The month of March is dedicated to women’s history in the United States, a celebration of women’s contributions that has been acknowledged by each President since 1995. Students and faculty here at Minnesota State University, Mankato, have prepared multiple events for interested students to learn more and empower their peers.
Women’s History Month began as a single week in 1981 with a law by Congress and evolved into the month-long celebration held today in 1987. The observance aims to promote education about women in American history as an in-depth study, as well as spread awareness for violence against women. Globally, March 8th is recognized as International Women’s Day.
Laura Harrison a Gender and Women’s Studies professor, and is the current Chairperson of the department at MSU.
“Women’s History Month was born from women’s suffrage and the labor movement. There were primarily immigrant, working-class women who were demanding fair wages and livable working conditions because they were dying in garment factories. They were working in factories where the doors were chained and a fire would start, and hundreds of women were dying,” says Harrison.
“Sometimes when people think about women’s history, they think about memorizing the names or the dates or certain key figures. Women’s historians and gender scholars would really push back on that being the purpose of Women’s History Month. It’s about revisioning and rethinking history, from the lived perspectives of women and other marginalized groups whose history has not been centralized,” she continued.
Mai Ker Thao is the graduate assistant for the Violence Awareness and Response Program. “I’m Hmong, and I grew up witnessing a lot of Hmong women not really having a voice. It’s been ingrained in their minds that women are second-class citizens to men, and that mindset has led to such a huge domestic abuse issue within the community,” she says. “We have to give credit where credit is due, and women have played a huge role in making history all over the world.”
Throughout the month of March, the Women’s Center on campus will be sponsoring numerous activities relating to women’s empowerment and women’s history. Liz Steinborn-Gourley is the director of the Women’s Center and has overseen the planning for the events.
“The theme this year is ‘Lift Every Voice’. We’re doing a photo campaign during the week of March 14. Students will be tabling on Mav Ave so that you can take a whiteboard and write how you’re lifting either your voice or about a person in your life who is doing that for others,” Steinborn-Gourley said. “We’re taking pictures and we’ll put them in the gallery display by the campus bookstore. We will have a brief program in the ballroom where students talk about a woman who is a role model to them. We’re hoping for a global perspective at that event.”
Other planned events for the month include painting portraits by numbers, trivia, a focus on women-serving student organizations, and a book discussion of All About Love by Bell Hooks.
Mounkoka Goma, a senior who was involved with planning some of the women’s history events. “We don’t give enough credit to women. It’s a good way to remember what women have been doing over the past year and the past century: what they did, how it impacts the world, what they’ve done to help other people. It’s a way to remember,” she says.
Students can find exact dates and times on the university’s website under the Women’s Center page.
Write to Alexandra Tostrud at Alexandra.Tostrud@mnsu.edu