It speaks volumes about the precarious equity situation in our nation and world that we must devote a month to exploring the history of half the people on the planet who are responsible for giving life to all of the people on the planet. But here we are: March is Women’s History Month.
Since the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution enshrined women’s right to vote in federal elections, we, as a country, have made great gains as our mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers flexed their electoral muscle to expand rights to more and more of our citizenry. Would the Civil Rights Movement have blasted off so dynamically in the 1950’s if Mamie Till hadn’t spoken to every mother across the world by insisting on an open casket funeral for her beloved son who was lynched by white supremacists in Mississippi, saying: “I wanted the world to see what they did to my baby?” Would that same cry for freedom have resonated as widely without the insistence of an exhausted grandmother that she would not move to the back of the bus because of the color of her skin?
Female voters and activists responded to these actions and images. There can be no doubt that women have driven the fight for the Civil Rights Act, gender equality, marriage equality, the abolition of the death penalty, reproductive rights, workers’ rights, the social safety net, expansion of health care access, and so many more initiatives that have made life better for all Americans. Sadly, as almost every occupation is now open to female candidates, we still live in a nation of wage inequality between the sexes as women continue to earn 78 cents on the dollar compared to men who do the same work. There can also be no doubt that reactionary political movements of the past 60 years bent on curbing equality for all have taken aim at women’s rights. Think about it, the Equal Rights Amendment, necessary because the Constitution has never been interpreted to guarantee the rights of women as a class and the rights of men as a class to be equal, has never passed Congress!
Nothing changes in society unless we agitate, educate, and organize.
Nothing changes in society unless we agitate, educate, and organize. We have the awesome responsibility as educators to shine the light of truth on history and tell the real stories of both champions from every background and those whose names we may never know. We have to tell the stories of the millions of women who have fought since time immemorial to gain equal rights to citizenship, property ownership, protection on the job, basic safety, and equality in the home and workplace.
As always, your union is Rosie on the Spot. AFT’s Share My Lesson website houses a plethora of lessons and resources to upend the patriarchal portrayal of history that dominates most corporate-produced textbooks and celebrates the gains we’ve won and those who have led the struggle. Let’s just remember that for every hero/shero we can name there are countless millions who have struggled anonymously in their homes and communities to build a more just and equitable world. Teach Women’s History Month!