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Women’s History Month: A Commemorative Observances Legal Research Guide

History and Overview

Women's History Month had its origins in 1981, when Congress passed Pub. L. 97-28 which authorized and requested the President to proclaim the week beginning March 7, 1982 as "Women's History Week." As requested by Congress, President Reagan issued Presidential Proclamation 4903 External, proclaiming the week beginning on March 7, 1982 as the first "Women's History Week," and recognizing the vital role of women in American history. The proclamation states, in part:

American women of every race, creed and ethnic background helped found and build our Nation in countless recorded and unrecorded ways ... As leaders in public affairs, American women not only worked to secure their own rights of suffrage and equal opportunity but also were principal advocates in the abolitionist, temperance, mental health reform, industrial labor and social reform movements, as well as the modern civil rights movement.

Throughout the next five years, Congress continued to pass joint resolutions designating a week in March as "Women's History Week," authorizing the President to issue a proclamation of this commemoration and urging people to study the contributions of women to U.S. history. In 1987, after being petitioned by the National Women's History Project External, Congress passed Pub. L. 100-9, which designated the month of March 1987 as "Women's History Month." This law requested the President to issue a proclamation calling upon the people of the United States to observe this month with appropriate activities and ceremonies. President Reagan then issued Presidential Proclamation 5619 External, proclaiming March 1987 as "Women's History Month" and calling upon all Americans to mark the month with observances to honor the achievements of American women. Between 1988 and 1994, Congress passed additional resolutions requesting and authorizing the President to proclaim March of each year as Women's History Month.

Since 1995, Presidents Clinton, Bush, Obama, Trump, and Biden have issued a series of annual proclamations designating the month of March as "Women's History Month" These proclamations celebrate the contributions women have made to the United States and recognize the specific achievements women have made over the course of American history in a variety of fields.