President Jimmy Carter issued the first Presidential Proclamation declaring the second week of March as National Women’s History Week in 1980. Over the years, that week has evolved into an entire month. Since 1995, each president has issued an annual proclamation designating the month of March as Women’s History Month. Celebrate the achievements of women across all generations with your group, using the activity ideas below.
FAMOUS FIRST LADIES – Prior to Eleanor Roosevelt, the first lady typically acted as a hostess to the White House. Feature the women of the White House who made an impact on U.S. history. Visit whitehouse.gov for a full list and brief biographies. Reminisce with members about memorable first ladies and the impact they had. Ask: Do you remember wanting to dress like Jackie Kennedy? Do you have a favorite first lady… and why? If you were a first lady, what would you do in your role?
THE LIFE OF A WOMAN THROUGHOUT THE DECADES – Starting with the 1940s, discuss the role of women in each particular decade. For example, many women supported the war effort in the 1940s by working in factories, growing victory gardens, or even joining the military. Most 1950s women played the traditional role of housewife and mother. The 1960s marked a decade of change for women as more and more women entered the work force. Compare and contrast today’s female roles with each decade you discuss. Whether you discuss one decade per week, or offer an overview of all the decades, be sure to include significant women from each decade and spend time reminiscing about life during that decade.
SALLY RIDE, ASTRONAUT – Feature Sally Ride, the first female American in space. Discuss Sally Ride and share fun facts about her life. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sally_Ride) Reminisce with your group about the space race. Where were they when the first space shuttle launched into orbit? Do they remember hearing about Sally Ride and her achievements? Did anyone in your group ever dream of becoming an astronaut? What would it be like to go up in space today?
HER-STORY LIFE REVIEW – Create a weekly journaling group for members to reflect upon their lives. Provide each participant with a journal. Then, write two or three prompts on a white board. Play instrumental music in the background and encourage participants to write about one of the prompts. For participants who may not be able to write, do this as an oral activity. Leave time at the end of each session for participants to share something they wrote about. Suggestions for prompts: What was daily life like when you grew up? What was the most significant event of your childhood? What were your family’s greatest strengths? Who was your best friend when you were growing up? Who has been the most significant person in your life? What has been the happiest time in your life? What has been your greatest accomplishment? What are you most thankful for?
MEMORABLE TEACHERS – It’s likely that if you ask your group their most memorable teacher, most will name a woman, since most school teachers were and continue to be female. Reminisce with your group about their favorite teacher this month. Ask: What class did your favorite teacher teach? What made this teacher so memorable? What did your school room look like? How many of you worked as teachers? Ask participants who were teachers to share what their teaching careers were like and why they went into teaching. Plan the activity for the afternoon so you can serve “after-school snacks,” such as apple slices and juice boxes, or milk and cookies.
SORORITY SISTERS – Form your own sorority and welcome all women by giving them leis during a meal. Then, hold weekly meetings to socialize. Serve tea and biscuits. Encourage members to dress up or provide boas and tiaras for fun. Play games, watch a chick-flick, or lead the group in a craft.
THE PURSE GAME – This is a fun game that is often played at bridal or baby showers. All participants need is a purse. Prior to the game, come up with a list of ten items that are most likely to be in a lady’s purse, such as lipstick, tissues, hard candy, and loose change. At the start of the game, call out each item and give participants time to dig through their purse to find the specific item. The winner of the game is the person with the most items from your list. Other options: pair participants with a staff member with a purse, or fill old purses with miscellaneous items and distribute to participants.
MINI SPA DAY – Treat participants to a mini-spa day experience. Offer mini-facials, manicures, and hand massages. Use Pond’s Cold Cream to replenish moisture and let the smell of the cream evoke memories. Play tranquil music in the background or put on a soothing nature DVD for participants to watch while they wait. Set the mood with battery-operated votive candles and use an essential oil diffuser to create a serene environment. Serve infused water to complete the experience.
DIY WOOD SIGN WORKSHOP – Purchase small wood slices (such as these), and invite participants to create a rustic wood sign. In addition to the wood, you’ll need a variety of paint pen markers. Participants can freestyle a favorite phrase, quote, or verse onto the wood slice, using the paint pen. Another option is to use the wood slices as coasters. Give participants a set of four to decorate by drawing a pattern on each coaster with the paint pens.
WOMEN’S WALKING CLUB – As the weather permits and spring arrives, form a walking club to encourage your female participants to move. Take your group on short walks around your community. For more active groups, try exploring paved trails nearby. If the weather doesn’t cooperate, find a mall nearby that welcomes walkers.
LIVING WAX MUSEUM – Invite participants to dress up as a famous woman of the past, creating a living history event for families, friends, and the community. Work with participants to make a poster for each individual represented. Encourage participants to interact with the audience, assuming the role of the historic figure. Reach out to a high school history class and pair members with a student to add an intergenerational element to the project. Students can do the research and give facts about the person, and your member can dress the part of the famous woman.
FOR THE MEN – We certainly don’t want the men in your group to feel left out this month. Invite them to participate as appropriate. Reminisce with men about their mothers, wives, sisters, or daughters. Discuss how women changed their workplace, as more and more women chose to pursue a career in later decades. Encourage men to share their thoughts and opinions about careers that traditionally were dominated by women, such as teaching, nursing, or secretarial jobs. Form a fraternity that’s just for the men and feature action movies, or play a friendly game of poker. Invite men to participate in the purse game by giving them a purse that you’ve filled and see which gender can find the most items the fastest.
HER-STORY TRIVIA – WHO AM I?
- I was born into a family of eight children in England and am famous for writing classic novels, such as Pride and Prejudice. Who am I? Jane Austen
- My journal has been translated into almost 70 languages and is an intimate portrayal of one of the most inhumane moments in the history of the world. My family hid in secret throughout WWII, until we were discovered in 1944. Who am I? Anne Frank
- I refused to give up my bus seat to a white man in Montgomery, Alabama, and in doing so, sparked the Civil Rights movement in America. Who am I? Rosa Parks
- I became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic and the first person ever to fly solo from Hawaii to the U.S. I was a pioneering aviator who disappeared in 1937. Who am I? Amelia Earhart
- I founded the new science of radiation, and my discoveries launched effective cures for cancer. I was also the first woman to win a Nobel Prize and the first person to win a second Nobel Prize. Who am I? Marie Curie
- My nickname, “Lady with the Lamp” referred to the night rounds I made tending to the wounded and sick during the Crimean War. My work was instrumental in establishing permanent military nursing service and implementing improvements to the army medical services. Who am I? Florence Nightingale
- I was born in Albania and became a Roman Catholic nun who lived in India for most of my life. I founded the. Missionaries of Charity in 1950 and devoted my life to caring for the sick and dying. Who am I? Mother Teresa
- I dramatically changed the role of the American first lady, advocating for human rights, women’s rights, and children’s causes. I became chair of the U.N.’s Human Rights Commission in 1945. Who am I? Eleanor Roosevelt
- I am the longest-reigning monarch in Britain to date, although my official coronation wasn’t until a year and some months after I became queen. Who am I? Queen Elizabeth II
- I was the first woman appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1981, having been nominated by President Ronald Reagan. The Senate vote to appoint me was unanimous. Who am I? Sandra Day O’Connor
HER-STORY THOUGHT FOR THE MONTH
“There are still many causes worth sacrificing for, so much history yet to be made.” ~ Michelle Obama
“Her-Story Thought for the Month” was written by Erin McCart. Copyright 2020 ElderSong Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.
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