Maddie Schermerhorn ‘22
If you’ve been paying attention to the news or social media recently, you may know that the month of March is Women’s History Month. The name is self-explanatory, but you may wonder, however, what this month means to the Mercersburg community?
Women’s History Month is more than celebrating women’s accomplishments; it’s also about educating yourself and others about the often-overlooked work and background of women in history who have set examples of strong leaders in the world for women—and everyone else regardless of age and gender. This time is also used to thank all of the incredible female faculty and staff, and all that they do for us. Students also spread awareness through the Women’s Activism Club, leading informative and respectful conversations on campus for years now. But what about the origins of this month?
Women’s History Month began in Sonoma, California in 1978. The celebration was originally one week long held during the week of March 8, in line with International Women’s Day (IWD). IWD was first celebrated globally in 1911 to commemorate women through customs including giving gifts and other appreciations. The UN has promoted IWD since 1975 to recognize the contributions from women.
In 1980, President Jimmy Carter declared March 8 the start of National Women’s History Week, which was lengthened to a month six years later in 1986. Each year is themed and 2021’s theme is “Valiant Women of the Vote: Refusing to Be Silenced,” celebrating the women’s suffrage centennial. It has been 101 years since women received the right to vote, a milestone in the expansion of women’s rights.
In conjunction with the Advancement and Alumni Relations office, the Heinz History Center offered a presentation on the women’s suffrage movement and the years in which women fought to gain the vote. Mercersburg students, faculty, and alumni had the honor of listening to presenter Judy Sutton reflect on the road to the 19th Amendment. A key point from Sutton’s presentation was that women have been fighting for their rights for hundreds of years and still continue to fight. The presentation also highlighted an important and historically overlooked part of women’s rights, which is the additional struggles of women of color. All women have lived different lives than men, but women of color, in particular, have endured numerous difficult, uncomfortable, and unjust situations that must be given more recognition.
The presentation also discussed unknown relics of the movement. There were cookbooks printed in the spirit of women’s suffrage. They were a satirical, yet still serious and informative, way to recognize the injustices towards women. For example, some cookbooks would parallel recipes by saying to add “one sprinkle of inequality” instead of a normal cooking ingredient.
Many women were also not able to work or receive an education and were forced into lives devoted to serving their husbands and children. Their aspirations were not taken as seriously as their male counterparts, and they were seen as failures unless they were pretty or married.
Women have been overlooked and ignored in the course of American history, and it’s time for everyone to acknowledge the struggles and accomplishments of women. Women have fueled innovation, accomplishment, and progress in the world. Recognizing these achievements is crucial, whether it be as a month, through education in school, or through advocacy in clubs or online. This is why Women’s History Month is such an important month to celebrate, and it is vital that we continue to celebrate it to educate not only the Mercersburg community but the global community as well.