership. Feminist social and equal rights movements, along with college-educated women and women laborers, caused Congress to act.

On August 26, 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment granted women the right to vote. A year later after that passage, women gained access to birth control by the launching of Margaret Sanger's Planned Parenthood Federation of America (formerly known as the American Birth Control League). Sanger, a nurse, started this organization to give doctors legal permission to provide birth control.

Forty years later, during the Civil Rights Movement, the second women's movement launched in response to ongoing discrimination in the workplace. In 1966, women formed the National Organization for Women to fight against sexual discrimination. Then, two years later, the Women's Equity Action was founded to identify inequities in higher education and concluded that women were discouraged from participating in classroom discussions, paid unfairly, and not getting promoted. Finally, in 1971, The National Women's Political Caucus was formed to find and support female candidates for elected offices.

After the second installment of the women's movement during the late 1960s and 1970s, women historians shifted their focus on women's contributions throughout history. A school district in Sonoma County, California, was the first to promote the teaching of women's history in 1978. Over the next few years, the popularity of the holiday increased, causing Congress to pass a joint resolution requesting President Jimmy Carter to make it a national holiday. For five years, Congress passed joint resolutions, and on March 7, 1987, Women's History Week became Women's History Month.

Although women have made great strides over the years because of the advancement of technology and birth control, they are still fighting for equality. The MeToo Movement brought to the forefront the sexual harassment and violence women endured in the workplace. Furthermore, the gender pay gap widens, and women make "82 cents for every dollar a man earns." The U.S. Census created a bar graph illustrating the pay disparities between white men and women. Asian women earn $0.97 for every dollar, while Native American women/Latinas make $0.58 for every dollar. During the pandemic, fifteen percent of women left the workforce because of the lack of work-life balance.

Although the U.S. is a democratic country, we are not one of the top ten best countries for women. Countries like Germany and France have already had female presidents. During the 2016 presidential election, some men did not vote for Hillary Clinton because she was a woman. Because of intersectionality, Black women are often put into complicit positions because they try to determine which is more important: race or gender. This issue was apparent during the 2008 primaries: Barack Obama versus Hillary Clinton. Unfortunately, this false dichotomy continues to affect some Black women in determining which identifier will help them achieve social advancement in this country.

Education is another prevalent problem in countries like Pakistan. In 2012, Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by the Taliban for going to school. However, Yousafzai survived and, two years later, won the Nobel Peace Prize of 2014 for children's rights.

Last year, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and the Dobbs v. Jackson decision. Abortion rights were returned to the states causing women to lose the autonomy of their bodies.

Audre Lorde once stated, "I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own." White women represent the majority in the United States. Some fear losing their position and are voting against their best interests. Stanton is a historical figure who allowed her personal interests to supersede the common good. She was upset that Black men received the right to vote before white women. Abolitionists first wanted to get formerly enslaved Blacks political rights during that time. Stanton felt people should have fought for Black civil rights and women's suffrage simultaneously. Her frustration caused her to rally against the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment because she felt educated, middle-class white women were more worthy of the vote. Her opposition to the Fourteenth Amendment and degrading comments about Black men caused abolitionists to distance themselves from her.

The Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments were the Reconstruction Amendments. The Thirteenth Amendment emancipated enslaved people, and the Fifteenth gave Black men the right to vote. On June 13, 1866, Congress passed the Fourteenth Amendment, which granted "all persons born or naturalized in the United States" citizenship and forbade states from depriving 'any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law." Frances Thompson was instrumental in the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment. Thompson was the first transgender woman to testify in Congress about the violence she endured during the Memphis Massacre of 1866. Her powerful testimony prompted the legislators to add that no state can deny "any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." This incident and the New Orleans Massacre of 1866 strengthened the Republicans' argument for more protection for freed Blacks.

Many heroes and sheroes have contributed to amplifying women's movements. As we exit Black History Month and enter Women's History Month, we must continue to fight for the rights of all. The past is not the past but the present. Battles that we thought were resolved are still realities. Some crave yesteryear, in which women were only mothers and wives. All the progress that we have made over the years can be challenged or changed in a matter of a pen stroke. If we do not continue to build multiracial alliances, regression will be inevitable. We are the ones that decide the trajectory of this country, not elections. If we want a world for all, then we must make our elected officials accountable for their actions. Next year's presidential election will reveal what we truly want for this country.


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