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Women's Month ends, still obscure


NEW YORK -- Today wraps up Women's History Month -- 4 1/2 weeks of public forums, art exhibits, school essay-writing contests and other activities.

Yet, despite calendars loaded with celebratory activities around the country, Women's History Month still doesn't have the cachet of the celebration that precedes it -- Black History Month.

Women behind the March celebration point to three reasons for the disparity. Corporations don't sponsor events for Women's History Month, as they do for Black History Month, so advertising for the women's month is weaker; the celebration for blacks has been around far longer; and, despite the advancements of the women's movement, many women remain timid about drawing attention to the achievements of their sex.

"Corporate America is jumping in with both feet to participate in Black History Month projects," says Martha Baker, executive director of New York City's Commission on the Status of Women. "But they're not quite falling all over themselves when it comes to women's events."

The reason, she says, is that society recognizes that blacks are discriminated against, "but the discrimination against women is never viewed with the same kind of outrage."

Women's History Month began in 1978 in Santa Rosa, Calif., when community leaders set aside a week in March to teach schoolchildren about the role of women in history.

The idea caught on nationally, says Mary Ruthsdotter of the National Woman's History Project, who is a founder of the celebration, and in 1987 Congress proclaimed March as Women's History Month.

But, she says, many women still don't get involved in it.

Yet, while the immediate goal of Women's History Month is greater recognition for the achievements of women, the ultimate goal is to render itself obsolete.

"The goal is to have women's history incorporated in all history," Ms. Ruthsdotter says.

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