Celebrating Women's History Month

March 22, 2019 at 2:34 PM

Since its founding, Mount Holyoke has been a part of the tradition of strong women in the United States. This March, as we celebrate Women’s History Month, we look back at its origins and how it came to be.

The beginnings of Women’s History Month began with the first celebrated International Women’s Day on March 19, 1911. On this day, more than one million women and men attended rallies campaigning for women's rights to work, vote, be trained, hold public office and end discrimination.

One year later, President Jimmy Carter issued a proclamation declaring the week of March 8, 1980, as National Women's History Week. In his message he wrote, "From the first settlers who came to our shores, from the first American Indian families who befriended them, men and women have worked together to build this nation. Too often the women were unsung and sometimes their contributions went unnoticed. But the achievements, leadership, courage, strength and love of the women who built America was as vital as that of the men whose names we know so well.”

In 1987, following lobbying from the National Women's History Project, Congress passed legislation that designated March 1987 as Women’s History Month. Between 1988 and 1994, Congress passed additional resolutions allowing the President to proclaim March of each year as Women’s History Month, and since 1995, each president has issued this yearly proclamation.

Since the first year, each Women’s History Months has explored a theme, declared by the National Women’s History Alliance (formerly the National Women’s History Project). Scroll through the timeline below to view them all:

Women’s History Month has been used to celebrate the achievement of women as well as bring attention to issues that affect them. To coincide with Women's History Month 2011, the White House issued a 50-year progress report on the status of women in the United States. It found that younger women are now more likely than their male counterparts to hold a college degree and that the number of men and women in the labor force has nearly equalized.

The monumental progress made by women’s movements serves as a reminder of how far we’ve come and how bright the future is. As Mount Holyoke celebrates Women’s History month, we pay tribute to the amazing women who have come before us and also celebrate the groundbreaking women who have come through our gates and into the world, determined to change it for the better.

Learn more about some of the incredible Mount Holyoke women that have made their mark:

Mary Lyon
Mount Holyoke College Founder
Sandy Fulton Rosenthal
Class of 1979
Amy Norman
Class of 1995
Emily Dickinson
Class of 1849
Margarita Forés
Class of 1980
Markeisha Miner
Class of 1999
Cornelia M. Clapp
Class of 1871
Barbara Cassani
Class of 1982
Efe Cierkowski
Class of 2002
Hortense Parker
Class of 1883
Shirley Chisholm
Former MHC Professor
Kat Calvin
Class of 2005
Frances Perkins
Class of 1902
Mary Mazzio
Class of 1983
Chloé Zhao
Class of 2005
Virginia Apgar
Class of 1929
Suzan-Lori Parks
Class of 1985
Maimuna Ahmad
Class of 2009
Ella Tambussi Grasso
Class of 1940
Kavita Ramdas
Class of 1985
Merli V. Guerra
Class of 2009
Polly Schaafsma
Class of 1957
Deborah Harkness
Class of 1986
Danuta Janiszewski
Class of 2012
Gloria Johnson-Powell
Class of 1958
Julia Labaton
Class of 1993
Sadia Khatri
Class of 2015
Carol Geary Schneider
Class of 1967
Sheila Marcelo
Class of 1993
Cathleen Heyliger
Frances Perkins Scholar, 2016
Barbara Smith
Class of 1969
Kimberly Hébert
Class of 1994
Wendy Wasserstein
Class of 1971
Asha Curran
Class of 1995


Rachel Nix ’20

Written by Rachel Nix ’20

Rachel, a politics major and sociology minor, is a marketing assistant in the Office of Advancement and a contributor to the MHC Forever blog. Hailing from West Virginia, she serves on MHC’s Admissions and Financial Aid Advisory Committee, is deeply involved with social justice initiatives and loves spending her free time with friends, reading on the green or trying to pet Jorge, the goose.