Fifty years ago, the history taught in schools was practically all ‘his’ story. Women’s history was not a thing in the public consciousness. Recognizing that oversight, the Education Task Force of Sonoma County (California) Commission on the Status of Women launched a “Women’s History Week” celebration in 1978. The following year, in that same vein, leaders from central women’s organizations across the U.S. met at the Sarah Lawrence College Summer Women’s History Institute to learn and plan how best to spread the word about women’s history through their community networks. Following that meeting, two SLC Women’s History grad students/TroubleMakers, Pam Elam, and Peggy Pascoe lobbied tirelessly for it, and by 1980 their efforts culminated in proclamations from both state and federal legislators establishing National Women’s History Week.
This is a quote from then-President Jimmy Carter’s message to the nation:
“Men and women have worked together to build this nation. Too often the women were unsung and sometimes their contributions went unnoticed. But the achievements, leadership, courage, strength, and love of the women who built America was as vital as that of the men whose names we know so well.
I urge libraries, schools, and community organizations to focus their observances on the leaders who struggled for equality—Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth, Lucy
Stone, Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Harriet Tubman, and Alice Paul.
Understanding the true history of our country will help us to comprehend the need for full equality under the law for all our people.”
President Carter added, “This goal can be achieved by ratifying the 27th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which states that “Equality of Rights under the Law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”
Of course, in 1980 the President was referring to the Equal Rights Amendment which, Trouble notes again, still has yet to be fully ratified in 2023. At the time of this posting, we don’t yet know the outcome of the first Senate committee hearing on the ERA since 1984. It’s happening on February 28, 2023. The hearing will focus on how Congress can recognize the ratification of the ERA and enshrine equality in the U.S. Constitution. As members of the ERA Project, two TroubleMakers highlighted on our site, Ting Ting Cheng and Katherine Franke have worked on testimony that will be presented at the hearing. TROUBLE would like to take this opportunity to call out the ERA Project. We applaud them for their ongoing policy work and grit. Not to mention TROUBLE’s own Bari Harlam, who has recently joined the Advisory Board for the ERA project.
The federal government currently recognizes March as National Women’s History Month. And the second week of the month is still Women’s History Week. Governments all over the world now acknowledge March 8 as International Women’s History Day. Years of these observances have helped to mainstream the idea of women’s contributions. But, like every advancement for women and public recognition of issues that affect women’s lives, if we take it for granted, we risk sliding backward and losing momentum. Consider certain forces pushing restrictions on a broad range of topics and materials in public school libraries, pressuring educators to stifle ideas of equity and inclusion.
This year’s Women’s History Month theme is “Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories.” The National Women’s History Alliance, instrumental in the movement for March being declared National Women’s History Month, “will encourage recognition of women, past and present, who have been active in all forms of media and storytelling including print, radio, TV, stage, screen, blogs, podcasts, and more. The timely theme honors women in every community who have devoted their lives and talents to producing art, pursuing truth, and reflecting the human condition decade after decade.” Check out their content that “illuminates the stories of pivotal women’s lives and highlights how they’re champions of change.”
Under the theme “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality“, the United Nations Observance of International Women’s Day 2023 will highlight the need for inclusive and transformative technology and digital education as well as the need for protecting the rights of women and girls in digital spaces and addressing gender-based violence facilitated by information and communications technology (ICTs).” UNwomen.org
Just a few minutes spent searching online for various types of information reveals the need to address this topic and for sounding the alarm to call attention to glaring inequity and even danger for girls and women in the digital realm.
Simple Google searches quickly reveal the extent of the gender imbalance embedded in the information available online. Keywords lean toward male-centric content. Search “Girls online” NO WAIT! Don’t! You will not learn about programmers, content developers, educators, or leaders.
Online inquiries on any topic comparing men and women typically deliver more results if the word “men” is first in the query. So, even though there are slightly more women than men in the US, that seemingly unimportant word order affects the number of results; a reflection of how web content is organized, and of the power of the keywords used to rank it. A search for “Male to female ratio in America 2020” yields 735,000,000 in 0.55 seconds. Enter “Female to Male ratio in America 2020,” 550,000,000 results come up in 0.58 seconds—a significant, typically unnoticed type of difference.
It’s the subtlety that makes it easy to overlook inequities. It’s that low-grade hum of oppression that persists in our culture that TroubleMakers are here to illuminate, push back against, and work to overcome.
How will you celebrate Women’s History day, week, and month this year?
Here are some ideas:
If your state hasn’t ratified the ERA, learn what you can do at equalrightsamendment.org
Uplift your worldview and gain some inspiration at goodgoodgood.co
Learn how to make the web safer from the UN specialized agency for ICTs. itu.int
Spread the word at work with ideas from Thriver
Read a relevant book as recommended by the New York Public Library
Keep on making Trouble and Herstory together by supporting this mission.
Stay tuned for more insights and inspiration.
Share what you learn here with the TroubleMakers you know and love.
SPEAK UP – SPEAK OUT. THIS REALLY MATTERS.