The Woman Behind National Women’s History Month

Our understanding of history shapes the way we see the world and helps us define who we are as individuals. When Molly Murphy MacGregor was asked to define the women’s movement by one of her high school students in 1972 her search for an answer not only redefined her view of the world but helped redefine the nation’s view of the role of women throughout history.

Prompted by the student’s inquiry MacGregor consulted her college textbooks to gain a greater understanding of the women’s movement that she could share. Upon review, MacGregor found the historical coverage of women in her textbooks to be nearly nonexistent. She was recently quoted in a Ms. Magazine article, “Only one chapter in one book contained information about the first Woman’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848…I had read it before—I received straight A’s in history—and yet somehow I had not remembered it. I had not even realized how much I owed those women. For me, that was the beginning.” After the realization that women had largely been left out of history books, MacGregor set out to shed light on the under-and-un-represented historical narratives of women.

MacGregor went on to help organize the first ever Women’s History Week celebrated in California in 1978 and created curriculum guides to help teachers educate students. The momentum behind the initiative grew quickly and in 1980 President Jimmy Carter proclaimed the first National Women’s History Week. That same year MacGregor, Mary Ruthsdotter, Maria Cuevas, Paula Hammett and Bette Morgan founded the National Women’s History Project (NWHP) with the goal of writing women back into history.

In 1987 the NHWP successfully lobbied congress to extend Women’s History Week to a whole month and March was officially proclaimed as Women’s History Month. Since the first National Women’s History Month thirty years ago the NHWP has grown from a grassroots organization to a national institution advocating for greater inclusion of female figures in history curriculums at all levels of education and across the country.

In the NWHP’s own words,

“We are retelling history. And changing the future. We believe that knowing women’s history gives all of us—female and male—the power and inspiration to succeed. We believe that Our History Is Our Strength.”

Thirty years later the NWHP is still helping to illuminate and celebrate the tremendous of achievements of women that were for so long left out of history. The theme for the 2017 Women’s History Month is “Honoring Trailblazing Women in Labor and Business.” You can find more details and see a list of this year’s honorees at www.NWHP.org.

Hear from Molly Murphy MacGregor in her own words by listening to our recorded webinar, “Celebrating Women’s History with Library Resources.”

To learn how Gale is helping to write women back into history visit gale.com/WomensHistory.

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