Women’s History Month brings visibility to contributions of women


Equal Suffrage League of Richmond, Virginia, in front of Washington Monument, Capitol Square, Richmond. The members of the ESL were promoting the suffrage film, “Your Girl and Mine.” Photo published in The Times-Dispatch: Richmond, Virginia, February 28, 1915.

Loretta Mcgraw

Women’s History Month is an annual declared month in the United States that highlights the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society. It is celebrated throughout the month of March.

At Iowa State, departments and students team up to honor the month with events in its recognition.

Introduced in 1980, the monthly celebration originated as a weekly celebration following President Jimmy Carter’s proclamation. It was not until 1987 when Congress passed the Public Law 100-9, designating March officially as “Women’s History Month.”

The National Women’s History Alliance selects and publishes the yearly theme. The 2020 Women’s History Month theme is “Valiant Women of the Vote.”  The theme honors “the brave women who fought to win suffrage rights for women, and for the women who continue to fight for the voting rights of others,” according to womenshistory.org.

When talking about being a woman, some people say there are multiple disadvantages.

Whether it be: the gender pay gap in relation to both gender and intersectionality, coming under critique for exterior appearances, a 91 percent target rate of sexual assault according to the Department of Justice, being the butt of jokes related to mental illness and PMS, lobotomization procedures for which Antònio Egas Moniz co-won the 1949 Nobel prize, the fight for women’s autonomy or that history has historically viewed women as property and how it was not actually until August 18, 1920 that all American women were awarded the right to vote and so forth.

But being a woman also has its advantages when one examines the historical fight to achieving all the distance the wonderful women before us have achieved.

“There is a long history of a patriarchal society in the U.S. that can only exist if we deny certain people the same rights,” said Ruxandra Looft, director of the Margaret Sloss Center for Women and Gender Equity. “So when you’re trying to undo that, something that has been historically traditional, has always been the norm, it is controversial because there are people who benefit from a patriarchal system and there are people whose identities are privileged in that system and they benefit for things to not change. So of course then there’s going to be that sort of resistance and that kind of controversy around changing things from the way they’ve always been. But when people better understand what feminism is trying to do, the expanding of rights to include everyone regardless of gender, orientation, ability, race, nationality, etc. then people get on board with the movement more”

The first wave of feminism took place in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, emerging out of an environment of urban industrialism and liberal, socialist politics. The goal of this wave was to open up opportunities for women, with a focus on suffrage. The wave formally began at the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848 when 300 men and women rallied to the cause of equality for women, according to pacificu.edu.

The second wave began in the 1960s and continued into the ’90s. This wave unfolded in the context of the civil rights and anti-war movements and the growing self-consciousness of a variety of minority groups around the world. The New Left was on the rise, and the voice of the second wave was increasingly radical. In this phase, sexuality and reproductive rights were dominant issues and much of the movement’s energy was focused on passing the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution guaranteeing social equality regardless of sex, according to pacificu.edu.

The third wave of feminism began in the mid-90s and was informed by post-colonial and post-modern thinking. In this phase many constructs were destabilized, including the notions of “universal womanhood,” body, gender, sexuality and heteronormativity. Those of the third wave stepped onto the stage as strong and empowered, eschewing victimization and defining feminine beauty for themselves as subjects, not as objects of a sexist patriarchy, according to pacificu.edu.

Though there is some public disagreement on which wave of feminism the times are upon, the majority agree that the year 2020 is engulfed in fourth wave feminism, which is now addressing problems like sexual abuse, rape, violence against women, unequal pay, slut shaming, the pressure on women to conform to a single and unrealistic body type and the realization that gains in female representation in politics and business are slight, according to pacificu.edu.

The Ames Public Library recommends checking out a copy of “Divided We Stand: The Battle Over Women’s Rights and Family Values That Polarized American Politics” by Marjorie Spruill Wheeler, “The Fight to Vote” by Michael Waldman and the film “Suffragette” to better understand the historical background to which the women’s right to vote evolved.

In commemoration of the 100-Year Anniversary of the Ratification of the 19th Amendment “Hard Won Not Done” campaign from an Iowa perspective is being used to educate the public and promote the ideals and accomplishments embodied in the anniversary of the 19th Amendment but addresses that the gains were hard won and that the status today is not done.

“Equality implies that everyone should be treated the same no matter what their station in life or their personal circumstances,” said Karen Kedrowski, director of the Carrie Chapman Catt Center. “Equity means that people should be treated fairly but that also doesn’t mean that they are necessarily treated the same. In terms of gender I think this means there needs to be some attention to the forces that discourage women from pursuing STEM fields in particular and there is quite a lot of evidence that there is unconscious bias and even outright discrimination. But also [address] the social pressures that might keep men and boys from entering or considering fields that are traditionally considered women’s fields also need to be brought down and combatted so that we have greater integration in the workplace.” 

Every year there are multiple events put on at Iowa State and in the surrounding community of Ames to celebrate Women’s History Month, and this year is filled with over ten events all month long. 

reACT #WomenKnowStuffToo – #WomenKnowStuffToo Art Exhibition 

March 2 to April 3 Reiman Gallery, Christian Petersen Art Museum, Morrill Hall.

Opening Reception: 4-5:30 p.m. March 3, Reiman Gallery

reACT #WomenKnowStuffToo – Catherine Reinhart: “Collective Mending Sessions ”

10 a.m. to 1 p.m., March 4, 11, 18, 25, Reliable Street.

This series of workshops cultivates care for cloth and community through the meditative practice of slow stitching.

Sessions last 2 to 3 hours, all skill levels invited. All workshops are free and open to the public. Registration is encouraged. 

reACT #WomenKnowStuffToo – Rosie Rowe: SCRATCH: A Moving Image Sketch Workshop

1-4 p.m. March 7, College of Design, Room 077. 

RSVP to Emily Morgan, [email protected] by March 6 to reserve a spot. 


2-4 p.m. March 7, Farwell T. Brown Auditorium, Ames Public Library.

Annual celebration of International Women’s Day at the Library. Reflect on this year’s theme, #EachforEqual. ISU Theatre will perform Heroic Stories featuring scenes from the 2019-2020 “HERoic” season, which presents shows advocating for gender equity in the arts. The entire season was written by female playwrights.

reACT #WomenKnowStuffToo – Christian Petersen Art Museum Open House Weekend

1-4 p.m. March 7-8, Christian Petersen Art Museum.


6:30-8:30 p.m. March 9, Farwell T. Brown Auditorium.

This PBS documentary is a sweeping look at the women’s suffrage movement, from Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s famous Seneca Falls call to arms to the passage and ratification of the 19th Amendment, which granted women voting rights. The film also delves into the deep divisions within the suffrage movement, like the one over whether to support voting rights for black men.

“Mary Louise Booth: An Extraordinary 19th Century Woman”

5 p.m. March 11, Sun Room, Memorial Union.

Lecture by author Tricia Foley. Foley will discuss the life of Ms. Booth, an abolitionist; suffragist; a writer, editor and translator for the Union; journalist and founding editor of Harper’s Bazaar magazine. This event is free and open to the public.

reACT #WomenKnowStuffToo –  Artist Gallery Talks 

12:30 p.m. March 12, Reiman Gallery, Christian Peterson Art Museum.

Linda Emmerson has developed a style all her own; her commissions include commemoratives for births, weddings, anniversaries, retirements and special events. She also produces illustrations for books, poems, calendars and nursery rhymes. She will be discussing her pieces related to the #WomenKnowStuffToo Exhibition.

reACT #WomenKnowStuffToo – Antique Quilts: Film and Presentation 

6:30-8:30 p.m. March 16, Rotary Room, Ames Public Library.

6:30 – Showing of “Hearts and Hands” documentary. 7:30 – Presentation by Casie Vance, executive director, Ames History Museum.


1 p.m. March 22, Levitt Auditorium, Des Moines Art Center.

This screening and discussion is hosted in partnership with #WomenKnowStuffToo art exhibition and program series. The Des Moines Art Center also is featuring the exhibition “Researchers: Women Artists Inspired by Science” from the John Brady Print Gallery running now until May 10. This exhibition of drawings, photographs and prints explores the work of women artists from the 17th century forward who use research into biology, physics, engineering, astronomy and other fields as fertile ground for aesthetic inspiration.

reACT #WomenKnowStuffToo – Film Screening & Discussion “Birds of Passage”

7 p.m. March 24, Carver Hall, Room 101.

Film screening and discussion of Birds of Passage with Olga Mesropova and Tom Waldemer.

reACT #WomenKnowStuffToo –  Artist Gallery Talks 

1 p.m. March 26, Reiman Gallery, Christian Peterson Art Museum.

Ann Au is the owner of 2AU Limited, offers her clients the ultimate personal experience in creating gorgeous jewelry featuring unique precious and semi-precious gemstones. Au has a passion for selecting the finest quality stones with which to design. She will be discussing her pieces related to the #WomenKnowStuffToo Exhibition.

reACT #WomenKnowStuffToo – Quilting: Then & Now

9 a.m. to 12 p.m. March 28, in the Ames Public Library.

Come see quilts, hear fascinating quilting stories and learn more about the history and art of quilting. It will start the morning with a “Bed Turning” featuring quilts created by women in the Iowa State University Women’s Club Block Builders. Member Phyllis Schrag will share stories about the quilts while volunteers walk each quilt around the room for viewing. Following will be a panel discussion with participants: Marybeth Stalp, Erin French and Marianne Fons.

reACT #WomenKnowStuffToo –  Artist Gallery Talks

1 p.m. March 30, Reiman Gallery, Christian Peterson Art Museum.

Ingrid Lilligren is professor and chair of the Department of Art and Visual Culture at Iowa State where she teaches courses in ceramics and public art. Recent artwork incorporates Braille as a symbolic language expressing social cultural and political blindness. She will be discussing her pieces related to the #WomenKnowStuffToo Exhibition.

One Woman, One Vote: Rediscovering the Women’s Suffrage Movement

5:30 p.m. April 6, Pioneer Room, Memorial Union.

Editor Marjorie Spruill has compiled the most comprehensive collection of writings about the woman suffrage movement in America. The essays, both contemporary and historical, challenge widely accepted theories and illustrate the diversity and complexity of the fight for the 19th Amendment. It is part of the 100th Anniversary Events Commemorating Women’s Suffrage.

These events allow plenty of ways for students and community members to get involved throughout the month and celebrate the accomplishments of womenkind.