The month of March is National Women’s History Month, and though the month goes relatively unnoticed at Catlin Gabel, the celebration of their history is another step towards equality for women.
Women’s national recognition began in 1975 with International Women’s Day on March 8. By 1978 the Education Task Force of the Sonoma County Commission on the Status of Women, a group located in California, named the week of March 8 as Women’s History Week.
When President Jimmy Carter issued his first presidential proclamation, he declared the week of March 8 as National Women’s History Week, just two years after the initiation of the week in California.
Carter stated in his proclamation that “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.”
The movement had government support from both genders, as well as from state governments across the country who encouraged the celebration of women in order to promote equality in and outside the classroom.
Past generations of women have made steps towards equality, but head of school Lark Palma believes that “women of my generation have made gains but are also in the position to see how they’re being rolled back.” She adds, “Issues are worse than when I became actualized into a feminist.”
According to the National Women’s Law Center and the National Partnership for Women and Families, women make only 77 cents for every dollar earned by men, a statistic that has remained at that ratio for the past ten years. The National Center for Law and Economic Justice reports that in 2012 there were over five million more women than men living below the poverty line, and two million more women than men living in “deep poverty.”
Many women, including Vicki Roscoe, the head of the Lower School, think that the greatest step for women will come when, like white history or men’s history, there isn’t a need to dedicate a single month to that population because their story is being taught and talked about in the media, in the classroom, and in conversations around the globe. With the departure of Palma at the end of this year, the famed Women’s Studies class will also leave the school, but she hopes that the “elements of talking to people about equality, oppression, who has power and who doesn’t and who’s willing to give it away” continue to happen at Catlin Gabel.