By Teachers, For Teachers
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Whitney is a Special Education and English teacher. She holds an Ed.S. in Teacher Leadership from Thomas University, GA.