Global Women’s Studies faculty share thoughts on Women’s History Month

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Women’s History Month, which lasts through the end of March, is an opportunity for reflection, study and a celebration of the contributions women have made in a variety of fields.

This calendar shows events celebrating Women’s History Month on the BYU campus this month. The Global Women’s Studies department is providing activities for students to discover their own heroes in women’s history and discover for themselves why women’s history is important. (Graphic provided by Valerie Hegstrom)

Women in history have often gone unrecognized for their accomplishments as their successes have most often been attributed to men or re-written by men, said Roni Jo Draper, an affiliated faculty member in the Global Women’s Studies department.

“I think for a long time, our history books have been really focused on the history or interests of men,” Draper said. “At some point we have to ask ourselves, where were the women?”

Rob McFarland, an affiliated faculty member in the Global Women’s Studies department, said people often wonder why it is necessary to have a month dedicated to the celebration and study of women’s history. He compared it to a question he asked his mother as a child about why there was a Mother’s Day and a Father’s Day, yet no kid’s day. 

He recalled his mother saying every day is kid’s day. McFarland said just as there is no need for a designated “kid’s day,” there is no need for a men’s history month because every month is men’s history month. 

“Women have been at such an unbelievable disadvantage for so long that it is going to take a long time before we are aware of the contributions that they’ve made and we need this women’s history month to think about that,” McFarland said.

Elizabeth Hodgson, a professor at the University of British Columbia, said the histories we know and are familiar with often involve the work of women whose names have never been mentioned in the history books. She spoke of Albert Einstein’s wife, who aided him in some of his most significant discoveries and mathematical innovations, yet she is rarely mentioned in history.

“Women’s History Month gives us a chance to start revising our sense of the past and understanding how things really happened, who really was doing the work, who really made the discoveries, who really shaped communities and formed policies and made positive change,” Hodgson said. “It’s a helpful way to correct our mistaken assumptions.”

Draper emphasized the importance of using history to help people recognize what kind of contributions they can make in their communities now, especially in regards to women. 

“We can make our voices heard, we can continue to do important work, we can continue to be smart, to be kind, to be powerful, care about beautiful things. All the things that we understand women to be, we can continue to do those things,” Draper said. “It’s about continuing, I don’t think it’s about starting something.”

Affiliated faculty of the BYU Global Women’s Studies department share which women in history inspire them most. (Sicily Stanton)
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