Highlighting the vital role that women have played in history is the goal of HerStory. Women have always been driven by their dreams and that has resulted in some amazing accomplishments. We draw inspiration and strength from those who have come before us. They re part of our own story. Only through an inclusive and balanced “history” can we know and celebrate how important women are and have always been in our country, society and the world. We celebrate Women’s History Month each year in March, and highlight the contributions of women in historical events as well as events in contemporary times. It is celebrated in the U.S., the U. K., and Australia.
In the U.S. Women’s History Month dates back to 1910/11 in remembrance of a strike of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union that took place in Chicago, known as the Hart, Schaffner and Marx strike. Women showed their capacity to unify ethnic boundaries in response to an industry infamous for low wages, long hours - sometimes in excess of 75 hours a week - and poor conditions. The strike began with sixteen women protesting, soon 2,100 others joined and eventually 41,000 women walked off the job and stayed out for 14 weeks until some of their demands for better conditions were met. Who says we can’t have our voices heard?
Later it commemorated the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire of 1911 in Manhattan when 146 women perished. They were mostly young, some only teens who were immigrants and some little or no english, and were working 12 hours a day, every single day. They either died in the fire that broke out of the eighth floor of the wood frame building, or died as a result of jumping out the windows to the sidewalks below. They couldn’t escape because the doors were locked to prevent them from stealing or taking unauthorized breaks. An unauthorized break often meant taking time out to run down 8 flights of stairs to use the outhouse located in the back yard of the factory.
In the words of former President Carter in 1980: “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 well.”