Celebrating National Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day!

Courtesy of the Bryn Mawr College Archives

Happy International Women’s Day from The Albert M. Greenfield Digital Center for the History of Women’s Education!

This year’s theme for National Women’s History Month is (aptly for us) Women’s Education – Women’s Empowerment. This connects strongly with one of the major themes in the history of women’s education – that of women’s higher education as a tool of empowerment, propelling women into the public world in meaningful and lasting ways. We’ve been working hard this month on finalizing the designs for our new site, which will be launched in the next few months. However, in celebration of Women’s Day and as a preview to some of the wonderful images we will have on the site, I’ve created a special  Tumblr which you can access here to see them. Enjoy!

Today is International Women’s Day, the theme of which is CONNECTING GIRLS, INSPIRING FUTURES. This reminded me of the exciting new initiative happening at Bryn Mawr College which links students here with peers in four women’s colleges in Saudi Arabia, India, South Korea and Japan. The President’s Seminar is a series of four IT-facilitated, internationally linked conversations that explore higher education for women as an engine for social change and progressive leadership. Having observed the first seminar with students from Effat University in Saudi Arabia, I was impressed with the articulate and intelligent contributions and the connections students were able to make between their lives in very different places (for more on the seminars click here). Although there are lots of sites dedicated to International Women’s Day, this site  gives you a truly global perspective on the ways in which it is being celebrated across the world. For some, it’s a day of commemoration and celebration, for others, it’s a crucial time for awareness raising for issues affecting women in society today.

International Women’s Day has its roots in the labor movement and women’s demands for better, more equitable pay and conditions and has been celebrated on this day every year since 1911. The Summer School for Women Workers at Bryn Mawr College was established in 1921, aimed at working class women factory workers who otherwise had no opportunity of experiencing higher education. A history of the School is available through Triptych and can be found here. The School was the first time many of the women had ever entered a college and was a profound moment in the college’s history of reaching out to the community and providing empowerment through education. As the history of the School says, ‘President M. Carey Thomas went far beyond educational events of the past and gave impetus to a dynamic experiment which has had far-reaching results’.

Although our website isn’t ready yet to view, Special Collections has a lot of inspiring material that it has digitized already which is intimately connected to the history of women’s social movements. If you haven’t already, check out the Carrie Chapman Catt Suffrage Collection which was digitized by Bryn Mawr College Special Collections here. One of my favorite images is of a float from 1918 which demonstrated the countries that allowed women to vote which you can see here

There are exciting events happening all month to mark Women’s History Month, many of which are advertised on the National Women’s History Project site (http://www.nwhp.org/) and I have been posting many links to relevant events and projects on Twitter (follow me @RedmondJennifer) with a special emphasis this month on role models and heroines of the past we can acknowledge and appreciate for their exceptional work and the path they laid for women today.

Whatever you do to celebrate International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month don’t forget to acknowledge the progress women have made, as well as the challenges we face. Happy Women’s Day!

Courtesy of the Bryn Mawr College Archives

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