Women may have different characteristics, yet all share their own trials and tribulations. PHOTO COURTESY OF ANNA SHVETS
Millersville University commemorated Women’s History Month – also known as Womxn’s History Month – and International Women’s Day on campus in recent weeks through a series of events. These holidays, held in the month of March and on March 8, respectively, celebrate the accomplishments of women and their contributions to society and their various fields of work and study.
Throughout the month of March, the university, along with organizations such as the Rita Smith-Wade-El Intercultural Center and The President’s Commission on the Status of Women, sponsored various presentations, fairs, and master classes to educate the community on the achievements of women throughout history. While many had the opportunity to learn more about the importance of women in society, few may know the history of Women’s History Month.
The celebration of women as a holiday traces its roots back to the early 20th century, when countless workers, many of them women, advocated for suffrage and improved labor conditions. The first Women’s Day was actually held in February, specifically on Feb. 28, 1909, declared by the New York City chapter of the Socialist Party of America to commemorate women’s contributions to the labor movement. Similar groups took inspiration and began discussing holding their own Women’s Day, however, they could not decide on a date. Groups throughout North America and Europe held a Women’s Day on varying days between late February and early March, with the United States typically holding its special day on the last Sunday in February.
Women’s Day originated as a political symbol of women’s suffrage and advocacy for labor rights, often consisting of a day of protesting sex-based discrimination. In addition, the holiday became associated with far-left movements, as those who organized and celebrated the holiday were often members of local Socialist and Communist groups. By the end of the First World War, however, Women’s Day as a holiday would fade into obscurity, and for the most part, would not be celebrated again for over half a century.
The acknowledgment of women’s history found a resurgence in the global feminist movements of the 1960s and 70s, when women’s rights groups joined communists, who until that time had been synonymous with the holiday, in choosing the day in March to advocate for equal pay, legal rights, and preventing violence against women and girls. Organizations throughout the world took note of this, and in 1977, the United Nations General Assembly declared March 8 as International Women’s Day, and to this day commemorate the holiday by educating the population on the contributions of women, not just in politics and civil rights but also in science, entertainment, and the arts.
The following year, a public school in Sonoma, California celebrated Women’s History Week around International Women’s Day as an opportunity to educate students and staff. The celebration became a national phenomenon and, in 1980, President Jimmy Carter declared Women’s History Week an officially recognized holiday. The Week turned into a month by the end of the decade and has been celebrated nationally in the United States each year since 1988. Another fun fact – Pennsylvania was among the first states to celebrate Women’s History by distributing educational materials in public schools.
The Women’s History Project primarily organizes Women’s History Month on a national level by declaring a theme each year, with the theme for 2023 being “Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories.”
Millersville University commemorated both Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day to tell the stories of the women of both yesterday and today, acknowledging their contributions as masters of their respective fields. Throughout the month of March, various organizations sponsored events to celebrate women and history, as well as those on campus.
The first and one of the largest of these events was the International Women’s Day Fair. As March 8 fell during Spring Break this year, the fair took place March 2 in the Student Memorial Center to allow an opportunity for the entire community to learn about women in history and the resources available to them on campus. Student-run clubs such as the American Association of University Women (AAUW) and the Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA) were present, as well as local organizations like the YWCA and Planned Parenthood Keystone.
The Intercultural Center sponsored the majority of events in March, with banners and educational materials on Womxn’s History Month present throughout the SMC. In addition, the Center hosted a trivia night, tabling events on self-care and trailblazing womxn, and a Diversity VS. Inclusion Masterclass providing information on including LGBTQ+ women and women of color, as well as topics such as using an “x” or “y” in place of “e” for women. Recently, the Center hosted a tabling event Tuesday for LGBTQ+ Health Awareness. On Tuesday, March 28, the Intercultural Center also intends to celebrate Trans Day of Visibility, highlighting the more inclusive aspects of celebrating women of various backgrounds and identities.
Both the Intercultural Center and the President’s Commission on the Status of Women worked tirelessly this year to provide an optimal educational experience for the community, and hopefully, the campus will see women celebrated again next year.