Readers, please note: This is work in progress and will be changing hopefully daily.
Every March, we celebrate Women’s History Month with local, state, and national events. This year, we are expanding our vision with Women’s History activities that can be part of an ongoing educational effort.
Our 31 Days of Women’s History can be books to read, films or videos to watch, podcasts to listen to, news or magazine articles or projects to read. This list can be a project map for anyone seeking to expand their knowledge or increase their understanding.
Are we missing something important? No worries, we can add it. Please contribute by emailing your suggestion to us. Please include a description, a link (if it’s online), and your name and contact information (in case we need to contact you for information). We will list you as a contributor unless you request your name be withheld.
Everyone also please look through the whole list to make sure you aren’t duplicating.
1. Journalist Rebecca Traister explores the transformative power of female anger and its vital role in the slow rise of women to political power in American in her best-selling book “Good and Mad.” You’ll recognize the double-edged sword that female anger can be.
Are you a fan of opera? The Metropolitan Opera marks Women’s History Month with a week of free streams of iconic operas featuring trailblazing women artists including; Beverly Sills, Leontyne Price and Renee Fleming. The MET has also included curated content featuring videos, podcasts and articles. Watch them From March 1 to 7.
2. Stream the 2004 historical drama Iron Jawed Angels and learn why and how women had to fight for 70 years for the right to vote. Suffragists were ridiculed, jailed, patronized and dismissed by their opponents but still they persisted.
If that piques your interest, be a part of making women’s history more accessible and join the Library of Congress’s By The People project which invites crowd-sources to transcribe historical documents and papers as part of its effort to digitize documents and make them more accessible. One project is focused on the life and work of Mary Church Terrell, founding president of the National Association of Colored Women and, in 1909, a founder of the NAACP. Don’t worry, your transcriptions are peer reviewed before they are published!
3. Watch the mini series “Mrs. America” and see actress Rose Byrne transform herself into Gloria Steinem. The series tells the story of the movement to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment and the unexpected backlash led by conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly. Streaming on Hulu.
4. Watch the movie “Suffragette”, a 2015 British historical drama about women’s suffrage in the United Kingdom, with a stellar cast topped by Meryl Streep, Carey Mulligan, and Helena Bonham Carter. Streaming on Netflix.
6. Celebrate the late, great Supreme Court justice and American icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s birthday on March 12th by watching the documentary “RBG”. Streaming on Hulu. Followed by the biographical legal drama “On the Basis of Sex” based on the life and early legal cases of Justice Ginsburg. Airing on Showtime until March 12.
Take part in Dining for Women’s International Women’s Day Virtual Celebration on Saturday, March 6, 1-2:30 PM. The theme of the event is the power of community to achieve gender equality. Register here. Dining for Women is a non profit founded by two Greenville women – Marsha Wallace and Barb Collins – to raise money to heighten awareness of and support for women in the developing world. With chapters across the United States, Dining for Women has raised millions of dollars to fund grassroots programs across the globe to work to women’s health, economic independence, security, and rights.
7. Read “The Three Mothers,” an exploration into the lives of three women and the impact they had on changing the course of a nation. How the mothers of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., and James Baldwin helped shape the Civil Rights Movement and change the country. Read the New York Times Book Review here.
8. Explore Guaranteeing Her Right: The 19th Amendment, Women and the Right to Vote an exhibition at the Upcountry History Museum. Photographs, drawings and artifacts detailing the stories of women’s struggle to achieve full citizenship. March 5-13th.
9. Educate yourself about groundbreaking women in medicine like Elsie Taber, the first female, full-time full professor at the Medical University of SC.
10. Shatter a glass ceiling? That’s one legacy of our new vice president, Kamala Harris. To honor this achievement, the National Women’s History Museum in Washington, DC, displays a portrait of the veep created from pieces of shattered glass. It’s on display in front of the Lincoln Monument. If you can’t get to The Capitol to see it, you can read about it – and learn about more fascinating women in history like Ida B. Wells-Barnett and Sojourner Truth. Virtual tours are also online.
11. Educate yourself about groundbreaking women in medicine like Elsie Taber, the first female, full time full professor at the Medical University of SC.
Join our 2nd Thursday Conversation with current and former councilwomen Diane Smock, Jil Littlejohn Bostic, Dorothy Dowe, and Lillian Brock Flemming. Register online.
12. Make the book “A Woman of No Importance” by Sonia Purnell your selection for March book club. Learn how Virginia Hall, a Baltimore socialite, overcame sexism and disability to help light the fire of French resistance as the only female undercover Allied agent in France during World War II. Chosen as a best book of the year by NPR, the New York Public Library, Amazon, the Seattle Times, the Washington Independent Review of Books, PopSugar, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, BookBrowse, the Spectator, and the Times of London.
13. Gather your kids and watch a series of historical videos, produced by ETV at historical homes and sites, these stories about significant women in South Carolina history, were adapted with permission and input from author Idella Bodie, taken from her book South Carolina Women. Developed for educators, the program includes teacher’s guides. But the full videos are available online for public viewing. The content is geared toward students in grades 1 through 8.
14. Channel your inner Nancy Pelosi to celebrate her 81st birthday on March 26th. Daughter Christine Pelosi describes how her mom went from stay-at-home mother to become Speaker of the House in the book, The Nancy Pelosi Way. Group discussion question: Who will play the speaker when a movie is made?
15. Learn more about the complicated life and legacy of Nina Simone. The iconic American singer, songwriter and civil rights activist Nina Simone was born in nearby Tryon, NC. Watch the documentary “What Happened Miss Simone?” Available to rent on Amazon Prime.
16. Say it loud: I’m a feminist. Do you know women who are strong and independent but refuse to regard themselves as feminists? Sure you do. Restore your knowledge (and hone your critical argument skills) of what it means to be a feminist by reading the book, “We Should All Be Feminists” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
17. They called them “computers.” They were the women – mostly Black women – who used slide rules, pencils, and math to do in their heads what it now takes zettabytes of computing power to accomplish: Bringing our astronauts home safely. In February 2021, NASA honored these previously “Hidden Figures” by renaming its Washington, DC, headquarters the Mary W. Jackson (right) NASA Headquarters. Similar honors were conferred upon Katherine Johnson (left), a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, who also has two NASA Facilities (including it’s Langley, VA, research headquarters) named after her. And, a recently launched space station supply ship is also named the S.S. Katherine Johnson. They are hidden figures no more. Read the book by Margot Lee Shetterly and watch the movie starring Taraji P. Henson. Rent on Amazon Prime.
18. Foreign affairs are not dry and boring topics in the hands of Madeleine Albright. Albright was the first woman to serve as US Secretary of State, appointed by President Bill Clinton. Albright and her family emigrated from Czechoslovakia, she has also served on the National Security Council and as US Ambassador to the United Nations. She’s written some great books among them, “Hell and Other Destinations”, and the prescient, “Facism: A Warning”. But Albright has a lighter side. The consummate diplomat, Albright is known for her pin penchant. So much so she has published a book of her pins the unique story of each one’s meaning, history, and how she used them in diplomacy. Read “Read My Pins.”
19. March 12 marks the founding of the Girl Scouts by Juliette Gordon Low, a native of Savannah, GA. Her birthplace in Savannah is a National Historic Landmark. You can read more about her – and countless other women who changed America on the National Women’s History Museum website.
20. Learn the untold story of Juanita Moody, a North Carolina native who grew up in a rental house with no-running water, dropped out of college to join what would become the National Security Agency, and played a key role in diverting nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis. This fascinating story appears in the March issue of Smithsonian Magazine.
21. Celebrate the birthday on March 25 of ground-breaking feminist Gloria Steinem, who began as a journalist and became a feminist after going undercover as a bunny at the Playboy Club. Steinem has written more than a half dozen books, and scores of articles and blog posts. Start by reading her timeless essay about what would happen if men had periods.
22. South Carolina’s nine Black female representatives are making history every day. Including Greenville’s own Leola Robinson Simpson and Chandra Dillard, they mark the highest number of Black women serving in our legislature together in the 44 years since Juanita C.W. Goggins of York County was elected in 1975, serving for five years. In May, Rep. Krystle Simmons told the Associated Press. “I don’t know if I digested how big this is. I just hope that little brown boys and girls, young girls, college age, I hope they look at me and say because of her, we can.” Pictured above, left to right, Reps. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, Leola Robinson Simpson, Annie McDaniel, Chandra Dillard, Rosalyn Henderson Myers, Patricia Henegan, Krystle Simmons and Wendy Brawley pose for a photo outside the House chamber at the Statehouse Wednesday, May 8, 2019 in Columbia, S.C. Not pictured is Rep. J. Anne Parks.
23. Many of us think of the Equal Rights Amendment as being a product of the Civil Rights Movement of the ’60s and the Anti-War and Women’s Equality movements of the ’70s. But the ERA was originally written by Suffragette Alice Paul and proposed in Congress first in 1923. So we are coming up on 100 years during which we’re still unable to make this straightforward declaration: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”
In January, Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the ERA, meeting the requirement for the proposal to become the 28th amendment to the Constitution. Or so we thought. Read the Brennan Center’s explainer to understand – maybe – more of the obstacles women must still overcome before this amendment gains approval. Want to help increase awareness, raise funds, promote understanding? Get involved with the ERA Coalition. Oh, in case you were wondering, South Carolina was not one of the states that ratified the amendment.
24. Get to know more about Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, born and raised in the South Bronx, as she talks to another Bronx native Sonia Manzano on the “Death, Sex, and Money” podcast. The two share some similar life experiences and talk about the influences in their lives. They also discuss important Court rulings and how they fit in the fabric of society.
25. PBS has curated five shows to celebrate Women’s History Month, profiling fierce women in art including Yoko Ono and Roxane Gay.
26. Mentorship is a critical tool in helping young women see what they can be. Two books address mentorship on different levels. “Becoming” is the autobiography of Michele Obama. Her story has touched the hearts of millions of readers who may see themselves in glimmers of her life and gain insights into how important everyone’s life and actions are. A different type of mentorship is seen in the story of Nelli McKay – “Half in Shadow: The Life and Legacy of Nellie Y. McKay – by Shanna Greene Benjamin. McKay is best known for coediting the canon-making Norton Anthology of African American Literature with Henry Louis Gates Jr., which helped secure a place for the scholarly study of Black writing that had been ignored by white academia. After she died in 2006, details of her life that McKay had kept secret became known. Benjamin shows that McKay’s secrecy was a necessary tactic that a Black, working-class woman had to employ to succeed in the white-dominated space of the American English department. Using extensive archives and personal correspondence, Benjamin brings together McKay’s private life and public work to expand how we think about Black literary history and the place of Black women in American culture.
26. The American work week was popularized by Dolly Parton in the song, and later, the film “9 to 5.” But the popular culture comic treatment was tied to a transformational labor movement spearheaded by women demanding an end to workplace harassment and mistreatment. The documentary is available to stream through March 31 on PBS.
27. In the early 20th century radium was all the rage. Discovered by Marie Curie in 1898, it was believed – in small amounts to have health benefits. Misled by unscrupulous corporations that knew of its dangers, radium was put in milk, tonic water, cosmetics, and toothpaste. It was also a lifesaver for America’s troops in WW I. Their watches and cockpit instrument dials were painted with radium so they could be seen in the dark. And hundreds of patriotic young women flocked to plants in New Jersey and Illinois to become “dial painters.” “The Radium Girls” by Kate Moore tells their heartbreaking story. To ensure the most efficient and effective use of radium, the girls were encouraged to slip their paintbrushes between their lips to obtain a fine point, ingesting a small amount of radium each time. As many of their number became ill, suffered agonizing cancers, ulcers and literal disintegration of their bones, the companies embarked on a massive cover-up and disinformation campaign. The story of their heroic battle against both unimaginable illness and corporate greed and corruption was also made into a film, streaming on Netflix. And article, written by the book’s author, also appears on BuzzFeed.
28. Ever wonder why most podcasts are hosted by men? Or why women usually play the co-host role rather than take the lead? A study in 2020 found only 23 of the 109 chart-topping shows were hosted by women, while 15 had co-ed hosts. Despite this huge disparity, though, women make up about half of the podcast listening audience nationwide. But there are some great feminist podcasts out there, if you know where to look. Here’s a list of 27 of the best women-focused, women-hosted podcasts available. “From issues of gender equality, equity, feminism, history, mental health, sexual wellness, relationships, and pop culture, these podcasts ensure marginalized voices are being heard.”
29. Women’s history isn’t all about sitting around and reading, watching, listening to what others have done. It’s about taking action. WREN, the Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network, has been essential to advocating for legislation supporting women and families in South Carolina. And they need our help. Since there is no nationwide mandate for paid family leave, it’s up to individual states to protect families and promote economic well-being. This issue has wide bipartisan support. A poll of likely voters found that 90% of South Carolinians believe paid family leave should be a policy priority— but the bill needs a second subcommittee hearing. We need your help to encourage members of the Senate Finance subcommittee to give S.11 another hearing. If the second hearing doesn’t happen, this essential bill may not survive the legislative session. Let’s give this bill (and working families) a fighting chance. Take action today!
Contributors: Roxanne Cordonier, Laura Haight, Diane Smock, Ingrid Erwin, Claire Bateman, Marsha Wallace, Kate Esposito, Jordan Wannamacher, Sharon Garrett