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Jewesses with Attitude

A(wo)men to Women's History Month

For Women's History Month, we are inviting our readers to write about women, change, and the impact of WHM on their lives. Join us throughout the month and join the discussion.

I remember in my second grade classroom where the “History” bulletin board sat. It was in the far left corner, front of the room, right in my eye line. And I have a very clear memory of being infuriated as the “Black History Month” board was taken down and then replaced by “Women’s History Month.” My early feminist and anti-racist indignation was not kept silent—I often asked my teacher why we had only one month for African American history or women’s history…my question, as many have asked before and since, was:

Shouldn’t it all be the same? Shouldn’t we be learning everyone’s history?

I’ve struggled with this throughout the years—I know now that most history textbooks are written from the perspective and voice of upper-middle-class, white, straight men. I know that my education in the Newton Public Schools allowed me access to voices other than those, through literature, classmates, and teachers. I also know that identifying that there’s a gap in the teaching of history, and attempting to remedy that gap with months that focus on particular groups that may be marginalized from the mainstream story, might be a good thing. And I also know that when the teens I work with come into my office talking about Emma Goldman, the Suffragettes, Josephine Baker, or bell hooks, I am thrilled. It means teachers are doing their jobs—finding out about women beyond the history books and passing that knowledge along to their students.

For all its flaws, I look at Women’s History Month as a way for us to lift up the women in history and in our lives that we care about and want to honor. It’s incredible to think that this is an advent of my lifetime, something that was really created when I was a toddler. My mother’s fight for reproductive rights, her mother’s work with unions, was just part of a larger history narrative—not one that centered on the voices and stories of women. WHM gives us an opportunity to renew our outlook on where we are as a society when it comes to gender, especially as it relates to the stories of those who are often forgotten.

Now that I’m not in elementary school, Women’s History Month doesn’t necessarily take on a daily place in my life. Maybe I will spend the month rereading Zora Neale Hurston, or take some time to find a new feminist documentary I haven’t seen, but overall my attention to women will remain the same. What I do find encouraging is that every year, our president publicly declares it Women’s History Month. And two years ago, President Obama included in his speech this line, which pretty much sums it up for me:

“We must carry forward the work of the women who came before us and ensure our daughters have no limits on their dreams, no obstacles to their achievements, and no remaining ceilings to shatter.

Amen to that.

Barack Obama bumps elbows
Full image
President Barack Obama bumps elbows with supporters on the street. Image courtesy of the White House and Wikimedia Commons.

How to cite this page

Diamant, Emilia. "A(wo)men to Women's History Month." 5 March 2014. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on November 28, 2014) <http://jwa.org/blog/awomen-to-womens-history-month>.

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