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Why it's important to teach kids about Women's History Month

One history teacher shares 4 reasons why learning about Women’s History Month is important for everyone.
/ Source: TODAY

Women have been making history since the beginning of time, but it wasn’t until 1978 that a movement for recognition began to make waves across the country.

When is Women’s History Month?

March marks Women’s History Month, 31 days dedicated to celebrating and encouraging the study of the vital role women have played throughout history and within society.

Women’s History Month began as Women’s History Week in Sonoma County, California in 1978. The movement began to get national traction and in February 1980, the first Presidential Proclamation declaring the week of March 8th as National Women’s History Week was issued by President Jimmy Carter.

In 1987, Congress passed Public Law 100-9, which designates March as Women’s History Month.

Why isn’t there a history month for men?

“The documentation of the male contributions to history is already copious and well established,” Sharon McMahon, a former high school government teacher in Minnesota told TODAY Parents. “One doesn’t need to look any further than chapter one of their history textbook to find important men.”

McMahon, whose social media account, @SharonSaysSo, has gone viral for sharing non-partisan facts about the U.S. government and democracy, told TODAY that it’s important to acknowledge the role women have played in history.

“Women are not second-class citizens who deserve only passing mention in our history classes,” the McMahon explained. “By occasionally name dropping two to three well-known women in U.S. history, we communicate that the role women play in society is secondary and unimportant, which is not legally or factually accurate.”

Here are 4 important reasons learning about Women’s History Month is important for everyone:

Throughout history, females who played pivotal roles in innovation, government, and beyond have not been credited.

“Often, those recording the accepted versions of history were men,” McMahon said. “Because men held positions of leadership, and because we tend to focus on broad, sweeping overviews of history — ‘Who was the general in this war?’ or ‘Who was the president on D-Day?’ or ‘Who signed the Emancipation Proclamation?’ — women’s roles were relegated to things that seem minor in comparison.”

Learning about women’s history is essential to a well-rounded education.

“History is made up of everyone who contributed to it, not just the big names we’re required to memorize in school,” McMahon said. “While we can’t discount the role of James Madison in shaping the Constitution, and no one is suggesting we ignore the contributions of men, we also cannot forget and ignore half the population and their importance in the shaping of the nation.”

Recognize that textbooks and school curriculums can be slow to change and reflect a current understanding of history.

“Parents can supplement school lessons at home by checking out books from the library that reflect the change we want to see in history education,” McMahon explained. “We can have conversations around the dinner table about why women are often only mentioned in passing and get children’s viewpoints on what we can do to improve for the future. Consider watching movies as a family that reflects women’s importance in history — the movie "Hidden Figures" comes to mind. Seek out primary sources of historical events that women wrote.”

Understanding the historical significance of women can inspire change for the future.

“For things to change, we must work for change,” McMahon said. “If we want a future in which women and girls are valued and celebrated, and I know we do, girls need to be valued and celebrated now. We must embody the change we want to see reflected, which includes recognizing the importance and significance of women as history makers.”