In 1978, the people of Sonoma County, Calif. began celebrating a women’s history week at the beginning of March to honor the contributions of women throughout history. In 1981, Utah’s own Orrin Hatch along with Barbara Mikulski of Maryland worked together to have Congress recognize a national Women’s History Week. By 1987, Congress expanded this week into Women’s History Month for the entire month of March.
WSU organizations such as the women’s studies department, the diversity center and Women’s Center collaborate with many different educational departments across campus to create displays, show movies and host activities for Women’s History Month.
“We have contacts with lots of other departments on campus, and we are actually going to apply an executive council which is made up of representatives from a lot of other departments, such as education, science, technology education and a variety of areas other than social sciences and humanities,” said Cara Angell, the women’s studies secretary. “We try to work through our executive council to the faculty.”
Some of the events hosted throughout the month of March included a showing of the film Miss Representation, a “create your own herstory” writing activity, a number of displays honoring significant women throughout history and parties celebrating women’s education and empowerment.
“Every year we’ve done things from your standard film screening and panel discussion and lectures, but we’ve also done things as wild as the costume contest we had last year where you dressed up as your favorite historical female and a jeopardy challenge,” Angell said. “It just really depends. We have a sub-committee of our executive council that will plan Women’s History Month activities for us and help us come up with ideas every year.”
Another aspect of women’s history that was focused on was international women and their cultures.
“It’s a great month, a great time to learn about women; not just women in the United States, but international women as well,” Angell said.
The women’s studies department co-sponsored an event called the Women’s Educational and Community Outreach Enhancement event. This event invited international women students to the Your Community Center of Ogden where they could remove their traditional burkas and socialize with others.
“We’ve done this event twice; this will be our second time,” said student Belia Alvarado. “What it is is that we have a lot of international students that wanted to have a social event. That’s how it all started. The women can only take their burka around other women.”
Alvarado said the event has been popular both years, and many of the international women students hope that it can happen again next year
“This was for women only so they can really express anything that they want to among other women,” Alvarado said. “We had speakers, we had entertainment. Everyone that went said they had a really good time, and they really enjoyed it. They shared their stories about how much education has helped them and empowered women.”
In conjunction with the international women’s theme, a presentation of traditional Chinese female attire was given and the movie The Joy Luck Club was shown. Afterwards, students were able to ask members of the WSU Chinese Club questions about their culture.
“In addition to doing events on our own that we will host, we try also to partner with other departments to host events,” Angell said. “The history department always brings a speaker during Women’s History Month, and we try to co-sponsor with them. We try to work with the women’s center; the Center for Diversity and Unity we have very close ties with. Even if we’re not directly sponsoring or co-sponsoring, we see the benefit in getting the word out about women’s issues.”