The History of Women’s History Month
Women’s History Month (WHM) is held annually in many parts of the world to acknowledge and document the role women play in making and shaping history.
The idea was implemented in the USA in 1978, to promote the inclusion of material on women in the school history curriculum and in 1980 the US Congress passed a resolution to institute a national Women’s History Week.
In 1987 this became Women’s History Month held each March to include International Women’s Day, observed on 8 March since 1911. WHM USA is organsed by the National Women’s History Project.
WHM was introduced in Australia in 2000 by Helen Leonard, whose vision was encouraged by many supporters including Gillian Pollack, Anne Summers, Marilyn Lake, Lulu Respall-Turner and Mary Sexton. Their work, using the web to coordinate events all over Australia, was developed by the WHM committee, in 2007 renamed the Australian Women’s History Forum committee. WHM is one of the Forum’s key activities.
The specific aims for WHM Australia are to:
- raise awareness and provide information about the history of women’s contribution to Australia;
- provide a focus for activities on women’s history through its website;
- encourage initiatives across educational and community sectors; and
- support institutions and organisations in arranging local activities during WHM.
From 2005, WHM highlighted a particular area of women’s achievement with a different theme each year. Organisations and groups are encouraged to use this theme for their own celebrations for WHM.
Past themes, such as Racy Women; Musical Belles; and Arm in Arm: Women Working Together, can be explored in the online Gallery.
WHM websites from 2002 are part of the Pandora archive and can be accessed through the National Library of Australia website.
The very first WHM website set up by the WHM steering committee in 1999-2001, mainly through the efforts and US contacts of Gillian Pollack, contains a record of those early online discussions.