This article was originally published in UHD News on March 14, 2023.
As we celebrate Women’s History Month this month, I firmly believe that understanding our past informs our future. While we honor the contributions women have made to the U.S., recognizing their accomplishments to science, business, the arts, sports, politics, and all aspects of our culture, we also celebrate the women of UHD as they continue to trailblaze for a truly better tomorrow.
What began as “Women’s History Week” in 1981 became Women’s History Month by 1987 after the National Women’s History Project petitioned Congress. Since 1995, U.S. presidents have issued a series of annual proclamations designating the month of March as “Women’s History Month.” These proclamations pay tribute to the specific achievements women have made over the course of American history in a variety of fields.
Why was March chosen as the month to acknowledge women’s contributions in the U.S.? Largely because most of the major historical moments in American women’s journey toward equality occurred in March. A brief timeline shows us that:
- The first major march on Washington by women suffragists was on March 3, 1913;
- The National Woman’s Party, dedicated to getting women the right to vote, was formed in March 1917;
- Title IX was passed on March 1, 1972; and
- The Equal Rights Amendment was passed in the Senate on March 22, 1972.
Since our founding in 1974, UHD has always championed female faculty and students—inviting the brightest and the best to challenge stereotypes, enlighten through dialogue, and institute change through service. Today 63% of our student body and half of our faculty are women.
At UHD, we empower women through such programs as Latinas Achieve, specially designed to provide networking, workshops, and scholarships to UHD Latina students. The Center for Latino Studies, in collaboration with the Office of Alumni Relations, launched the program in Fall 2018 to cultivate Houston’s next generation of Latina leaders. Almost five years later, Latinas Achieve continues to partner with Latina professionals, community leaders, and entrepreneurs to inspire our students and equip them with the tools they need to reach their professional goals.
The UHD student organization, Gator Gyals, works to change preconceptions of non-traditional students who identify as women, many of whom are mothers and grandmothers, with the goals of boosting self-esteem, acknowledging self-worth, and leading by example. The organization cultivates and develops access to resources, supports small business growth and entrepreneurial talent, rallies against injustice, and supports those in need through community service.
UHD faculty members Drs. Felicia Harris and Kristin Anderson provide strong examples of women lifting up other women, especially through their writings. For example, Anderson’s “Modern Misogyny: Anti-Feminism in a Post-Feminist Era” (Oxford, 2015) investigates gender discrimination and sexism. Both Drs. Harris and Anderson are engaged in civic and professional work that benefits women in their communities and at UHD.
In keeping with our Culture of Caring at UHD, we also support women in crisis in the Houston area. Our College of Public Service addresses the needs of women every day—both in the classroom and in the community through internships at nonprofits like The Women’s Home. Issues that are not necessarily unique to women, but unfortunately play a larger role in the lives of women, such as homelessness and domestic violence, are discussed and addressed. In this way, our students, faculty, and staff are continuing in the footsteps of the brave women before them, like the suffragists, to improve the lives of all women.
Join me this month in recognizing the important contributions of women to our shared history, the great strides that have been made for equity and equality, and the successes of UHD’s own exceptional community of women.
Loren J. Blanchard, Ph.D.
President, University of Houston-Downtown