Thursday, March 01, 2001

This year's focus cites six women

Special month sprang from Calif. group

By Andrea Tortora
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The push to honor women's history in March came from the National Women's History Project, a nonprofit group established in Santa Rosa, Calif., in 1980.

        The project is a clearinghouse for information on multicultural women's history for educators, community organizations, parents and anyone wanting to learn about women's contributions to U.S. history.

        This year, the month's theme is “Celebrating Women of Courage and Vision.”

        This year's theme focuses on six women:

        • LaDonna Harris, a political activist for social justice.

        • Shirley Jackson, a physicist.

        • Maya Lin, the artist and architect who designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

        • Ellen Ochoa, an engineer, inventor and astronaut.

        • Esther Peterson, a consumer advocate and labor activist who died in 1997.

        • Lillian Smith, an author and civil rights advocate who died in 1966.

        “There are so many women that deserve to be honored,” said Deborah Cutting, marketing manager. “We try to choose women from different fields, and multicultural women.”

        Women's History Month is rooted in a 1978 women's history week started by the Education Task Force of the Sonoma County Commission on the Status of Women.

        As more and more cities and colleges began to celebrate women's history week, the project advocated for a national designation.

        In 1987, the project, with the backing of museums, libraries and educators across the country, lobbied Congress to expand the celebration to all of March.

        Although a few states — Illinois, Florida and Louisiana — require women's history to be taught in grades K-12, the topic still gets short shrift in history textbooks.

        A 1992 study found that history texts devote only 2 percent to 3 percent of their content to women.

        Of all educational materials on the market, only 3 percent focus on women's contributions, according to the project.

       For information, contact the National Women's History Project, 7738 Bell Road, Windsor, Calif. 95492; phone (707) 838-6000; online

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