Every year in the United States, March symbolizes Women’s History Month to honor the contributions of women to the nation. This year, the Smithsonian partnered with the “IfThenSheCan” exhibit to bring the largest collection of statues of women to the National Mall and surrounding areas. The “IfThenSheCan” contains 120 life-sized statues of women in contemporary society that continue to innovate and serve as role-models for women in STEM careers. In displaying this exhibit for Women’s History month, the objective is to inspire a diverse range of people to see themselves as the future STEM leaders.
Interestingly enough, Women’s History month is not a celebration that dates very far back in the history of the United States. In fact, the original celebration began as “Women’s History Week” in the city of Santa Rosa California in 1978. The holiday still took place in the month of March, as it does today. As the commemoration gained momentum, a coalition of women's organizations successfully petitioned President Carter to establish Women's History Week as a national holiday in 1980. Women’s History Week continued celebration through the majority of the decade as a nationally recognized event. However, in 1987, Congress declared the month of March as Women’s History month for the first time using Public Law 100-9.
This declaration was a significant step in recognizing women's abilities and accomplishments on a greater scale in the United States. Additionally, beginning in the year 1995, current presidents’ annual declarations continue to designate the month of March as Women’s History Month. Each year, Women’s History month celebrations take on a new annual theme, with that for 2022 being, "Women Providing Healing, Promoting Hope." The theme applies to a variety of roles women occupy, including both immediate caregivers/frontline workers and historic roles of women providing hope and healing throughout history.
With the present celebration of Women’s History Month, the “IfTheSheCan” exhibit continues to present young girls and women with a diverse set of current female role models. The “IfThenSheCan” exhibit was created by the “IF/THEN” initiative founded by Lyda Hill Philanthropies. The “IF/THEN” initiative focuses on highlighting positive female role models in professional settings in order to inspire young women and girls. The initiative is especially focused on the addition of more women into the STEM field. Some of the women depicted in the 120 statues of the exhibit include wildlife conservationists, galaxy experts, researchers in cancer studies, and those building YouTube platforms.
Since, the exhibit encourages the women of the future, the Smithsonian contributes the idea of “Women’s Futures Month” as a spin on the traditional monthly celebration. While these women monumentalized in the statue collection are continual role models, they are not only representative of the history of women in the United States. They are also helping look towards the future generations of female role models.
With the history and future of female role models, the Women’s History Month celebrations continue to evolve to support women of all generations. Exhibits like the “IfThenSheCan” statue collection aim to bring more of the current and future generations into the observance of female achievements in United States history. While the “IfThenSheCan” exhibit is only one example of the continued evolving of the commemoration in the United States, its presence in the National Mall serves as a significant placement.
Seeing as it stands in the capital of the United States, it symbolizes a focus of a large portion of the nation on the contributions of women to our shared history. As Women’s History Month comes to an end, the work of women breaking into more professional spaces needs to be celebrated throughout the year.
https://www.womenshistory.org/womens-history/womens-history-month https://www.womenshistory.org/womens-history/womens-history-month https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/womens-history-month