"[Fighting] to give women and girls a fighting chance isn't just a nice thing to do. ... It isn't some luxury that we only get to when we have time on our hands. This is a core imperative for every human being in every society. If we do not continue the campaign for women's rights and opportunities, the world we want to live in - and the country we all love and cherish - will not be what it should be." - Hillary Rodham Clinton, The Shriver Report
Compiled by Mary Treacy
"Women of Character, Courage and Commitment" is the theme of this year's National Women's History Month, sponsored by the nonprofit National Women's History Project, "aims to promote women's achievements and innovation." Names and biographies of women who exemplify "character, courage and commitment" are on the group's website ( www.nwhp.org), along with ideas for observing the month, sample proclamations and even a quiz that reminds us how much we have forgotten. Here are a few of the events happening in the Twin Cities area, plus resources to learn more about women in history.
Twin Cities events
March 5 - "Quilt Connections," Eagan High School's annual Women's History Month Quilt Exhibit. March is also National Quilting Month. The exhibit honors Betty "Jewell" Wolk, a renowned quilter and leader from Montana who died in 2011. Read her story at storyquiltproject.com. Eagan High School, 4185 Braddock Trail, Eagan. FFI: firstname.lastname@example.org
March 6 - Women of the Civil War - A presentation about national figures Clara Barton and Dorothea Dix as well as Minnesota women. Anoka County Historical Society. Free. 7 p.m. Chomonix Golf Course Clubhouse, 700 Aqua Lane, Lino Lakes. Seating is limited. FFI: 763-421-0600
March 6 - Haleh Esfandiari, an expert on Iranian and women's politics and director of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. Free. Sponsored by the Luann Dummer Center for Women. 7:30 p.m. O'Shaughnessy Educational Center auditorium, University of St. Thomas, 2115 Summit Ave., St. Paul. FFI: 651-962-6119, www.stthomas.edu/ldcw
March 11 - Lori Sturdevant, Star Tribune opinion columnist and author of "Her Honor: Rosalie Wahl and the Minnesota Women's Movement." Free. 7 p.m. Minnesota History Center, 345 W. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul. FFI: www.minnesotahistorycenter.org/lounge
Minnesota women's music - The website of Women in Music Minnesota has a collection of stories from more than a century of women's music created and performed by Minnesota women. FFI: www.wimmn.com
Minnesota legislators - Since 1923 when the first four women took their seats in the Minnesota House of Representatives, the composition of the Legislature has changed dramatically. The Legislative Reference Library has compiled a comprehensive listing of women members, by session. FFI: www.leg.state.mn.us/lrl/histleg/wmnpuboffterm.aspx
Suppressed Histories Archives - Self-described as a resource that "uncovers the realities of women's lives, internationally and across time, asking questions about patriarchy and slavery, conquest and aboriginality ... mother-right, female spheres of power, indigenous philosophies of spirit - and the historical chemistry of their repression." FFI: www.suppressedhistories.net
More women's history - If you just can't get enough, visit the website Discovering American Women's History Online from Middle Tennessee State University. Its database includes photos, diaries, letters and other records of the history of women. Choose "States" from the top menu and click on "Minnesota." FFI: digital.mtsu.edu/cdm/landingpage/collection/women
OnYourMind: Commentary by Mary Treacy
Inspire change: The challenge of International Women's Day 2014
I had mixed feelings as I gathered the calendar of activities planned to commemorate International Women's Day (IWD) 2014
On the one hand, it may seem quaint to celebrate the century-old IWD custom, which was designated in the early 1900s when women had no right to vote, much less to have a say about how the home, the church, the town or the world were being run. We've come a long way since those feisty women of the Socialist Party of America observed the first National Woman's Day in February 1909.
Maybe it's time to count our triumphs, bank the benefits and exhale.
Or not. Though the focus of IWD is global, clarity begins at home, where it seems the urgency to categorize the rights, contributions or welfare of women has waned. Many institutions - even those that once made an effort to schedule events and raise issues - seem disinclined to budget the money or time to pause on March 8 to commemorate International Women's Day 2014.
Journalist and author Maria Shriver and the raft of women and organizations who have joined her initiative, known simply as The Shriver Report, suggest that we think again about today's domestic realities.
According to the report on American women released in January:
1 in 3 - 42 million women, plus 28 million children - either live in poverty or are right on the brink of it.
SNAP (food stamp) benefits, upon which countless women and their children and "invisible" elderly women depend, remain a political punching bag in Congress.
Nearly two-thirds of minimum-wage workers are women who often get no paid sick days.
Two-thirds are either the primary or co-breadwinners of their families.
The average woman is paid 77 cents for every dollar a man makes, and that figure is much lower for black (64 cents) and Latina (55 cents) women, compared with white men.
Even though women outnumber men in higher education, men still make more money than women who have the same level of educational achievement, from high school diplomas to advanced graduate degrees. In 2011, men with bachelors' degrees earned more than women with graduate degrees.
(Source: The Shriver Report)
Though the human mind can absorb just so many stats, this small sampling makes the point that there are millions of women in this nation who are not swept along by the tide of women's progress.
The good news is that there are women in positions to make change.
The theme of International Women's Day 2014 is "Inspiring Change."
Decision-makers are "inspired to change" by those who elect, appoint, support, contact or otherwise express their concerns and their ideas for change.
That's where most of us come in. IWD falls on a Saturday this year - a good time to think about how to inspire changes that will cast in legal concrete the rights and opportunities of women and girls, now and for generations who will someday walk in the path we forge for them.
Mary Treacy is a retired librarian, independent journalist, amateur historian and blogger (Poking Around with Mary). She lives in Minneapolis. marytreacy.wordpress.com