Each year in March, influential women in history enter the spotlight of laudatory blog posts, interactive presentations and library book displays.
Women’s History Month, celebrated annually by historians both trained and amateur, seeks to honor female scientists, authors, artists and pioneers that are often left out of textbooks.
“It’s kind of a sad thing that there has to be a month to recognize women, because if they were typically accepted as equal to men, then we probably wouldn’t need a month,” said professor of history Erika Kuhlman. “The reason I think it’s needed is that women are still not there, where they are equally regarded as men are in our society. We do still need a month where we recognize the part that women have played in history.”
This year marks the 108th celebration of International Women’s Day and the first observance of A Day Without A Woman, a national strike building off the momentum of the Women’s March held two months ago.
While International Women’s Day generated frequent mentions in publications and online, A Day Without A Woman did not inspire the same mass turnout as January’s protest.
Helmed by the same leaders as the Women’s March, A Day Without A Woman aimed to prove what contributions women make to the workforce.
Participants took the day off of unpaid and paid work, avoided shopping or wore red in solidarity with the movement.
The comparatively lukewarm response to this month’s protest has led some critics to question whether the movement sparked by the Women’s March has staying power.
Kellee Kirkpatrick, professor of political science, said one fundamental problem might have caused the decreased turnout.
“The people who can participate are people who are privileged, because they have jobs that are flexible,” she said. “I think what the message of A Day Without A Woman is fantastic, to say ‘What would our nation look like, what would our communities look like without the contribution of these amazing women across the United States, and across the world?’ However, there are only certain women who are able to do that, so I think it just highlighted the gaps between those who have privilege and those who do not.”
Kirkpatrick mentioned a need for intersectionality in the movement and in Women’s History Month in general.
Some events seek to address that need by highlighting the accomplishments of women who had to overcome more than gender to impact history.
One local event, hosted by the Pocatello League of Women Voters, will shine a spotlight on two women in Idaho’s history, Minnie Howard and Emma Drake.
Both women practiced medicine in a time when very few women participated in the field. Researchers Amy Canfield and Chadwick Pearsall will present their studies of the two Idaho icons.
“For many years our history books focused on men and neglected to mention women leaders,” said Pam Ward, president of Pocatello’s LWV. “Many people do not realize that women have strengthened our communities throughout history via effective community organizations.”
The event will take place March 30 at 7:30 p.m. in the Pond Student Union Building Little Wood River Room.
Women’s History Month and other months honoring certain groups’ societal contributions have value, said Kirkpatrick.
She claims their existence suggests a key problem with how those contributions are discussed.
Comparing academic curriculum and dialogue to a recipe of sorts, she asserted a necessity for women and minorities to be included during all months of the year.
“We’re adding some minorities, adding some women, and stirring,” Kirkpatrick said. “So rather than women and minorities and people from a variety of different backgrounds and cultures being added as an ingredient, they should be part of the main ingredient, rather than being an add-on or a topping. Until that happens, until our broader history and our broader approach to understanding politics includes all of these groups, I think these spotlights on the contributions are really important.”