Women’s History Month is officially here and if you are looking for resources, motivation and ways to get involved, Athletes for Hope has you covered. We hope you’ll join us for this month-long celebration by tuning in, sharing out and activating around opportunities that are grounded in promoting and advancing issues of gender equality. Before we get to what we have lined up, let’s take a minute to reflect on how we got here.
THE STORY OF WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH
A walk down memory lane takes us to the 1970’s when local groups and municipalities start to celebrate Women’s History Week. This movement quickly catches on and people begin lobbying for a more formal observance.
Fast forward to 1980 and that push resulted in President Jimmy Carter designating the first official National Women’s History Week, beginning on March 8th.
Schools, universities and local communities used this week to celebrate the achievements of women, educate the public about women’s history and take a critical look at equality and opportunities for women. A lot to cover in a week’s time, right? Realizing seven days wasn’t going to cut it, states began declaring the whole month of March Women’s History Month all the way up until 1986, when a more formal and nationwide push gained momentum and by March of 1987, Congress declared the first official Women’s History Month.
WOMEN’S HISTORY IN SPORTS
This list represents a fraction of the trailblazing moments and athletes that have changed the landscape of women’s history as it pertains to sports. We therefore encourage you to find some time to research other events, teams and individuals that have been equally as inspiring and groundbreaking over the years.
1896 | The University of California, Berkeley vs. Stanford and the University of Washington vs. Ellensburg Normal School are the first teams to compete in women’s intercollegiate athletics.
1900 | Women participated in the Games in Paris, France for the first time. Twenty-two women (2.2%) out of a total of 997 athletes competed in five sports: tennis, sailing, croquet, equestrian and golf.
1943 | In the midst of World War II, baseball was both the most popular and unifying US sport. Given the absence of enough men to keep the nation’s professional baseball league in action, the first ever professional female sports team known as the All-American Girls Baseball League was born. By the late 1940’s attendance had grown to over 900,000 fans. The success of the league came to a screeching halt due to the war’s end and the rise of televised major league games.
1948 | On the day of the Opening Ceremony of the London 1948 Olympic Games, Dr. Ludwig Guttmann organized the first competition for wheelchair athletes which he named the Stoke Mandeville Games (eventually becoming the Paralympic Games). They involved 16 injured servicemen and women who took part in archery.
1972 | Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in all federally funded education programs, was passed by the Senate on March 1, 1972. It became law later that year.
1999 | The US Women’s National Team defeats China to win the World Cup on home turf. With 90,185 fans in attendance, it became the most-attended women’s sporting event in history. At the time, it garnered a remarkable 11.4 rating, the most-watched soccer game in US television history and one-tenth of a point higher than the average rating of that summer’s NBA Finals.
2003 | The International Paralympic Committee activates the Women in Sport Committee. It is established to address the low number of female athletes and events in the Paralympic Games as well as the lack of women in coaching, officiating and leadership positions. The role of the Women in Sport Committee is to advocate for the full inclusion of girls and women at all levels of Paralympic sport, to identify barriers that restrict participation, to recommend policies and initiatives that address these barriers, and oversee the implementation of initiatives to increase participation.
2007 | After pressure from tennis great, Venus Williams and others, Wimbledon announces that women’s tennis players would receive prize money equal to men’s.
2012 | The Summer Olympics in London were the first Games in which women competed in all sports in the program, and every participating country included female athletes. The U.S. Olympic team had more women than men for the first time — 269 female athletes to 261 men.
2015 | The National Women’s Hockey League is established becoming the fifth women’s professional sports league in the United States, joining the ranks of the Women’s National Basketball League (1997), National Pro Fastpitch (2004), Women’s Football Alliance (2009) and the National Women’s Soccer League (2013).
ADVOCACY IN ACTION – JOIN US!
Now that we’re all caught up, we want to turn to the here and now. At Athletes for Hope, we believe there’s an opportunity to continue building on the momentum female athletes and teams have created. In that spirit, here’s what we’re going to do:
- Each Wednesday throughout the month of March, Athletes for Hope will feature a female athlete dedicated to and passionate about gender equality with a best-in-class partner focused on advancing women’s rights. These conversations will showcase the incredible work being done from both an athlete and organization perspective and will be centered on providing specific ways in which the public can activate and advocate for the issue of gender equality
- We wanted to get it straight from the source so we asked a handful of athletes from all different backgrounds to weigh in on gender equality. Be sure and catch that content on our blog every Friday throughout March and learn about why it’s important to recognize the contributions of past female athletes, their experience with gender equality and resources they have found helpful in order to turn advocacy into action
- On Wednesday, March 8th we will celebrate International Women’s Day by participating and working with AFH Member Athletes to participate in the official #ChooseToChallenge campaign
If you miss something, not to worry – we’ll keep it all under the “Advocacy” highlight on our Instagram.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we recognize difficult times certainly bring challenging circumstances. We also know that giving back, speaking out and volunteering has been shown to help boost a sense of purpose and meaning in life. So, if you’re able, we’d like to invite you to join us over the course of the next month and hope that by doing so, your example results in a positive ripple effect of kindness throughout your community and most importantly, helps move the needle towards creating a more equal and just world for women and girls.