March is Women’s History Month. Most people don’t know that. And THAT is shocking.
In honor of women, PBS has aired a fantastic three hour documentary called MAKERS.COM – “a digital platform developed by AOL, showcasing hundreds of compelling stories from women of today and tomorrow.” What a great idea! (You can watch the entire show on their website http://www.makers.com/). The show is loaded with fabulous females telling their true horrifying and inspiring stories such as Oprah telling a story of how in 1980, she was co-hosting a Baltimore TV show and earning $22,000 and learned her male co-host was earning $50,000. When she complained to her boss, he asked why she should make that much and she told him “because we are doing the same job”. He argued with her and defended the male co-host, saying he had a family to support and bills to pay. Oprah said she knew she couldn’t make a big stink or she would be blackballed. She just thought; “I’ll show him”. And that’s when she got the idea to have her OWN show. Watch that interview here:
Of course Oprah has gone on to make amazing “women’s history”, and sadly there are TONS of stories like this, but first – a little History…about Women’s History Month, an idea inspired by a question posed by a boy. There are plenty of men who have helped – and continue to help – women achieve equality. And there are plenty of women who have opposed – and continue to oppose – women achieving equality. Phyllis Schlafly pretty much single-handedly organized women AND men to stop the Equal Rights Amendment from being passed. HER story is in the MAKERS.COM show.
It was a man – Victor Hugo who said: “Nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come.”
The idea of Women’s History Month started in 1972 when a high school student in Los Angeles, taking a U.S. History class, asked his teacher a question. “What is the Woman’s Movement?” He was introduced to THAT idea when he saw a copy of the brand new Ms. Magazine.Molly McGregor, twenty-six year old history freak was this boy’s teacher. Molly said she was glad the boy asked her this question on a Friday, because she needed the weekend to come up with the answer. So she said to the boy “that’s a good question”.
She went home and looked through her vast collection of history books to find some information, and to her dismay and disgust, found ONE book with ONE chapter, on Seneca Falls – a dusty upstate New York town where the very first Woman’s Convention was held in 1848. That’s when a seed was planted and Molly McGregor got the idea to bring Women’s History and Women’s struggles and accomplishments into the schools, and consciousness of America. She was not alone.
In 1966 actress Marlo Thomas, tired of being offered roles as “the wife of somebody”, or “the daughter of somebody” or “the secretary of somebody”, went to the head of ABC and said, “it’s time for a woman to be the somebody.” What a radical idea! Then she pulled a copy of Betty Friedan’s groundbreaking The Feminine Mystique out of her purse and handed it to him. “This is where it’s going”, she said. And Marlo Thomas, became a trailblazer – the producer and star of That Girl, a show about a single woman living alone pursuing a career in New York City. Watch that interview here: http://collider.com/marlo-thomas-makers-women-who-make-america-interview/.
She tell this story on the MAKERS.COM documentary which is narrated by Meryl Streep, who played Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the film Iron Lady. Ms. Streep donated ONE MILLION DOLLARS of her Iron Lady salary to help build a Women’s History Museum on the National Mall in Washington. “Any woman who understands the problems of running a home, is that much nearer to understanding the problems of running a country.”, said Ms. Thatcher, when she was making history running England.
Back in 1848 in Seneca Falls, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the “Architect of the Woman’s Movement” drafted a Declaration of Sentiments, modeled after The Declaration Of Independence, in which she proposed that “all men AND WOMEN” are created equal. She then had the audacity to insist that women be given suffrage – the right to vote. It was a shocking and radical idea. She and her buddy, famed and revered abolitionist Frederick Douglass, managed to get The Declaration of Sentiments published in the New York Herald and all hell broke loose. They called it: The Most Shocking And Unnatural Incident Ever Recorded In The History Of Womanity!
It took until 1920 for women in this country to get the right to vote. THAT is shocking!.
March 8th is International Woman’s Day. Some people DO know this, but probably don’t know it grew out of a declaration made in 1909 by the Socialist Party of America demanding equal rights – such as voting – for women.
In 1978, Molly McGregor creates a “Sexism In Education” course that she is teaching in Sonoma, California and gets the idea for a whole week to celebrate Women’s History, to coincide with International Women’s Day – March 8th. She takes her idea to the folks in charge of ALL the school districts, “an easy easy sell”, she says, and it turns out to be a fabulously successful and exciting week. Her idea catches the attention of Gerda Lerner, the fabulous female pioneering scholar with a doctorate in history (who is responsible for bringing women’s history into the academic world). Ms. Lerner took Molly McGregor’s idea for Women’s History Week to some of her friends who happen to be friends with President Carter. Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Mikulski (who holds the record as the longest serving woman in Congress!) and Republican Orrin Hatch (a man!) get behind it, lobbying takes place, and in 1980 the President makes the Declaration and the rest is…..herstory. ((It was in 1987 that the whole month of March was declared)
Today, Molly McGregor is as busy as ever. Back in 1980, she founded The National Women’s History Project (http://www.nwhp.org/) which inspired me to create SHE’S HISTORY! As a performer listed on her website, I got my first booking when I was hired by The Equal Opportunity Program for The Bulldog Brigade at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas. They went to the NWHP looking for a speaker to celebrate Women’s History Month.
What’s really shocking though is that in 2013, women STILL EARN ONLY SEVENTY SEVEN CENTS TO THE MAN’S DOLLAR, and women running for public office are still being asked how they will manage as an elected official and a mother. (Watch the Makers interview here http://www.makers.com/pat-schroeder) Back in 1972, Pat Schroeder, running for Congress, was asked how SHE would manage. Her response: “I have a brain and a uterus and they both work”. MAKES sense.
Read more about how Molly did it here: