First Reflections—Women's History Month
- March 01, 2022
- Cynthia Y. Reisz , Bass Berry & Sims PLC
March is Women’s History Month. Have you ever wondered how we came to celebrate women in the month of March? The tradition began in Santa Rosa, California in 1978 when a school district held a weeklong celebration of women’s contributions to culture, history, and society. The event spread to more communities in subsequent years and in 1980, after the lobbying efforts of a consortium of women’s groups and historians (precursor to the National Women’s History Alliance), President Jimmy Carter issued the first Presidential Proclamation declaring the week of March 8, 1980 as National Women’s History Week. Other presidents did the same until 1987, when Congress passed a law designating March as Women’s History Month. Note that it still takes a Presidential Proclamation each year for the celebration to occur.
The National Women’s History Alliance designates a yearly theme for Women’s History Month, which is recognized by educational institutions, local governments, and others. The 2022 theme is “Women Providing Healing, Promoting Hope.” This theme is not only a timely “tribute to the ceaseless work of caregivers and frontline workers during this ongoing pandemic but also a recognition of the thousands of ways that women of all cultures have provided both healing and hope throughout history”.
The contributions of women to U.S. history have often been overlooked. We all have likely read the poem “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, which commemorates the actions of Paul Revere on April 18, 1775 during the Revolutionary War as he rode by horseback to warn the militiamen in Lexington, Massachusetts that British troops were headed their way. Did you also know that on April 16, 1777, a 16-year-old girl, Sybil Ludington, rode nearly 40 miles (further than Paul Revere) in New York to warn militiamen that British troops were coming? There is no poem commemorating Sybil Ludington, although she does have a stamp and according to lore, George Washington came to her home to personally thank her for her bravery.
I recently read a New York Times article about Mary Eliza Mahoney, who is widely regarded as the first trained Black nurse in the United States. In the late 1800’s, Ms. Mahoney graduated from a nursing program at the New England Hospital for Women and Children in Boston, in which she was one of about 40 candidates, of which only three actually graduated. She became a private nurse and spent her career striving to make the nursing field more accessible to Blacks. She was one of the first Black members of what is now the American Nurses Association. Ms. Mahoney was also an advocate for women’s suffrage and was one of the first women to register when women won the right to vote in 1920. A former professor described Ms. Mahoney as “a sound builder for the future, a builder of foundations on which others to follow may safely depend.”
There are countless other examples of women who have made contributions to culture, history, and society, providing both healing and hope to their families, workplaces, neighborhoods, and wider communities. Women who pushed through barriers in law, public health, medicine, politics, journalism, the suffragist movement, and elsewhere to make a difference in society. You can read about trailblazers who broke barriers as women in public health and medicine, from a U.S. Medal of Honor winner to the first woman to earn a medical degree, at https://www.nps.gov/subjects/womenshistory/women-in-health.htm.
AHLA celebrates Women’s History Month with members and the broader health law community. Please join us in celebrating this month by learning about the achievements of women in health law and finding opportunities to further our shared goal of eliminating barriers to health equity:
Engage in conversations in our Women in Health Law Network.This Community was built for discussion among health law professionals interested in women’s issues and to provide a forum for women health law professionals to find one another and connect over their perspectives and shared experiences in the industry.
Read articles from AHLA’s Women’s Leadership Council.AHLA’s Women’s Leadership Council produces monthly columns for Health Law Connections that discuss professional development issues for current and future health law leaders.
Share your story.AHLA invites members to share who inspired you, what work still needs to be done within our community, or how you celebrate Women’s History Month.
Listen to AHLA’s three-part podcast series.Hosted by the Women’s Leadership Council, this series being released in March highlights current women professionals in the legal industry.
Provide or update your demographic information.The more data AHLA has about our membership, the better equipped we are to set, meet, and exceed benchmarks and goals to increase diversity among our volunteers.
Explore AHLA’s Health Law Hub on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Health Care.This hub includes information to help members and the public stay informed on these important issues, providing in-depth analysis that furthers conversations to facilitate change. Included on the Hub is Brittney A. Cafero’s article from the July 2021 issue of Health Law Connections that explores the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women in the workplace.
The 2022 theme for Women’s History Month honors all women who, whether in a public setting or in their private life, provide healing and promote hope for others. AHLA is grateful for the contributions made by all women, and in particular the women among its membership ranks, as we all provide healing and promote hope in our own ways.
1 “Women’s History Month 2022,” history.com, https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/womens-history-month.
2 Sarah Fielding, “Overlooked No More: Mary Eliza Mahoney, Who Opened Doors in Nursing,” New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/19/obituaries/mary-eliza-mahoney-overlooked.html.
9 Brittney A. Cafero, “Young Professionals—The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Women in the Workplace,” Health Law Connections, https://www.americanhealthlaw.org/content-library/connections-magazine/article/c4de9f0e-1aaa-4915-947d-5c87aeb3c0b0/Young-Professionals-The-Impact-of-the-COVID-19-Pan.