March 9, 2021
“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.”
-President Jimmy Carter
In 1980, President Carter acknowledged women’s contributions to society by proclaiming the first week of March as “Women’s History Week.” It didn’t take long before that week stretched into Women’s History Month a few years later, as the impact of women in our history proved to be too much for just seven days.
Today, Women’s History Month hasn’t changed much from its original intent. But the list of the courageous women in our history and those who are making an impact on our world today has grown tremendously.
At United Way, we honor one of our founders – Frances Wisebart Jacobs – the only female in the group of community leaders who pulled together the first united fundraising campaign to help the suffering in Denver, Colorado. Right here in Central Indiana, we honor many of our United Way “first females” – Elizabeth Hitz, leading our community service council in 1941; Fay Williams, establishing the first Diversity Leadership Council in the country alongside Bill Mays in 1985; Katie Betley, becoming our first board chair in 2000; and Sarah Lechleiter, creating the first local chapter of Women United in 2004, to name a few.
There are many ways you can spend Women’s History Month by educating yourself, supporting other women, standing up for equality for all women, and giving back to the community in honor of so many female heroes, past and present.
1. Read a short history lesson on Women’s History month- what exactly is it and why is it in March?
2. Shop Local at these women-owned and women-run businesses in Central Indiana.
3. Read some awesome nonfiction about women’s history or memoirs about trailblazing women.
– “Every day is a good day” reflections by contemporary Indigenous women
– “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot
– “Hidden Figures” by Margot Lee Shetterly
– “Thinking in Pictures: My Life with Autism” by Temple Grandin
– “Coming of Age in Mississippi” by Anne Moody
– “A Girl from Yamhill” by Beverly Cleary
– “Why Not Me? and Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?” by Mindy Kaling
– “Bossypants” by Tina Fey
– “Lakota Woman” by Mary Crow Dog
– “Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything across Italy, India and Indonesia” by Elizabeth Gilbert
4. Advocate for good policy. Make your voice heard in United Way’s effort to advance equity, improve access to education, build the workforce, and improve access to basic needs for everyone in Central Indiana. Sign up here.
5. Honor the women in your life. Set aside time to spend with the mothers, grandmothers, sisters, aunts, friends, girlfriends, teachers or mentors who have inspired and empowered you. Write a letter to a woman who inspires you saying, “thank you!”
6. Learn more about Women United at United Way of Central Indiana – Join us virtually for “Starting at Zero” documentary that explores the power of investing in high-quality early childhood education so that all children and families have the opportunity to attain the American Dream. Learn more and register here.
7. Volunteer for organizations that help girls and women.
– Share your time and talents with organizations that help women and girls through mentoring, tutoring, shelters, health clinics or food banks. Here are some suggestions.
– Dress for Success
– The Julian Center
– Girls Scouts of Central Indiana
– Girls Inc. Of Greater Indianapolis
– Volunteers of America of Ohio and Indiana
8. Brush up on your women’s history with the following documentaries.
– “Miss Representation” provides information to challenge the sexist portrayals of women in media.
– “Mercury 13” follows the tale of a group of 13 women who trained to become astronauts as part of America’s very first spaceflight program in the early 1960’s.
– “Becoming” is a behind the scenes look at the former First Lady’s 34 city book tour and the connections she made and life lessons she learned along the way.
– “A Secret Love” follows Terry Donahue and Pat Henschel’s journey to coming out to their families and their last few years as a couple.
– “RBG” Explores the life and career of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
9. Seek out women’s history month events. Here are a few to get started.
– March 5 Eiteljorg Museum presents – Virtual Curator’s Choice: Hard Twist: Women in the West.
– March 17 Linking Women Indy Presents: The Traveling Black Window
– March 30 – The Indiana Historical Society – Women Behaving Badly
10. Use your voice and be heard. There’s no better way to honor this year’s theme – “Valiant Women of the Vote: Refusing to Be Silenced” – than to speak up, be heard, vote in every election, and encourage others do the same.