Women's History Month
We just finished celebrating the month of February as Black History Month to remember the suffering, contribution, and importance of African Americans in U.S. society. Since you read the title of this article, we know that March is Women's History Month. Here is the question. When did the U.S. designate the month of March as Women's History Month? Congress officially designated March as Women's History Month in 1987.
The history of Women's History Month started in 1909 at the meeting of socialists and suffragists in Manhattan on February 28. Then in 1910, German activist Clara Zetkin suggested that International Women's Day be recognized as an international holiday at the International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen. Although 17 nations agreed, it was never widely celebrated in the U.S. until 1975 when a task force in California created Women's History Week to force schools to comply with the recently passed Title IX. In March 1980, President Carter declared March 8 as the official start of the National Women's History Week, and in 1987 the Democratic Party-controlled Congress declared the entire month of March as the Women's History Month.
In his proclamation of the Women's History Month in 2015, President Obama wrote:
Courageous women have called not only for the absence of oppression but for the presence of opportunity. They have demonstrated for justice, but also for jobs -- ones that promise equal pay for equal work. And they have marched for the right to vote not just so their voices would be heard, but so they could have a seat at the head of the table. With grit and resolve, they have fought to overcome discrimination and shatter glass ceilings, and after decades of slow, steady, and determined progress, they have widened the circle of opportunity for women and girls across our country.
The impact of the lives of women is not only embedded in our society but also in the church. Anyone who has studied the church's history will recognize that without women, the church would not exist today. Not only are women the large majority of the church, but women also did and continue to do most of the work in churches. It is no accident that the decline of the church coincided with the rise in women in the workplace.
The local congregations have been in transition for the past half a century, and it is due to the decline of women's volunteer labor in the church. We cannot sit on our hands and lament the passing of the olden days when programs were heavily dependent on women "working" full time at the church, without pay. Not only are we unable to carry out these antiquated programs, but demand for them does also not exist anymore.
Rather than trying to use women's labor to keep congregations afloat, we need to focus on developing women's spirituality. Rather than asking women to give to churches for the sake of the institution of the church, we need to listen to women and their spiritual journey.
Let us celebrate and remember the women in our midst and our lives.