National Women's History Month

March has been celebrated as National Women’s History Month since 1980 when President Carter set aside a month to honor and celebrate the historic and current contributions of women to the country and beyond.

At Penn State, we have many firsts by women to celebrate. This includes Dr. Neeli Bendapudi becoming the 19th President of Penn State in 2022 and the first woman and first person of color to hold this office in Penn State’s history. It also includes firsts in the 1990s when Grace Hampton became vice Provost and Mimi Barash Coppersmith was elected President of the Board of Trustees.

We have come a long way since 1871, when Penn State admitted its first female students, created a special “women’s curriculum” and hired its first female faculty member. Today, as Cross Hall and Ewing Hall stand tall on campus in memory of Ellen Cross and Rachel Ewing, the first two female students enrolled at Penn State, there is a significant increase in the number of women on campus. Currently women make up 46 percent of Penn State students , and 52 percent of Penn State faculty and staff across all campuses.

The theme selected by the National Women’s History Alliance for the 2024 Women’s History Month is “Women who advocate for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.” This gives us an opportunity to celebrate pioneering women from the past and present who have fearlessly advocated and acted to remove bias, and increase fairness in our institutions and communities.

Women’s History Month also gives us an opportunity to understand and address barriers to access and participation that still exist for many women, including at Penn State. It is especially important to view this from the perspective of intersectionality, a term coined in 1989 by Kimberlé Crenshaw, a legal scholar -- to describe how multiple identities like race, class, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, citizenship status, and more may impact the lived experiences and realities of individuals.

Worldwide, many countries observe March 8 as International Women’s Day, which is a global celebration first held in 1911 to acknowledge the economic, political and social achievements of women. The theme of the 2024 International Women’s Day celebration is #Inspire Inclusion, calling on everyone to create a gender equal world that is equitable and inclusive.

What we can do

  • Familiarize ourselves with the experiences and contributions of women, including women’s history at Penn State, in the United States, and in the world by using the many local and Penn State events in March and virtual resources.
  • Celebrate the diversity of the Penn State community and recognize the many contributions of our current female faculty, staff, students, and alumni.
  • In line with this year’s theme, celebrate the efforts of the many equity, diversity and inclusion focused women who contribute individually in their personal or professional capacities and by serving on the many councils, committees and groups across Penn State, and surrounding communities..