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Women's History Month


One hundred years ago, the struggle to win the right to vote for women was reaching its goal. In May 1919, the House of Representatives passed what was to become the 19th Amendment, which was ratified by three-fourths of the states on August 18, 1920.

Women’s History Month as a national celebration began in 1981 when Congress passed a public law authorizing and requesting the President to proclaim the week beginning March 7, 1982 as “Women’s History Week.” Throughout the next five years, Congress continued to pass joint resolutions designating a week in March as “Women’s History Week” but in 1987, after being petitioned by the National Women’s History Project, Congress passed another law which designated the entire month of March as “Women’s History Month.”

Sojourner Truth



Sojourner Truth

Sojourner Truth (born Isabella Baumfree) was an African American abolitionist and women's rights activist. After escaping to freedom in 1826 with her infant daughter, she went to court to recover her son in 1828, and became the first black woman to win such a case against a white man.

After experiencing a religious conversion, Truth became an itinerant preacher and became involved in the growing antislavery movement. By the 1850s she was involved in the women’s rights movement as well. At the 1851 Women’s Rights Convention held in Akron, Ohio, Sojourner Truth delivered what is now recognized as one of the most famous abolitionist and women’s rights speeches in American history, “Ain’t I a Woman?”

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Susan B. Anthony



Susan B. Anthony

"Wherever, on the face of the globe or on the page of history, you show me a disfranchised class, I will show you a degraded class..."

Born February 5, 1820, in Adams, Massachusetts, Susan B. Anthony was known as the "Napoleon of feminism" in recognition of her tireless efforts on behalf of women's rights.

Born into a Quaker family committed to social equality, she collected anti-slavery petitions at the age of 17 and also began campaigning against alcohol from an early age. Anthony was denied a chance to speak at a temperance convention because she was a woman, and later realized that no one would take women in politics seriously unless they had the right to vote.

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Elizabeth Cady Stanton



Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Elizabeth Cady Stanton was one of the leading suffragists of 19th-century America. As co-organizer with Susan B. Anthony of the first women's rights convention in the United States, as the author of the first public statement calling for women's suffrage, and as the coauthor of History of Woman Suffrage, a massive work documenting the suffragist movement's history in the 19th century, Stanton was a major figure in popularizing the cause of women's rights.

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Katherine Johnson



Katherine Johnson

Katherine Johnson was a pioneer scientist at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). She determined the trajectories for America's first manned space flights in 1961 and 1962. In 1969 her work was instrumental in landing men on the moon. The following year she helped bring the ill-fated Apollo 13 safely back to Earth. An early computer expert, Johnson was considered to be one of the most brilliant mathematicians at NASA. In 2015, Johnson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. A year later, she was one of the subjects of the Academy Award-nominated biographical film, Hidden Figures. She passed away at the age of 101 on February 24, 2020.

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Alice Paul



Alice Paul

Credited with revitalizing the movement for women's suffrage, Alice Paul (1885-1977) mobilized a generation of women who had grown impatient with the incremental measures being taken toward gaining the vote. Paul helped to found the Congressional Union (later the National Woman's Party) and led a movement dedicated to the passage of a constitutional amendment for women's suffrage. Her tactics led to the passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1919.

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Madam C.J. Walker



Madam C.J. Walker

"I am a woman who came from the cotton fields of the South. I was promoted from there to the washtub. Then I was promoted to the cook kitchen, and from there I promoted myself into the business of manufacturing hair goods and preparations." With these words, Madame C. J. Walker introduced herself to the National Negro Business League's 1912 convention and summed up her life to that time. Five years later, through her hard work and business acumen, she ran the largest black-owned company in the United States.

The Madame C. J. Walker Manufacturing Company produced and distributed a line of hair and beauty preparations for black women, as well as an improved metal comb for straightening curly hair. She was so successful at marketing that she became the first female African American millionaire. Her self-made fortune allowed for a lavish personal lifestyle and extensive public philanthropic commitments, particularly to black educational institutions.

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Greta Thunberg



Greta Thunberg

“We need to get angry and understand what is at stake. And then we need to transform that anger into action and to stand together united and just never give up!”

Seventeen year old climate activist Greta Thunberg began the "Fridays for Future” movement in order to raise awareness of the realities and dangers of climate change. She has also spoken about her experiences as a young person with autism. Thunberg has referred to autism as a superpower that helps in pursuing her goals. As a child, Thunberg struggled with depression stemming largely from anxiety about the environment. Her depression was so overwhelming that she stopped going to school, eating, and talking. By finding her voice as a climate activist, Thunberg channeled her climate anxiety into actions for climate justice. She has faced international attention for her work and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019.

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Marsha P Johnson



Marsha P Johnson

Underground artist and transgender rights activist Marsha P. Johnson is known best for her role in the Stonewall uprising, a watershed moment for the gay liberation movement in the United States. Johnson was an influential member of New York’s Greenwich Village arts scene in the 1960s, performing as a drag queen and modeling for Andy Warhol.

As a Black transgender woman whose needs were often overlooked by mainstream gay activism, Johnson dedicated her life to supporting those on the margins of the LGBTQ+ community. Johnson co-founded the activist support network S.T.A.R. (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries) alongside her partner and collaborator Sylvia Rivera. Through S.T.A.R., Johnson and Rivera provided housing and mentorship for Black and Latino trans youth experiencing homelessness.The two also organized alongside AIDS activist group ACT UP and Black Liberation group Black Panthers.

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Gloria Anzaldúa



Gloria Anzaldúa

“A woman who writes has power, and a woman with power is feared.”

Poet and scholar Gloria Anzaldúa challenged feminism’s status quo with her work on the literal and figurative impact of borders. Her writing combines theory, history and her personal experience as a queer Chicana woman. Anzaldúa was born in 1942 to a family of ranch farmers. Her young life as the daughter of migrant workers influenced her lifelong focus on marginalization and freedom. Her 1987 book, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, explored the marginal and unique experience of life at the US-Mexico border, comparing it to the space between binaries of race, gender, and sexual orientation. Anzaldúa’s in a unique blend of eight dialects (two variations of English and six of Spanish), reflecting her experience at the “border” of many cultures.

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Amelia Earhart



Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart was born on July 24, 1897, in Atchison, Kansas, the daughter of a lawyer who worked for a railroad company. Until the age of 12, she lived with her sister and grandparents in Atchison, and then she moved with her parents to various cities where her father was working until he was dismissed from the railroad company for alcoholism. In 1918, at the age of 20, she went to visit her sister in Toronto, Canada. This was during World War I. After seeing wounded servicemen on the streets of Toronto, she volunteered to work as a nurse's aide at a local military hospital. She also visited a local airfield and decided then that she wanted to learn how to fly. In 2017, a photograph was discovered in the National Archives that some experts interpret as evidence that Earhart was captured by the Japanese navy.

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Bessie Coleman



Bessie Coleman

"We have overcome that which was worse than racial barriers. We have overcome the barriers within ourselves and dared to dream."

Known to an admiring public as "Queen Bess," Bessie Coleman was the first black woman ever to fly an airplane and the first African American to earn an international pilot's license. During her brief yet distinguished career as a performance flier, she appeared at air shows and exhibitions across the United States, earning wide recognition for her aerial skill, her dramatic flair, and her tenacity. But the thrill of stunt flying and the admiration of cheering crowds were only part of Coleman's dream. Forced for a time to work as a laundress and manicurist to make ends meet, Coleman never lost sight of her childhood vow to one day "amount to something."

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Centennial of the 19th Amendment

Rightfully Hers: American Women and the Vote, an exhibit in Washington, DC, looks beyond suffrage parades and protests to the often overlooked story behind ratification of the 19th Amendment. May 10, 2019–January 3, 2021

One Half of the People: Advancing Equality for Women is a traveling exhibit that draws on National Archives records to illustrate the involvement of American women to secure their essential citizenship rights.

More Information from the National Archives

Videos

The Equal Rights Amendment: Yesterday and Today

Written in 1921 by suffragist Alice Paul, the Equal Rights Amendment was introduced into every session of Congress between 1923 and 1972. A panel explores the proposed amendment and its implications in today's world.

10th Annual McGowan Forum on Women in Leadership: Political Campaigns

Political communicators and strategists discuss their experiences working on political campaigns on both local and national levels, the changes in opportunities and obstacles, and advice for young women looking to become more involved in politics.

Joelle Gamble Closing Remarks | National Conversations on #RightsAndJustice

Joelle Gamble, Director of National Network of Emerging Thinkers, Roosevelt Institute, shares her experience as an emerging generation.

America's First Ladies: In Service to Our Nation

First Ladies have long the power to shape societal attitudes and used their platform to advocate for important issues. This conference focuses on the First Lady as spouse of the Commander in Chief and the actions they have taken, throughout times of war and peace, to support Americans in combat, military families, and the country's veterans.

Harriet Tubman: A Woman of Courage and Vision

In celebration of the March 2017 grand opening of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor’s Center, we join the National Park Service in presenting a panel discussion examining the life and legacy of Harriet Tubman and the ongoing preservation of her Maryland.

Madam C.J. Walker in the National Archives

Madam C.J. Walker, one of the great American entrepreneurs of the early 20th century, was born to former slaves and grew up in destitution.

Women's Suffrage Movement Timeline

1

1799

Abigail Adams wrote a letter refusing to consider women as being inferior to men. Abigail advocated for women's rights, educational equity and abolitionism.




1807

The State of New Jersey who initially allowed women who met certain property requirements to vote decides to limit the vote to white females.

2



3

1848

Seneca Falls Convention where the Declaration of Sentiments (similar to the Declaration of Independence) was drafted and signed. Many of the signers of the Declaration, including Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, would emerge as leaders in the women’s suffrage movement.




1851

Sojourner Truth delivers her later titled “Ain’t I a Woman” speech at the Women’s Convention held in Akron, Ohio.

4



5

1869 (May)

National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) was founded by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony and published “The Revolution.”




1869 (November)

American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA) founded by Lucy Stone and published “The Woman’s Journal.” AWSA focused on advocacy with state legislatures.

6



7

1869 (December)

The territory of Wyoming grants women age 21 and over the right to vote.




1872

The state of New York did not explicitly prohibit women from voting, but when Susan B. Anthony and a few women suffragist did so, they were arrested, charged with “criminal voting” and fined.

8



9

1890

The NWSA merged with the AWSA to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA).




1913

The Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage was founded by Alice Paul and Lucy Burns. Their aggressive suffragist campaign included petitions, rallies, parades, pamphlets, pageants, speaking ours and lobbying.

10



11

1916

The National Women’s Party emerges from The Congressional Union.




1917 (April)

With United States involvement in World War I, more women entered the labor force.

12



13

1917 (June)

Protesting suffragists were arrested, imprisoned and even force-fed when on hunger strikes.




1919

U.S. Senate approves the 19th Amendment to the U.S Constitution.

14



15

1920

Ratification of the 19th Amendment. Tennessee became the required 36th state to ratify the amendment.

Online Exhibits