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Australian Women's History Month 2015

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by Margaret Swanton (subscribe)
I am a freelance blogger and writer. I love my hometown Melbourne. I was away for couple of years and now, I am back eager for more of the city's unique atmosphere.
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women, generations, history, successful women
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All throughout history the achievements of men have been honoured and celebrated, but the historical contribution of women remains somewhat hidden and unnoticed. Largely responsible for that present day reality is the notion of the patriarchy, where men were thought to be in a position of power, providing food and security, while women were perceived as child-bearers and responsible for the maintaining and cleaning the home. To right that wrong, in most liberal countries the entire month of March has been dedicated to honouring women and recognising all their historical accomplishments.

The undeniable pioneer in celebrating women's contribution to society is the USA. Women's History Month was for the first time observed in 1987 when the Congress of the United States declared the month of March to be celebrated as an official recognition of women's accomplishments throughout history. The time of the celebration, however, was not chosen at random. Something more, it bears deeper significance.

The Story Behind the Women's History Month

On March 8, 1857 a group of female workers in a garment factory organised a protest in New York, demanding better pay and better working conditions. And in spite of the police shutting the protest down quite violently, a few years later these same determined women formed their own union. Thus, to commemorate women's struggle for equal rights in society, in 1911, March 19 was celebrated as the first International Women's Day. From then on, the whole concept of celebrating women gained momentum and the idea stuck, and in 1921 the date of the International Women's Day (IWD) was changed to March 8. Sixty years later, in 1981, with a congressional resolution, the week surrounding the IWD was proclaimed National Women's History Week in the USA.

Celebrating Women's History Month in Australia

Australia, on the other hand, commemorated Women's History Month for the first time in the not so distant year of 2000, again in March. The initiative was inspired by the success of the event in the US and Canada, and was largely lobbied for by Helen Leonard, convenor of the National Women's Media Centre. But in spite of its popularity in the USA and Canada, in Australia the WHM is for the most part a voluntary and rather small event, overseen by a small team in Canberra.

Each year since its inception, the history month promotes and celebrate a different area of women's achievements, aiming to achieve 3 key goals:

Provide information and educate people on numerous contributions of women to Australia

Promote and encourage various initiatives dedicated to women; and

Encourage different organisations and governmental institutions to support and activities devoted to women

In 2014, however, probably because the idea couldn't gain ground in Australia, Women's History Month mark its finale. Here is the time to ask why the endeavour to commemorate women failed? And another question that we should be asking ourselves is, should we only celebrate women only on a given day, week, or even a month of the year, or is admiration to women, their success, and equality something that each and every one of us should constantly show.
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