March is Women’s History Month (WHM), a month dedicated to celebrating and showcasing historical contributions from women and their impact on society. WHM has gained popularity worldwide over the past century. The genesis of the month-long focus on women started in 1909 with the first US national Women’s Day and the ensuing 1911 International Women’s Day. With its roots linked to Communist and Socialist parties worldwide, the focus on an annual celebration of women’s history began building mainstream popularity when the UN declared 1975 as the International Women’s Year and officially sanctioned March 8 as International Women’s Day. From there, in 1981, US Congress declared “Women’s History Week” as the week surrounding that day, which expanded to “Women’s History Month” in 1987. In Connecticut, there are numerous ways to celebrate and pay tribute to trailblazing women.
Harriet Beecher Stowe Center
77 Forest St.
Hartford, CT 06105
March 20 marks the 161st anniversary of the publishing of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” the best-selling book of the 19th century and quite possibly one of the catalysts to the US Civil War. In addition, 2013 marks the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. On November 25, 1862, the 51-year-old Stowe met with the President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. Upon meeting her, Lincoln remarked, “so you are the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war.” The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, located in the once prestigious “Nook Farm” area of Hartford next to the former house of Mark Twain, continues to use her life and work as an inspiration to everyone to stand up for inequalities.
Connecticut Historical Society
1 Elizabeth St.
Hartford, CT 06105
On March 9, there is a special Women’s History Month-themed behind-the-scenes tour of the Connecticut Historical Society entitled “Women’s History Month — From Corsets to Spanx: Have We Come a Long Way, Baby?” The 45-minute tour is a fashion-oriented look at women’s history through time, including 19th century garments such as corsets, hoops and dresses. In addition, one of the current exhibits at CHS is “Cooking By the Book: From Amelia Simmons to Martha Stewart.” The exhibit highlights the historical contributions of women including the first cookbook published in the US by Amelia Simmons.
Prudence Crandall Museum
1 S. Canterbury Road
Canterbury, CT 06331
Tour the National Historic Landmark and former home of Connecticut’s official State Heroine, Prudence Crandall. In addition to her home, the site was the location of Miss Crandall’s School for Young Ladies and Little Misses of Color, the first academy for African-American women in New England. In 1833, two years after opening a private school to teach young (wealthy) women in Connecticut, Crandall admitted a young black woman to the school, creating controversy and a new law making her school illegal. Crandall fought for civil rights and stood her ground, continuing to encourage young black women to become educated. Her unwillingness to waiver brought her difficulties including a night in jail, three court trials and numerous mob attacks, forcing her to close the school. The law was eventually repealed in 1838, and the abolitionist movement continued forward.
Connecticut Women’s Heritage Trail
Various locations throughout the state
Fourteen powerful sites located across the Nutmeg State stand tribute to some of the historic women in Connecticut and their contributions to society. Each of the locations explores a different story of female perseverance, nurture, social reform, business success, hospitality, women’s suffrage or leadership. Created by the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame in 1999, the museums and former residences retell history and inspire current and future generations of both women and men.
Edward Main is a freelance writer covering all things Connecticut. His work can be found on Examiner.com.