This March, celebrate Women’s History Month with the Free Library!
Women’s History Month originally began as a celebration of Women’s History Week. Congress passed Pub. L. 97-28 which designated the week of March 7, 1982, as Women’s History Week. For the next five years, Congress continued to pass resolutions declaring one week in March as a time dedicated to commemorating the contributions of women and girls in U.S. history and in current society.
It was only in 1987, with the persistent petitioning of the National Women’s History Project, that Congress passed Pub. L. 100-9 and declared the entire month of March as Women’s History Month. Starting in 1995, presidents joined this practice and began issuing official proclamations of March as Women’s History Month.
Archive. History. Power. Movement. Justice. Change. Community. Love. Action.
This Women’s History Month, I am reminded of words like these when reflecting on the vastness of women and girls’ history that has often been ignored and minimized. The relationship between "archive" and "history", in particular, is meaningful. So often, there are these "gaps" that we find where information about important women cultural contributors, their stories and struggles, and their triumphs are completely missing. We find remembrances of this reality throughout our everyday lives, from the most mundane and common of places to the most treasured and iconic of institutions.
Thankfully, though, while there are constant reminders of these "gaps" where women and girls’ stories have not yet been acknowledged, there are also growing celebrations of the women and girls that solidified their legacies within history, and homages to honor those that forever changed the lives of their families and communities.
We find these markers of celebration throughout our city!
For example, outside City Hall, we find two physical markers celebrating the role of two important women in our city and country’s histories.
One historical marker is the plaque honoring Gloria Casarez, a civil rights leader in Philadelphia that led the Gay and Lesbian Latino AIDS Education Initiative, was the City’s first director of LGBT Affairs, and worked to create programs and protections for LGBTQ+ individuals, people of color, and people experiencing homelessness.
Another historical marker found outside City Hall is the traveling sculpture of Harriet Tubman, the renowned and remarkable U.S. abolitionist. Memorializing Tubman's extraordinary legacy, this sculpture invites viewers to remember the monumental impact of Tubman’s life, including Tubman helping many enslaved people travel through the Underground Railroad to reach lives of freedom.
We continue to find examples of celebrating women and girls at the Free Library!
Our 2022 One Book, One Philadelphia featured selection is My Broken Language by Quiara Alegría Hudes. When Hudes visited the Free Library last April for an Author Event, playwright Paula Vogel asked Hudes why had she chosen to write a memoir, to which Hudes responded:
"I had thought, I have to write this book while the girls in the family are still young. For me there was an urgency about saying ‘Here’s some information about how our family got to where we are. Here [are] some of the accomplishments we carry … Here is some of the suffering we carry, that maybe has not been voiced. Here is some of the shame we carry that has been put on us.’ And now in the telling, can we move to the next chapter."
Chronicling Resistance Fellow Germaine Ingram has conducted research on the life and legacy of Philadelphia-based tap dancer Louise Madison. Ingram’s research into Madison’s family background and her performance career helps clarify why Madison hasn’t yet received more recognition for the impact of her creative career. This research also illuminates how Madison’s contributions to dance and performative arts made her one of the many Black women of the early to mid-20th century that used the stage to resist the limitations of race and gender.
The Free Library’s Special Collections include artifacts, information, and resources about historical women. From exhibitions like Making Her Mark: Philadelphia Women Fight for the Vote, For the Greatest Number: The New Deal Revisited, and the upcoming In the Path of Islam, the Free Library creates space to inspire Philadelphians by sharing the experiences and life stories of women throughout the U.S.’s history.
No matter how we all choose to celebrate women's history this March, I invite you to learn more, get inspired, share your enthusiasm, and get involved with all that the Free Library has to offer.
Check out our blog for more articles celebrating Women’s History Month, the upcoming Author Events where women writers and leaders will share their stories with us, and our events calendar for a list of activities happening near you.
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Wishing everyone a wonderful and happy Women’s History Month!