Women’s History Month commemorates the contributions of American women. March was first designated as Women’s History Month on March 12, 1987, by P.L. 100-9. Since then, Presidents have issued annual proclamations promoting this observance.
This guide is designed to assist congressional offices with work related to Women’s History Month. It provides links to sample congressional speeches and recognitions, presidential proclamations, statistical data, and selected historical resources.
Women's History Month commemorates the contributions of American women. March was first designated as Women's History Month on March 12, 1987, by P.L. 100-9. Since then, Presidents have issued annual proclamations promoting this observance.
This fact sheet is designed to assist congressional offices with work related to Women's History Month. It provides links to sample congressional speeches and recognitions, presidential proclamations, statistical data, and selected historical resources.
Women's History Month began in 1978 as a local celebration of Women's History Week in Santa Rosa, California. The week of March 8 was selected to correspond with International Women's Day. As other communities adopted the celebration, women's groups and historians began lobbying for national recognition. President Jimmy Carter issued the first presidential proclamation declaring March 2-8, 1980, National Women's History Week. Between 1981 and 1986, Congress passed legislation requesting the President designate a week in March as Women's History Week.1
In 1987, the week was changed to a month. From 1988 to 1994, Congress continued to pass legislation requesting the President proclaim March as Women's History Month. Each President since 1995 has continued to issue this annual proclamation.2
Each year, the National Women's History Alliance, a nonprofit advocacy organization, chooses a theme for the month and honors women who exemplify that theme. The theme for 2019 honors women "who have led efforts to end war, violence, and injustice and pioneered the use of nonviolence to change society." Previous years' themes have honored women who fight discrimination, female business leaders, and women in government.
Public laws designating Women's History Week
Public laws designating Women's History Month
The Congressional Research Service has published several reports that relate to women's history.
CRS Report RL30261, Women in Congress, 1917-2018: Service Dates and Committee Assignments by Member, and Lists by State and Congress, by Jennifer E. Manning and Ida A. Brudnick
CRS Report R43244, Women in Congress: Summary Statistics and Brief Overview, by Jennifer E. Manning and Ida A. Brudnick
CRS Report R43856, Contemporary Federal Museum Authorizations in the District of Columbia: Past Practices and Options for Congress, by Jacob R. Straus (see sections on the proposal of a National Women's History Museum)
Representative Lloyd Smucker, "Women's History Month," remarks in the House of Representatives, Congressional Record, vol. 164, no. 49 (March 21, 2018), p. H1734.
Representative Terri A. Sewell, "Year of the Black Woman," remarks in the Extension of Remarks, Congressional Record, vol. 164, no. 47 (March 19, 2018), pp. E338-E339.
Senator Benjamin Cardin, "Women's History Month," remarks in the Senate, Congressional Record, vol. 163, no. 54 (March 28, 2017), pp. S2044-S2046.
Representative Peter Visclosky, "Women's History Month 2017," remarks in the Extension of Remarks, Congressional Record, vol. 163, no. 36 (March 1, 2017), p. E253.
Senator Richard Durbin, "National Women's History Month," remarks in the Senate, Congressional Record, vol. 162, no. 43 (March 17, 2016), pp. S1581-S1582.
Representative Dan Benishek, "Women's History Month," remarks in the House of Representatives, Congressional Record, vol. 162, no. 42 (March 16, 2016), p. H1395.
One of the many uses of a presidential proclamation is to ceremoniously honor a group or call attention to certain issues or events. Some recent Women's History Month proclamations, from the Compilation of Presidential Documents, include
Presidential Proclamations—Donald J. Trump (2017- )
Presidential Proclamations—Barack H. Obama (2009-2016)
Presidential Proclamations—George W. Bush (2001-2008)
Presidential Proclamations—William J. Clinton (1993-2000)
Presidential proclamations and remarks from 1993 to the present are available through the govinfo service on the Government Publishing Office website. Earlier remarks are available through The American Presidency Project, established by the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Many federal agencies and nongovernmental organizations maintain statistics on women, including
U.S. Census Bureau, Facts for Features: Women's History Month: March 2018. Demographic information including earnings, occupations, and educational attainment.
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Overview of BLS Statistics on Women Workers. Statistics on women's employment, unemployment, and other labor market data.
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Women's Health. Data on women's health status and insurance coverage.
Center for American Women and Politics (Rutgers), Current Numbers. Information on the current number of women in elective office in the United States.
Numerous government resources provide information on women's history, including
Library of Congress, "Women's History Month." A joint effort of multiple organizations and hosted by the Library of Congress. Contains online exhibits, teaching aids, and event calendars.
National Archives and Records Administration, "Women's History." Guide to materials across National Archives collections, including materials from the Presidential Libraries.
National Museum of American History, "Women's History." Resource guides, lesson plans, and programming related to women's history at the museum.
National Park Service, "Women's Rights National Historical Park." The park collects and houses items specifically related to the 1848 First Women's Rights Convention.
U.S. House of Representatives, "Women in Congress." Current and historical information on women in Congress, including Member profiles, interactive map, and online exhibits.
U.S. Senate, "Women in the Senate." Historical information on women in the Senate, including features on women Senators and Senate staff.
Author Contact Information
Elizabeth L. Maurer, "Women's History Month," National Women's History Museum, March 5, 2017, https://www.womenshistory.org/articles/womens-history-month.
"Women's History Month," Law Library, Library of Congress, last updated July 31, 2015, http://www.loc.gov/law/help/commemorative-observations/women_history.php.