By Brooklyn Toney--Eagle Staff Writer
The month of March is Women’s History Month, but before it was a month, there was a week. It began as a small celebration in Sonoma, California by the Education Task Force of the Sonoma County Commision of the Status of Women. It wasn’t until many years later that President Jimmy Carter recognized the week of March 2 through March 8, 1980 as Women’s History Week nationally.
Congress declared March as National Women’s History Month in 1987.
The National Women’s History Alliance creates a yearly theme for Women’s History Month. The theme for this year's Women’s History Month is, “Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories.” The theme reflects on those who have been involved in all forms of media.
“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,” they added.
It’s a month that not only honors the remarkable achievements of women throughout history, but also highlights the empowerment of women today.
When discussing Women’s History Month it’s important to be inclusive to all marginalized groups. It must be ensured that women from all walks of life get to voice their opinions and stories.
Most have heard of the works of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, but have they heard of Nina Simone or Malala Yousafzai?
Eunice Kathleen Waymon, otherwise known as “Nina Simone”, used her voice to tell stories through music. The singer had a monumental impact on the jazz community, as well as the Civil Rights Movement. Simone once said, “It’s an artist’s duty to reflect the times in which we live.”
Simone once applied for a scholarship at the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, but found her dreams being unfulfilled when the school denied her acceptance. The artist claimed that racism was the case.
Simone wrote the song, Four Women to expose the stereotypes put on Black women in America. Each of the four women described holds different experiences and has different complexions ranging from light to dark. Simone died on April 21, 2003, but left a lasting mark on the music industry.
Simone advocated for civil rights, similar to Malala Yousafzai's fight for women's educational rights in Pakistan.
From a young age Yousafzai knew the impact she wanted to make. Her father was a teacher at the local girls’ school. The activist stated, “ My father was determined to give me every opportunity a boy would have.” She started publicly speaking about educational rights in September 2008 at the local press club.
According to Malala.org, the activist loved school, but like Simone, she was deprived of her chance to pursue her passion when the Taliban extremists took control of the town and enforced harsh laws that banned girls from attending school. Still, Yousafzai continued to speak out for girls' education.
Little did she know that her life would take a change for the worse.
In October 2012, on the way home from school, a masked gunman shot Yousafzai on the left side of her head. It took the activist months to recover.
Soon after she created the Malala Fund, a charity dedicated to giving girls the opportunity to create the future they envision for themselves. In honor of Yousafzai’s work, the advocate received the Nobel Peace Prize and became the youngest Nobel laureate.
Yousafzai has since released several books, one being a self-titled autobiography.
During the first wave of feminism, women of color were not even mentioned. They were constantly overlooked and excluded from participating in white feminist organizations.
While honoring the triumphs that we’ve achieved, we need to focus on how to overcome the issues that women still have to face today. Those issues may consist of workplace discrimination or unequal opportunities.
Women's History Month is for all women no matter the size, race, class, or other social identities. It honors the women who have created opportunities for me and many others. It's important to know about women's history so that we can make progress and inspire more generations to come.