Jimmy Carter's contributions to Women's History Month

Credit: Barry Thumma

Credit: Barry Thumma

The start of Women's History Month celebrated each March in the United States can be traced back to the stroke of a pen by former President Jimmy Carter. Carter, the former Georgia governor and only Georgian to become president, issued a proclamation in 1980 declaring the week of March 8 National Women's History Week. Carter's proclamation followed several events surrounding International Women's Day on March 8, most notably that of a California school district that created its own Women's History Week of events that culminated in a parade.

Six years after Carter's proclamation, Congress, at the urging of the National Women's History Project, declared March of each year to be Women's History Month.

The February 28, 1980 statement by President Carter establishing National Women's History Week: 

From the first settlers who came to our shores, from the first American Indian families who befriended them, men and women have worked together to build this Nation. Too often, the women were unsung and sometimes their contributions went unnoticed. But the achievements, leadership, courage, strength, and love of the women who built America was as vital as that of the men whose names we know so well.

As Dr. Gerda Lerner has noted, "Women's history is women's right—an essential, indispensable heritage from which we can draw pride, comfort, courage, and long-range vision."

I ask my fellow Americans to recognize this heritage with appropriate activities during National Women's History Week, March 2-8, 1980. I urge libraries, schools, and community organizations to focus their observances on the leaders who struggled for equality—Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth, Lucy Stone, Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Harriet Tubman, and Alice Paul.

Understanding the true history of our country will help us to comprehend the need for full equality under the law for all our people. This goal can be achieved by ratifying the 27th amendment to United States Constitution: "Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex."