March first marks the annual inception of National Women’s History Month in the United States of America. Born in 1987 when a congressional vote deemed March a month-long celebration of women’s contributions to history, Women’s History Month started as a week-long celebration in 1981. As educators, we have the responsibility and privilege of using this national celebratory month to educate our students about the powerful women who have shaped our nation. There is a plethora of valiant women to highlight, and several creative ways to embed women’s history into your curriculum.
The Importance of Women’s History Month
It’s no secret that our nation has a speckled past in relation to women’s rights. There was a dark time in our nation when women were oppressed – unable to vote, own property, and fulfill political positions amongst other rights. It was the persistent and fearless efforts of women’s rights activists like Ida B. Wells and Susan B. Anthony that prepared the way for the women leaders that we know and love today. Because a significant season of our history oppressed women, when students study the influential politicians, influencers, and trailblazers of our past, women can unfortunately comprise a smaller part of the picture.
Women’s History Month is important because it highlights the strength and courage of women. It acknowledges the undeniable fact that women, just as much as men, have provided and continue to provide a significant portion of the backbone of our society. No matter the gender of a student, every student deserves an accurate presentation of women’s role in our history. We would do a disservice to our students to let the month of March pass sans acknowledgement and celebration of the women who have paved the way for the heroines of today and tomorrow.
Books for Women’s History Month
She Persisted by Chelsea Clinton and Alexandra Boiger
In this book filled with vivid pictures and impactful stories, author Clinton introduces young readers to thirteen women who left their mark on American history by being tenacious and leveraging their voices.
Becoming by Michelle Obama
In a compelling autobiography that has snagged both a Grammy and NAACP Image award, former first lady Michelle Obama takes readers on a journey through her life leading up to and including her time in the White House. This book serves as a celebration of black culture, womanhood, and an homage to the spirit of America.
The Beloved World of Sonya Sotomayor by Sonya Sotomayor
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor penned this student-friendly version of her autobiography My Beloved World in response to the many questions she received while visiting with schoolchildren around the country. Sotomayor recounts the story of her life in this book – a story that is filled with challenges faced, hurdles overcome, and excellent achievement through education and hard work.
I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
In this book, the woman who at seventeen became the youngest Nobel Peace Laureate talks about her audacious advocacy for women’s education rights. This pursuit placed her in extreme danger in her native country and caused her to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles that propelled her voice to the world stage.
Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly and Laura Freeman
Hidden Figures tells the story of three black female mathematicians whose work with NASA helped propel the US into space. These sedulous women persevered during a time when both women and African-Americans faced oppression and became cemented in our nation’s history for their intelligence and diligence. The title is printed as a both novel and a picture book that is accessible for young readers.
Women’s History Month Activities
Just like in a real museum where there are wax statues of important historical figures, a “wax museum” created in the classroom gives students an opportunity to portray a female historical figure by dressing up and possibly preparing a small monologue from that figure’s perspective. Typically, students stand and wait as museum “visitors” stroll around, providing information as they come.
Celebrate Local Women
Women’s History Month is a perfect time to celebrate your local heroes who contribute to your school and community. Honoring local women, past and present, who have made a positive impact will likely engage students and have a positive effect on school culture and community relations.
Create a Class Scrapbook
Scrapbooking can be meaningful and unifying, especially when the theme is as important as women’s history. This can be a quick yet impactful way to recognize the accomplishments of women. Give each student a page to report on a historical figure or event through words and pictures, then put the pages together to form the class book.
Assign a Research Paper or Project
This is the old faithful, but it’s still effective. Students will have to learn and apply research skills, and Women’s History Month is the perfect thematic platform. Allow students to choose a woman or women’s history event to research and write or create a project about.
There is no doubt that women form an integral part of our history. Engaging students in activities to understand the impact of women is not only academically beneficial, but also teaches children that gender does not determine your importance in society. Go forth and celebrate Women’s History Month as you cultivate informed, well-educated students.
Remote and Virtual Activities for Women’s History Month
No matter where your students are learning from, there are always online activities that can correlate with the topic you are teaching. Help students explore and dig deeper into women’s history with these remote learning activities.
Solve a History Mystery
Scholastic has a fun, interactive game that individual students or small groups can play called History Mystery. Students read clues provided by Dr. Carlotta Facts, then use those clues to figure out the subject she is speaking about. Students can use the internet or other sources to help them identify the mystery person.
Women’s History Scavenger Hunt
If you’re looking for a fun way to hone students’ online research skills, try sending them on a scavenger hunt to learn more about notable women in history. Students can download and print out the scavenger hunt or enter their answers in the space provided.
Makers: Women Who Make America
Makers is a media brand that celebrates and honors women through documentaries of real-life experiences. Challenge students to go on the Makers website and choose a documentary to watch. Instruct students to choose a woman or women’s topic (women in space, women in comedy) that interests them because they will be writing a short essay about the documentary. Make sure students include why they choose that specific woman or topic.
Learn about Women through an Interactive Image
Flipgrid has dozens of interactive lessons where students can click on an image to learn more about a specific woman in history, such as women in NASA, STEM, Black women in Suffrage or Civil Rights, or powerful women like Ada Lovelace, the first computer programmer, or Marie Curie, the first woman to win the Nobel Prize. After students learn the history of the photograph then they can record a short Flipgrid video on three things they learned from the interactive photo. Once all videos are in, have students choose one friend’s video to watch and report what they learned.
Explore Online Exhibits
The National Women’s History Museum is a great website for students to explore online exhibits that showcase specific women in history. For example, students can learn about women in sports or politics or dive deeper into a specific woman’s history like Harriet Tubman or Sojourner Truth. Students can also go on virtual field trip that is conducted via Zoom. If the field trip you are looking for is currently booked, there may be a chance there is a prerecording of the program. Once students have gone on the exhibit or field trip, students can record a Flipgrid presentation of what they learned and virtually share it with their classmates.
The Power of Woman Symbols
The United States Department of Treasury announced that Harriet Tubman would replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill. In addition, the $5 and $10 bills will also be updated to include other women and civil rights leaders. Take this opportunity to teach students to analyze the role of symbols and their impact on our society. Engage students in a brief discussion about the topic, then have student construct an essay that argues whether symbols are ‘important’ and ‘irrelevant’ and then provides reasoning and evidence.