Women’s History Month: An Opportunity to Reflect, Show Gratitude, and Fight for Gender Equity

February 28, 2022Lillie Heyman

Women's History Month, an annual March observance, is an opportunity to highlight powerful women who fight against injustice and to reflect on the political, cultural, and socioeconomic achievements of women worldwide.

March 8: International Women's Day

International Women's Day was established in 1910 by Clara Zetkin, a Jewish labor and women's rights activist, to recognize women's contributions and promote women's suffrage. Seeds were first planted for the celebration in 1908, when a group of 15,000 women marched in New York City to demand better working hours, pay, and the right to vote.

The United Nations selects different themes for the day each year. This year's theme is "Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow," to recognize the contribution of women and girls around the globe who are leaders in climate activism. As the UN explains, "Women are increasingly recognized as more vulnerable to climate change impacts than men as they constitute the majority of the world's poor and are more dependent on the natural resources which climate change threatens the most."

Women have taken initiative as powerful leaders in the environmental movement. For example, one of many climate activists around the world is Martha Isabel Ruiz Corzo, Mexican violinist and founder of the award-winning Sierra Gorda Ecological Group, who led and inspired more than 17,000 local environmental activists dedicated to protecting the Sierra Gorda.

March 10: National Abortion Provider Appreciation Day

National Abortion Provider Appreciation Day is a day of gratitude and celebration of fearless, compassionate abortion providers. It was started to honor the life and work of Dr. David Gunn, a provider who was killed by an anti-abortion white supremacist in 1993.

With anti-abortion rhetoric, stigma, and restrictions escalating across the United States, providing abortions has become more challenging than ever. Despite the risks, harassment, and threats of violence, abortion providers continue to show up and provide lifesaving healthcare. This month, take the time to show your gratitude to abortion providers for their tireless care and commitment to providing patients with the care they need. Urge your members of Congress to support the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance (EACH) Act to repeal the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal health insurance coverage of abortion, disproportionately impacting low-income individuals and limiting their access to abortion services.

March 15: Equal Pay Day

Equal Pay Day raises awareness of the gender pay gap. On average, women in the US currently make 82 cents for every dollar earned by men. This disparity is far greater for women of color: Black women make 63 cents for every dollar earned by their white, male counterparts; Native women make 60 cents; Asian American and Pacific Islander women are paid as little as 52 cents; and Latina women make 55 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men.

Urge the Senate to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would deter pay discrimination by closing loopholes in the Equal Pay Act of 1963, helping to break harmful patterns of pay discrimination and strengthening workplace protections for women.

March 16-17: Purim!

Against the backdrop of Women's History Month, it is only fitting to celebrate the contributions of the ancient role-models, Queen Esther and Queen Vashti. In the ancient Persian world where women were relatively powerless, each demonstrated defiant and committed strength: Vashti in refusing an order from the King, and Esther in using her position to thwart the attempted genocide of Persian Jewry. The Purim story also demonstrates the importance of male allyship: throughout her efforts to save her fellow Jews, Esther received the vital support of her cousin Mordecai.

In the spirit of Queens Vashti and Esther, who took risks and stood up for justice, and the powerful women who paved the way before us, we must remain motivated and inspired to speak up against injustices, amplify the voices of those most impacted, and advocate for policies that advance gender equity.

Here are some additional actions you can take to celebrate Women's History Month:

If you would like support in prioritizing REDI in your community, please see the resources below:

Pursuing Justice with the RAC (April 2022)

“Justice, Justice, you shall pursue,” commands the Bible. Discover how the “pursuit of justice” is woven throughout Judaism in this upcoming three-part series. Explore spiritual approaches to engaging with the work of making the world a better place. Consider models for your own individual and communal social activism. Registration is live! Learn more and register for the series.

Audacious Hospitality

Audacious Hospitality is the Reform Jewish Movement's focused effort on Racial Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (REDI) work. Learn more about the work of Audacious Hospitality, and find our Audacious Hospitality team's carefully curated resources here, for use by congregations, Jewish communities, families, and individuals.

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