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Women's History Month Background

Women's History Month

By presidential proclamation, the month of March honors the struggles and the contributions of American women. But did you know that this national dedication used to only be a weeklong celebration called "Women's History Week?" Here is a short timeline of the month's evolution:

  • 1981: Congress passes Pub. L. 97-28 to request and authorize the president to proclaim "Women's History Week"
  • 1982: President Reagan issued Presidential Proclamation 4903 designating the week of March 7, 1982 as the first "Women’s History Week"
  • 1982-1987: Women's History Week continues to be annually requested, proclaimed, and recognized
  • 1987: After petitions from the Women's History Project (now the National Women's History Alliance), Congress issued Pub. L. 100-9 which designated the month of March as “Women’s History Month”
  • 1988-1994: Congress continued to pass additional resolutions to the President to designate March as "Women's History Month" 
  • 1995 on: Presidents have issued annual proclamations to maintain March's designation honoring American women

 

For more detailed information on Women's History Month's evolution, see the following links:

Explanation of Women's History Colors

A Note on Colors

A photo of an old Suffrage flag. It is rectangular and divided into three vertical sections that are purple, white, and blue.

Suffrage flag, National Museum of American History

What is the connection between women's history and the colors purple, white, and yellow? Similar to commercial marketing, activists throughout history have created brand identities and made visual statements through symbolism, most notably color. Think about how in near history, when a large group of female lawmakers wore white to President Trump's 2019 State of the Union Address (see photo below). This color combination emerged during early American Suffrage movements as women from several different organizations promoted their stances and values; creating an identity separate from the British Suffrage movement -- though nods to certain British organizations were hotly contested among American ones due to opinions on the boundaries of civil disobedience.

Photo of a group of diverse female lawmakers in a variety of white suits who watch as President Donald Trump (not pictured) delivers his State of the Union address.

Female Democratic lawmakers in white at President Donald Trump's State of the Union address, February 5, 2019. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The origin stories and the color representations differ based on the various organizations and time periods, so we encourage you to check out the following resources on color symbolism in women's history and movements for more information: