2012 Highlights Impact of 1970s National Legislation Designed to Improve Women's Educational OpportunitiesThis year's Women's History Month shines the spotlight on the relationship between education and economic, political and personal empowerment.
It also draws the connection between federal legislation and protection of women's rights. The organizers note the importance of a single piece of legislation that opened doors and made a world of difference in how girls experienced school, and the opportunities available to them.
This change-inducing law is officially called Title IX of the Education Codes of the Higher Education Act Amendments. Unofficially, subsequent generations of lawyers, educators and women's rights activists have simply called it "Title Nine." The law was passed in 1972 and implemented in 1977. (Title IX of the Education Code is not the same as Title IX of a different piece of legislation, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which also helped improve women's opportunities.)
The 1972 Title IX "prohibited gender discrimination by federally funded institutions," states the National Women's History Project which sets the themes for Women's History month.
"Its enactment has served as the primary tool for women's fuller participation in all aspects of education from scholarships, to facilities, to classes formerly closed to women. It has also transformed the educational landscape of the United States within the span of a generation," they add.
Title IX covers discrimination in such male-dominated fields as math and science. It also is widely attributed to enabling women to participate equally in school and collegeiate sports and on teams.
Today more women than men attend higher educational institutions. But, as the organizers of Women's History Month point out, that's a recent change. Historically, more men were able to afford and to gain access to education, and to do so more easily, in terms of admissions, scholarship and discrimination, than were women. It's only in the past few decades that women attended medical, law and business school, played on school athletic teams, and received scholarship money for higher education in anywhere near equal numbers as men.
Who Decides the Theme of Women's History MonthThe National Women's History Project decides the theme of Women's History Month every year.
This nonprofit organization, founded in 1980, has as its mission to recognize and celebrate the "diverse and significant historical accomplishments of women by providing information and educational materials and programs." The National Women's History Project has an interesting website filled with resources. The organization also holds numerous conferences and meetings annually on the topic of women's history.
For more information, see their site: http://www.nwhp.org/.
Brief Timeline: How Did Women's History Month Come into Existence?
According to the federal website devoted to Women's History Month, the US Congress established Women's History Month albeit first as a "week," not an entire month. Starting in 1981 and every year for the next five years, Congress continued to pass resolutions marking "Women’s History Week." Eventually it became an entire month. However, it's important to see Women's History Month within a gradual expansion of women's rights legislation dating to the 1960s. (For a detailed timeline, see below).
- 1963: Equal Pay Act.
- 1964: Civil Rights Act.
- 1977: Title IX Implemented
- 1981: Congress passed authorized and requested the President to proclaim the week beginning March 7, 1982 as “Women’s History Week."
- 1987: After being petitioned by the National Women’s History Project, Congress designated March as “Women’s History Month."
- 1988 - 1994: Congress passed additional resolutions authorizing the President to proclaim March of each year as Women’s History Month.
- 1995 on: Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama have issued annual proclamations designating the month of March as “Women’s History Month.”