Women’s History Month was nationally established in 1987 after almost a full decade of lobbying and campaigning for the importance of teaching the significance of women in American society. As recently as 1970, there was zero emphasis on women’s history in schools’ curriculum, or even as a part of general knowledge throughout mainstream society. These are just a few key reasons why the United States annually devotes an entire month to the study and learning of the achievements and societal contributions of women.
Why is this month-long celebration significant? The answer(s) to that question vary based on the person asked and what their experiences have been; however, it seems everyone can agree that having a month dedicated to celebrating and honoring women is important for our society. Here is what some strong women (and girls) from around Cincinnati have to say about celebrating Women’s History Month.
For Rachael Adams, a native of Cincinnati and current player for the U.S. Women's National Volleyball Team, this is why Women’s History Month, and artistry in that celebration, is important:
“Women’s History Month celebrates the tremendous strides that women have been able to overcome over the years. During this month, we as a society celebrate the women who have gone before us to make our path a little easier than the last generation, and for that I am extremely thankful.
“Women have proven to be strong leaders in their local communities as well as globally. All around the world, they contribute enormously to the economy through their passion, creativity, and artistry. I know that as an entrepreneur, myself, I have been inspired by C. J. Walker, who was an African American entrepreneur, philanthropist, and a political and social activist. She made her mark on history by developing and marketing a line of beauty and hair products for black women and became America’s first female self-made millionaire.
“This month helps shift our focus and mindset that we can and we will be the leaders in our own communities. As a society, let’s keep celebrating these amazing historical pioneers while creating more opportunities for the women of today to contribute to the global good.”
If you are looking for inspiring goods to take with you on your own journey be sure to check out Rachael Adam's line.
From the perspective of the first [and current] Cincinnati Poet Laureate, Pauletta Hansel, the magnitude of Women’s History Month, and using artistry in the celebration of women, can be summed up simply:
“‘If you don't know where you've come from, you don't know where you're going,’ said poet Maya Angelou. It is critical that we understand our own history, that we celebrate our successes and we mourn our losses. Art, including poetry, can be a vehicle for ‘time travel’: our eyes and ears – our own breath, in the case of reading poetry – where the artists’ have been.”
Within the past couple of years, women have made huge strides in gaining attention for the inequalities that have existed for our entire history. A record number of women have run for office, and won seats! In Cincinnati, we elected Tamaya Dennard, a Cincinnati native, to City Council. Tamaya’s passion for empowering women shows in her response to why Women’s History Month, and using artistry in that celebration, is imperative.
“Women’s History Month is vital to our future. We have to recognize and appreciate the contributions women have made and will continue to make in our society. If this was already happening in the manner that it should, Women’s History Month wouldn’t be needed. Right now, white women make $0.80 for every dollar a man makes. Black women make $0.70 and Hispanic women make $0.55.
“Until women are valued for who we are and for what we contribute, Women’s History Month will always be vital.
“Art very much imitates life. The lens and experiences of women need to be reflected broadly in art. Art has a way of explaining conditions and bringing people together. Art is needed to capture and reflect the stories of women so that they may be kept as snapshots for the successes and setbacks we face day in and day out.”
How might the young generation of girls feel about Women’s History Month having grown up with it always existing? According to 11-year-old Cincinnatian Izzy Gasparraj:
“Women’s History Month is important because it gives people a chance to recognize the history, accomplishments, and importance of women in our world. By learning about these women, girls can feel empowered to also be important in society. Another thing is that women can now get the recognition and praise that they haven’t gotten before.
“The arts are important to the history and celebration of women because the messages of important women in history can be beautifully portrayed through music, visual art, and other forms. Also, many significant women in history have used the arts to communicate their ideas.”
Hopefully these different perspectives on Women’s History Month have given some background and weight to why Women of Cincy will be spending the month of February focused on the upcoming National Women’s History Month Festival (NWHMF) in Cincinnati. Our mission is always women driven, and this is one more way for us to bring focus to the amazing people, events, and organizations that align with our mission around our powerful city. The festival is being organized by AlivenArts, and you can find more information, including tickets to the various events, here. Some of the women featured in this article will be participating in the NWHMF in March, including Cincinnati Poet Laureate Pauletta Hansel. Hansel will be a guest speaker at the Artistry of Women Street Fair on March 10th. Find more information on the Artistry of Women Street Fair here.