Women's Art: Women's Vision. That's the theme of the 2008 Women's History Month. Celebrated annually in March, the month recognizes the accomplishments of females past and present. And according to the National Women's History Project, this year will focus on the diverse stories that comprise the vision and spirit of our nation.
American women have "enriched our culture, strengthened our Nation, and furthered the Founders' vision for a free and just Republic that provides opportunity and safety at home and is an influence for peace around the world," President George Bush said in his 2002 proclamation of Women's History Month. If you're looking for more information on the background of the celebration, the NWHP is the best place to start.
"We are the organization that spearheaded the movement for National Women's History Week and then National Women's History Month," says Molly Murphy MacGregor, president and co-founder. "Over 15,000 people visit our Web site daily, and it has become our primary tool in introducing and informing people about the importance of women's accomplishments."
According to the NWHP, the idea studying women's history didn't originate until the 1970s, when a California county held a week of activities. By the end of the decade, the idea had expanded outside of the state, and by the beginning of the next, activists had convinced Congress to proclaim a joint resolution for Women's History Week. It was expanded to a whole month in 1987.
The first women's rights convention was held in Seneca Falls, N.Y., in 1848, so it's no surprise that the same location is now the home of the Women's Rights National Historical Park and the National Women's Hall of Fame, established more than a hundred years later. The latter's purpose is "to honor in perpetuity these women, citizens of the United States of America whose contributions to the arts, athletics, business, education, government, the humanities, philanthropy and science, have been the greatest value for the development of their country." On the site, you can read more about some of the groundbreaking women selected for entrance, from poet Emily Dickinson to Madam C.J. Walker, the first black woman millionaire.
On Distinguished Women of Past and Present you can pull up women by topic, such as fashion or veterinary medicine. Here you'll find a more international catalog, with many women whose names and attainments might not be so familiar. Ever heard of Emilie du Chatelet? She was one of the most accomplished mathematicians in 18th-century France, when the education of women was not encouraged.
There are even sites devoted to women's achievements in various fields. On 4000 Years of Women in Science, you'll learn that Merit Ptah was practicing medicine as early as 2700 B.C.! On the Female Nobel Prize Laureates page, you'll learn that women have won in every prize category except Economics, with Marie Curie as the first female recipient two years after the foundation was started.
Of course history is never at a standstill; it's constantly being amended and added to. And you can help. Elementary and middle school students are offering up their own suggestions for favorite femme at the Scholastic Honor Roll of Notable Women. J.K. Rowling, Joan of Arc and Madonna (the singer) are among those to have made the cut. Even if you're too old to participate in that, you're never to old to attend one of the hundreds of March events cataloged on the National Women's History Project site. Or plan your own event, such as posting an informational board, putting on a living history presentation or inviting women industry leaders to speak to your office. Go ahead--sustain the American spirit.