Women’s History Month: Classes and More

Against a teal background, three hands of varied skin tones rise up, holding quotation bubbles that read Women's History Month.

by Kristen B.

Do you know when Women’s History Month began? I didn’t until I started writing this post and realized I knew very little about the annual commemoration. It began in 1981 with Women’s History Week; then in 1987, Congress passed legislation designating March as Women’s History Month. Since 1995, presidents have issued proclamations and celebrated the contributions of certain historical figures during this time. That’s all within my lifetime! Maybe I’m more “historical” (read old) than I like to think.

HCLS has a couple of classes on the topic, along with always-available free online tools. For example, the Liberty Magazine Archives (1924-1950), listed under magazines and newspapers, includes valuable insight into everyday life in the United States during the Depression Era and World War II. American women sought advice about writing to servicemen, using their husbands’ names, and being drafted. Greta Garbo even wrote a guest piece in 1932 called “Why I Will Not Marry.” You can use a variety of other historical databases to research biographies and certain historical events, like the Seneca Falls Convention. You can also always chat with an HCLS staff member to find books and other resources on a specific topic.

On March 16, author and jewelry historian Elyse Zorn Karlin discusses how the suffragettes, and those who supported them, used jewelry and other accessories to express their politics. Register for “Making a Statement: Jewelry and Other Adornments of the Suffragist Movement” to participate via Zoom.

There are certain women with whom I have always been fascinated. Growing up in Maryland, Harriet Tubman was always part of our local history and I can’t remember not knowing about her. I was always intrigued by her story of courage in escaping slavery, but also her determination to bring others to freedom. The recent movie, Harriet, knocked my socks off, and I plan to watch it again soon.

Dr. Richard Bell joins us on March 23 to talk about the two Harriets: Beecher Stowe and Tubman. Many people, including President Abraham Lincoln, believed that Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin helped precipitate the Civil War. Lincoln may just as well have been talking about Harriet Tubman, the most famous conductor on the Underground Railroad. When asked about why he chose these two historical figures, Dr. Bell replied, “I consider Harriet Tubman a truly great American, a woman who fought for freedom against the toughest possible odds on the Underground Railroad. Harriet Beecher Stowe is less well-known today than Tubman, but back before the Civil War it was the other way around. Too often we forget the central roles that American women played in driving the United States towards the reckoning of the Civil War.” Register to participate via Zoom. Dr. Richard Bell is Professor of History at the University of Maryland and the author of Stolen: Five Free Boys Kidnapped into Slavery and their Astonishing Odyssey Home.

Join us for any and all of these opportunities! I hope you celebrate the women in your life along with all the women who have contributed in every way throughout history. If you’d like to read more on the subject, here are several lists: adult fiction, adult nonfiction, and books for children and teens.

Kristen B. is a devoted bookworm lucky enough to work as the graphic designer for HCLS. She likes to read, stitch, and take walks in the park.

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