Indian Country observing Women’s History Month

By Casey Brown of the CUJ
International Women’s Day is March 8, which falls on a Sunday this year, and the month of March is Women’s History Month. Indian Country celebrates the day and the month along with the rest of the nation.

Women’s History Month started as a day, then became a week, and since 1986 has been a month in the United States.

The day has been on the books since 1911.

The United Nations says that the day is about recognizing and unifying women the world over.

“International Women’s Day is celebrated in many countries around the world. It is a day when women are recognized for their achievements without regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political,” according to the website.

The day became a week in 1978 when a school district in California scheduled events throughout the week of March 8. The President of the United States started issuing proclamations for Women’s History Week in 1980, which lasted until 1986 when it switched to a full month.

The United Nations was ahead of the US by a decade. In 1975, they officially commemorated Women’s History Month on an international level.

The United States is not the only country in on the action. Several countries observe the month, including the United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada, although Canada waits until October.
In Indian Country, organizations such as the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (NIWR) highlight the work and history of indigenous women who stand out.
During last year’s theme of “Visionary Women: Champions of Peace & Nonviolence,” NIWR lifted up the names of women who work within their communities, those who came before, those who “take to the streets” to march in women’s marches, and women in politics. 

They specifically named public servants at the federal level, such as Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland, and public servants at the state level such as Peggy Flanagan.
Davids (Ho-Chunk Nation), the first openly LGBTQ Congresswoman, was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Kansas and Haaland (Pueblo of Laguna) was elected to the U.S. House from New Mexico. Flanagan (White Earth Band of Ojibwe), elected Lieutenant Governor of Minnesota, is the second Native American woman to ever be elected to statewide executive office in U.S. history.

The 2020 theme listed by National Women’s History website,, and the National Women’s History Alliance,, is centered around the 100 year anniversary of the 19th amendment, which passed in August 1920. It gave white women the right to vote.

However, American Indian and Alaska Native women were not allowed to vote until 1924 when the Indian Citizenship Act passed. Chinese women weren’t allowed to vote until 1943 when the Magnuson Act passed. Japanese women weren’t allowed to vote until the 1790 Naturalization Law was repealed by the McCarran-Walter Act in 1952.
Black women weren’t allowed to vote until 1965 when the Voting Rights Act passed. Latina women weren’t allowed to vote until the Voting Rights Act was extended to include them a decade later in 1975.

Another milestone nearly 100 years in the making could become a reality in 2020. A proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution known as the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was ratified by Virginia, the 38th state to do so.

The ERA could be the 29th amendment, but it has a way to go before that becomes a reality. Congress originally passed the ERA in 1972, but it had a deadline of seven years to be ratified by three-fourths of the states, as required in the Constitution.

When the 1979 deadline arrived, the numbers fell short. Only 35 out of the required 38 states had passed legislation to ratify the ERA.

As of Jan. 15, 2020, Virginia became the 38th state to ratify. However, what happens next depends on whether both chambers of the Congress, the House of Representatives and the Senate, agree to extend the deadline that expired more than 30 years ago.

The deadline has been extended before, from 1979 to 1982.