Women’s History Month 2019: How far we have come, and how far we have to go


Photo credit: Paras Griffin from TNS

Brenna Flanagan, Lifestyles Assistant Editor

March 1 marked the beginning of Women’s History Month in what many hope to be another “Year of the Woman.” The tradition originates from the first International Women’s Day in 1911, and in 1978 a school district in Sonoma, California celebrated the day with a week’s dedication to women’s history. The success of the event inspired other communities and organizations to push for the recognition of a National Women’s History Week, which President Jimmy Carter formally recognized in 1980. The week became a month in 1987 after a petition from the National Women’s History Project. 

Women’s History Month correlates with International Women’s Day on March 8, and this year’s theme is #BalanceforBetter. The theme encourages people to seek and eliminate gender bias and inequality while celebrating women’s achievements. This past year the United States has seen remarkable accomplishments for women. However, inequalities and setbacks remain. While we do not know where 2019 has in store for us, here are some wins for women and issues that face us as we end the decade.  


Unprecedented Number of Women in Congress 

The 116th Congress was sworn in on Jan. 3, 2019, with a record number of 117 women elected into Congress, bringing up the total number of women representatives to 127. Most of the gains took place in the House of Representatives, with 102 women representatives, but the Senate gained 15. Among them are several firsts: Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and Abby Finkenauer are the youngest women to be elected at 29 years old, Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland are the first Native American women elected, and Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar are the first Muslim women elected. There are many other firsts among the new women in Congress, and their election shows that voters, especially women voters, want to see a change in the way this country is governed—a change they put in the hands of women.  

President Trump Rolls Back Abortion Rights 

While Congress is seeing a more progressive change, the executive branch of the United States government is trying to take a step back when it comes to women’s reproductive rights. President Trump announced on Feb. 22 that clinics that provide abortion referrals will no longer receive government funding in what is called a “gag rule.” The new rule will not strip all funding towards family planning clinics, like Planned Parenthood, but it will require them to perform abortions in a separate facility and not refer patients to it. This will make it harder for women to receive abortions or learn about all their family planning options.  

Women Get New Roles in the Media  

Congress is not the only place seeing more women representation. With the #MeToo and Time’s Up movement addressing sexual harassment and assault and being used by big name stars, including Reese Witherspoon and Oprah Winfrey, representation of women in film and television has proven itself necessary. The number of women in leading roles has hit a record high, and with Brie Larson’s “Captain Marvel” movie opening on March 8, which is International Women’s Day, the trend is likely to continue.  

Violence Against Women 

Women may be getting more representation, but statistics for violence against women remain high. 90 percent of sexual assault and rape victims are female and 1 in 5 women will be raped in her lifetime according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC). The risk only increases for people of color and transgender women, with Native Americans having the highest risk. With the recent appointment of Supreme Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh, who was accused of sexual assault, and President Trump’s remarks about grabbing women, many people do not know if the country is moving in the right direction for women to be heard.  

Women’s Marches Are Everywhere, including Wilmington 

After the Women’s March on Washington on Jan. 21, 2017, to protest President Trump’s inauguration, women have started their own marches all over the country. Women, including celebrities and Congress members, gathered on the anniversary of that date the past two years to protest the Trump administration and raise awareness of women’s issues. Wilmington joined in with a march on Jan. 26, 2019, showing how empowered women working together can cause a ripple effect that goes on for miles. Despite the setbacks and issues that we’re still facing as a society, women are showing they will not be silenced or stopped in their pursuit of equality and representation.