Women's History Month

Welcome to our digital exhibit celebrating Women's History Month. This page is a companion to the physical display in the HKS Library, available through March 2024. Harvard affiliates can request books via HOLLIS, for pick-up at the library of your choice.

The 2024 theme for Women's History Month is Women Who Advocate for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, designated by the National Women's History Alliance. This theme recognizes women "who understand that, for a positive future, we need to eliminate bias and discrimination entirely from our lives and institutions. Throughout 2024, we honor local women from the past and present who have taken the lead to show the importance of change and to establish firmer safeguards, practices and legislation reflecting these values. Following decades of discrimination, we are proud to celebrate women who work for basic inclusion, equality and fairness."

The books in this display feature the stories - both fictionalized and biographical - of women who have advocated for equity along intersectional lines of gender, race, sexuality, and beyond.

More on Women's History Month from the HKS Office of Diversity, Inclusion, & Belonging:

"Women’s History Month is an annual celebration of the contributions and achievements that women have made to U.S. history. It first began the week of March 8, in 1978, as a local week-long celebration in Sonoma County, California, coinciding with International Women’s Day, which also recognizes the achievements of women and centers women’s social, political, economic, and cultural issues. In early 1980, the National Women’s History Project, which is now known as the National Women’s History Alliance, lobbied the federal government to give U.S. women’s history national recognition (Women’s History Month). Later that year, President Jimmy Carter proclaimed the week of March 8th as the first National Women’s History Week. In his proclamation, he urged educational institutions and community organizations to highlight unsung leaders who struggled and fought for equal rights, so that the people of the U.S. could better understand the need for full gender equality (First Presidential Message, 1980). In 1987, After continued lobbying from the National Women’s History Alliance, the U.S. Congress through proclamation later extended the weeklong observance to a month-long celebration in hopes to address how women had consistently been undervalued throughout history (Pub. L. 100-9, 100 Stat. 99).

Even though women have played integral roles in cultural, economic, and social life, they are still often overlooked and marginalized today in the U.S. and in most countries across the globe due to the long history of patriarchy. In the U.S., women have been leaders in major progressive social change movements including the women’s suffrage movement, the abolitionist movement, the emancipation movement, labor movement, the civil rights movement, and in contemporary intersectional social justice movements of today. As educators in a leading public policy school and/or future public policy leaders, we must approach the work we do from an intersectional lens and continue to ask ourselves how we can create a more fair and just society for all. We encourage the HKS community to critically analyze gender inequality and other intersecting identity-based injustices that persists in the U.S. and abroad, and to reflect on the role we can have as women and allies in addressing these injustices in our communities."

From the Political Buttons Collection

The Political Buttons at HKS Collection features nearly 3,000 buttons that represent U.S. political history from 1904 through today.

Curated selections from our Political Buttons Collection are available as digital exhibits, including Decades of Resistance: Political Movement Pins. Below is an excerpt from the 1980s women's movement section of the exhibit. The exhibit also features buttons from the 1960s women's movement, the 1970s women's movement, and the 2010s #MeToo movement.

Purple button with white text that reads "Keep abortion legal. Mobilize for women's lives. November 12, 1989. Washington D.C.""Following the 1982 defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment, the women’s movement experienced a decade of transition. The movement's politics and tactics began to shift from second-wave to third-wave feminism through the development of difference feminism and equity feminism.

White button with red text that reads "Fight sexism. Support the Cornell 11." In the middle of the button is an illustration of a red snail with the Cornell crest depicted on its shell.As a result of the new legal protections won in the previous decades, more women began to bring sex discrimination lawsuits against academic institutions and employers. One example from 1984 is the case of the Cornell 11, a group of five female professors representing 11 total at the university who in 1978 brought a class action lawsuit against their employer. The plaintiffs cited violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, claiming they were denied tenure and passed over for less-qualified male candidates. The case was settled for $250,000."

Featured Resource: Schlesinger Library at the Harvard Radcliffe Institute

Schlesinger Library in the Radcliffe Quadrangle on a sunny day.Schlesinger Library at the Harvard Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study is "considered the leading center for scholarship on the history of women in the United States, with collections that span civil rights and feminism, health and sexuality, work and family life, education and the professions, and culinary history and etiquette."

Schlesinger in open to the public. Explore their collections and research resources online. Most of the research guides listed below were created by Schlesinger librarians.

Harvard Library Research Guides

Research Databases for Women's History

Primary Sources for Women's History

Groups & Initiatives around HKS & Harvard

  • In Focus: Women's History Month - curated resources from across Harvard including institutional history, collections, podcasts, books, articles, and people.
  • Women and Public Policy Program (WAPPP) - HKS research program working to "advance women and gender equity by creating knowledge, training leaders, and informing public policy and organizational practices."
  • Gender, Race & Identity - HKS Policy Topic centered on the question of how gender, race, class and other aspects of identity affect the policymaking process.
  • Muslim Women's Caucus - HKS student organization "committed to strengthening advocacy on Muslim women's human rights and helping to develop an inclusive community for Muslim women" at HKS.
  • W3D: Women in Defense, Diplomacy, and Development - HKS student organization that "aims to elevate the visibility and impact of women at the Kennedy School interested in pursuing careers in the fields of security, diplomacy, and development."
  • Women's Caucus - HKS student organization that "advocates for gender equity and works to enhance personal, academic, and professional development of all women at HKS (including both trans and cis women), as well as nonbinary members of the HKS community."

Display Books: Women Who Advocate for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

Click on the circular "i" icons to view book descriptions. Click on the Harvard shield icons to access ebooks (Harvard Key required).