National Women’s History Month can trace its roots back to March 8, 1857, when women from New York City factories staged a protest over working conditions. International Women’s Day was first observed in 1909, but it wasn’t until 1981 that Congress established National Women’s History Week to be commemorated the second week of March. In 1987, Congress expanded the week to a month.
Each year, the National Women’s History Project selects a theme that highlights achievements by distinguished women in specific fields, from medicine and the environment to art and politics. The 2014 theme, “Celebrating Women of Character, Courage, and Commitment,” honors the extraordinary and often unrecognized determination and tenacity of women.
In celebration of Women’s History Month, the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute Directorate of Research Development and Strategic Initiatives released the March Facts of the Day 2014 as follows:
* Prior to the women’s liberation movement, hurricanes were only named for women. By the 1960s, feminists began taking issue with the gendered naming convention. Most vocal among them was Roxcy Bolton. Bolton chided the National Weather Service for their hurricane naming system, declaring, “Women are not disasters, destroying life and communities.” In 1979, the National Weather Service and the World Meteorological Association switched to an alternating inventory of both men’s and women’s names.
* The Women’s Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery was dedicated in 1997 and is a living memorial honoring all military women past, present, and future. The memorial is the only major national memorial honoring women who have served in our nation’s defense during all eras and in all services.
* Tammy Duckworth is a veteran and former Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs. In 2014, she became the first disabled woman to serve in the House of Representatives. Duckworth has a strong record of advocating and implementing improvements to veterans’ services. She was one of the first Army women to fly combat missions during Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2004, her Blackhawk helicopter was hit by a rocket propelled grenade. She was subsequently awarded the Purple Heart for her combat injuries.
* Carmen Delgado Votaw is a leading advocate for women’s rights both nationally and internationally. She served on the International Women’s Year Commission, collaborated with all United Nations (U.N.) conferences on women, and significantly influenced the advancement of women in Latin America. Inspired to fight for social justice by Martin Luther King Jr., she has worked for over 50 years for the betterment of women, children, Latinos, and other minorities throughout the world.
* According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, women make up nearly 12 percent of Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation New Dawn veterans.
* The U.N. has sponsored International Women’s Day since 1975 to recognize the fact that securing peace and social progress and the full enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms require the active participation, equality, and development of women; and to acknowledge the contribution of women to the strengthening of international peace and security.
* March 8 is International Women’s Day, celebrating the social, political, and economic achievements of women while focusing world attention on areas requiring further action. The theme chosen by the U.N. for 2014 is “Inspiring Change.” Thousands of events occur to mark the economic, political, and social achievements of women.
* Ertharin Cousin began her tenure as the 12th executive director of the U.N. World Food Program in 2012. As the leader of the world’s largest humanitarian organization, with 13,500 staff serving over 90 million beneficiaries in more than 70 countries across the world, she advocates for improving the lives of hungry people worldwide, and she raises awareness of food insecurity and chronic malnutrition.
* March 10 is National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. The nationwide observance to “Share Knowledge. Take Action.” sheds light on the disease’s often overlooked impact on women and girls and empowers people to make a difference. Every year on this important day, thousands of people, advocacy organizations, and local and state public health officials share the facts about HIV/AIDS and how it affects women and girls.
* Ann Frank Lewis is a leader of progressive political reform focusing on the importance of personal engagement, social justice, and women’s rights. She served as a White House communications director, is a national commentator on public policy, and champions the recognition of women’s history. “Growing up with the name Ann Frank,” she says, “my parents taught me how fortunate we were to live in a democracy where we could choose our leaders. I would never take our political rights for granted.”
* Now in her second term as leader of the World Health Organization, Margaret Chan is the most powerful person in global public health and the only one with the authority to call a worldwide pandemic. In addition to battling viruses, she champions improvements in maternal care. “What matters most to me is people. And two specific groups of people in particular. I want us to be judged by the impact we have on the health of the people of Africa and the health of women.”
* In 1987, the National Women’s History Project petitioned Congress to expand Women’s History Week to the entire month of March. Since then, the National Women’s History Month Resolution has been approved with bipartisan support in both the House and Senate.\
* Vice Adm. Michelle Howard has become the highest ranking woman in the history of the U.S. Navy and the U.S. military, period. Senators confirmed Howard for the service’s second highest post in December 2013, making her the first female four-star admiral in the Navy’s 238-year history. Her promotion to Vice Chief of Naval Operations will also make her the first black woman to attain four-star rank in Pentagon history.
* Jaida Im is the founder and executive director of Freedom House, a non-profit organization with a mission to bring hope, restoration, and a new life to survivors of human trafficking by providing a safe home and long-term aftercare. With a vision to provide much-needed shelter for trafficking survivors, Im ignited a local abolitionist movement that resulted in the opening of the first safe house in California for female survivors of human trafficking.
* The five leading occupations for employed women in 2012, according to the United States Department of Labor, were secretaries and administrative assistants; registered nurses; cashiers; elementary and middle school teachers; and nursing, psychiatric, and home health aides.
* Embarking on a political career, Caroline Kennedy became the first female U.S. ambassador to Japan in November 2013. “The Japanese people feel closest to her father of all presidents, and in that sense I’d like to offer my hearty welcome,” Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary, Yoshihide Suga, told the media. “I think she’s a wonderful ambassador to develop the Japan-U.S. relationship further.”
* People whose courage has been met by violence populate history. Few, though, are as young as Malala Yousafzai was when, at 15, a Taliban gunman boarded her school bus in northwestern Pakistan and shot her and two other girls in an attempt to, as the Taliban later said, teach a “lesson” to anyone who had the courage to stand up for education, freedom, and self-determination, particularly for girls and women.
* Lisa Taylor is a leading civil rights trial attorney who has worked for over 12 years to ensure that civil rights laws are enforced around the country. While working with the Department of Justice, she focused on educational and disability law and showed an unwavering commitment to ending discrimination and promoting equality and justice. Taylor served as an officer aboard the USS Tarawa (LHA-1), where she developed the ship’s first program to address sexual harassment.
* In 2014, women hold 99 of the 535 seats in the 113th U.S Congress, with 20 of the 100 seats in the Senate and 79 of the 435 seats in the House of Representatives.
* In 1988, urged on by the National Association of Women Business Owners, Congress passed The Women’s Business Ownership Act, which ended discrimination in lending, eliminated state laws that required married women to have a husband’s signature for all loans, and gave women-owned businesses a chance to compete for lucrative government contracts. This showed that women entrepreneurs were finally an accepted part of the mainstream economy.
* The last century of women’s entrepreneurship is a story of risks and rewards, of women who had an idea and so believed in the possibilities that they battled obstacles and gender bias and forged networks to make it a reality. Today, women’s ventures comprise 30 percent of all U.S. businesses. Experts predict that by 2018, women’s businesses will create more than half of the new small business jobs and a third of the nation’s total new jobs.
* Presently, three women are serving on the United States Supreme Court: Associate Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor.
* When the Equal Pay Act was signed into law by President John F. Kennedy in 1963, women were earning an average of 59 cents on the dollar compared to men. Today, women earn about 81 cents on the dollar compared to men—a gap that results in hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost wages. For African-American women and Latinas, the pay gap is even greater.
* According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the total veteran population in the United States and Puerto Rico, as of September 30, 2012, was approximately 21.2 million. The population of women veterans numbered 1.6 million.
* Janet Yellen made one small but symbolic change when she took over the leadership of the Federal Reserve Board on February 1, 2014—her title. Yellen decided to use the gender-neutral title of “chair” when she became the first woman to lead the Federal Reserve in its 100-year history. Her title will be Federal Reserve Board Chair.