Women's History Month: Empowerment Through Education

Each year, March is designated Women's History Month to honor women's extraordinary achievements and contributions in American history. What began as a week that Congress designated in 1981 has become a month-long celebration thanks to the efforts of each state's education departments as an effective means of achieving equality in the classroom.

States developed and distributed curriculum materials for all public schools, while organizations sponsored essay contests and other special programs in their local areas. Within a few years, thousands of schools and communities celebrated National Women's History Week, supported and encouraged by resolutions from governors, city councils, school boards, and the U.S. Congress. Finally, in 1987, Congress declared the entire month as Women's History Month. 

The Significance of Women's History Month

Celebrating women's achievements in society and education is crucial for several reasons. It acknowledges women's contributions across various fields and is vital in promoting gender equality, inspiring future generations, and challenging stereotypes. 

Notable Women Who Have Contributed to the Evolution of Education

Women have played critical roles in shaping education in America through their efforts as educators, reformers, activists, and policymakers. 

Mary McLeod Bethune (1875–1955): An educator and civil rights activist, Bethune founded the Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute for Negro Girls, which later became Bethune-Cookman University. She was a national leader on issues related to African American education. She served as an advisor to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, advocating for integrating schools and equal educational opportunities for African Americans.

Charlotte Hawkins Brown (1883–1961): Brown was an educator and social activist who founded the Palmer Memorial Institute in North Carolina, a private school for African American students that became a model of excellence in education. She pioneered advocating for educational opportunities for African Americans in the early 20th century.

Emma Willard (1787-1870): A women's education advocate, Willard founded the Troy Female Seminary in New York in 1821. It is considered one of the first schools in the United States to offer a higher education for women. Her work paved the way for women's access to higher educational institutions.

Catharine Beecher (1800–1878): Beecher was an educator and proponent of female education who founded several schools for women. She advocated for the professionalization of teaching and believed that women had a natural aptitude for the profession, significantly influencing the predominance of women in teaching roles.

Maria Montessori (1870–1952): Though Italian, Montessori's educational philosophy and method profoundly impacted American education. Her child-centered approach to learning and development became widely adopted in the United States, leading to the establishment of numerous Montessori schools nationwide.

Julia Richman (1855–1922): An educator and innovative administrator in New York City's public schools, Richman pioneered creating programs for students with special needs, evening classes for working students, and vocational training. Her work laid the groundwork for more inclusive education practices.

Mary Jane McLeod Bethune (1875–1955): As already mentioned, Bethune's impact bears reiterating. She was a formidable advocate for the rights of African Americans and women, and her efforts in founding Bethune-Cookman University marked a significant contribution to educational opportunities for black Americans in the segregated South.

Ella Flagg Young (1845–1918): Young, an educator and the first female superintendent of a large city school system in Chicago, advocated for progressive education reforms, including student-centered learning and professional opportunities for female educators. She served as the first female president of the National Education Association.

Ways to Celebrate Women's History Month

Educational Programs and Classroom Activities: Integrate women's history into your curriculum through lessons, projects, and presentations; focus on the achievements of women in various fields such as science, politics, art, and social reform; encourage students to research and present on influential women, highlighting their contributions and impact.

Invite guest speakers: Host virtual or in-person talks with local female leaders, activists, educators, and professionals. These guest speakers can share their experiences, challenges, and successes, providing students with real-life role models and a broader understanding of women's roles in different sectors.

Book and Film Clubs: Organize book readings or film screenings that feature women's stories, struggles, and successes. This could include documentaries on significant women in history, movies based on influential female figures, or books written by or about groundbreaking women. Facilitate discussions afterward to reflect on the themes and lessons learned.

Art and Writing Contests: Encourage creative expression by organizing contests where participants create art or write essays, poems, and stories inspired by influential women or themes related to gender equality and women's rights. Display the artwork and share the writings within your community or online to spread awareness and appreciation.

Community Service Projects: Engage in community service projects that support women and girls. This could involve volunteering at women's shelters, supporting female entrepreneurs, or participating in mentorship programs that empower young women. These activities highlight the importance of giving back and supporting gender equality at the grassroots level.

Social media campaigns: Use social media platforms to share facts, quotes, and stories about remarkable women throughout history and today. Encourage your community to participate by sharing their posts and using specific hashtags to increase visibility and engagement.

Support women-owned businesses: Highlight and support local and online women-owned businesses throughout the month. This could be through school newsletters, social media, or organizing a market day where these businesses can showcase their products and services.


The National Women's History Museum (NWHM)Offers a wide range of online exhibits, biographies, and educational resources highlighting women's roles in American history. 

Library of Congress :Provides a rich collection of historical photographs, documents, and audiovisual materials related to women's history in the United States. Their Women's History Month section is handy for educational purposes.

The National Women's History Alliance (NWHA): Offers resources for celebrating Women's History Month, including theme-based toolkits, posters, and suggestions for activities and events. 

PBS LearningMedia: Offers a variety of Women's History Month educational resources, including videos, lesson plans, and interactive activities for all grade levels. 

Smithsonian Education: Features resources for teaching and learning about women's history, including online exhibitions and collections from the Smithsonian's museums. 

TED Talks on Women's Issues: A curated collection of TED Talks that explore a wide range of topics related to women's rights, achievements, and challenges. 

Women's History MonthThe official U.S. government site for Women's History Month offers access to exhibits, collections, and a range of resources from various government agencies. 

Teaching Tolerance: Provides educators with free resources to foster an understanding and appreciation of diversity, including lesson plans and activities focused on women's history and gender equality.