The history of women often gets overshadowed. This month is a great opportunity to focus on the women currently in our lives, and the ones who have come before us. There is a great opportunity to empower women this month by creating the space in your hallway, hall, or area for the celebration of women. Through bulletin boards, flyers, brochures, events, small group discussions, one on one interactions, an entire community can come to understand the contributions of women and the issues women face. Hopefully the women in your community will feel connected to the accomplishments of women in history, confident in the present, and excited about their future. With effective planning of active and passive educating in the halls, you have an incredible opportunity to change the hearts, souls and minds of the men and women you serve. May Women’s History Month be the month where you are able to impact a resident or a peer so that they value and respect women more than they did when they entered your community.
Hopefully the following ideas will get you started in the planning of a dynamic Women’s History Month. These ideas are not all inclusive and all ideas can be adapted to fit your needs.
The contributions of Women & Making a quick quilt
Code cards so that a woman’s name is on one card and her accomplishment is on another. Put a number on them so that they can find each other. Have participants come together to get to know one another better. Participants will read the contents of a folder with pictures of a woman and her story. They will then draw the woman’s name on a paper with a symbol of her accomplishment. Participants then form a large group and introduce each other to the group. At the same time they introduce the women and post their paper on the wall. All the symbols are placed on the wall in the shape of a quilt to demonstrate the contributions of women. You can talk about the importance of these women and tie it into the symbolism/purpose of the quilt. Kristine Niendorf’s article in the March 1994 edition of the Talking Stick could be a great resource for women’s names and contributions. There are also many web sites, journals, and books, which could assist you in the development of the list of women.
Who am I?
Put the names of historical and famous women on participants’ backs. Have them go through and ask yes and no questions to find out who they are. It is helpful if you give participants lots of cues so they remember who the person is. It may be helpful to put photos and information about the person on the paper that is tagged on their back. It may also be helpful for the participants to have a list of names of women and their contributions so that the participants can narrow down who the woman listed on their back is. Through this program participants learn about the contributions of women as they are discovering which one is tagged on their back.
Have the participants bring a momento of a woman in their life that has impacted them or helped them to be who they are today. Have people share their momento and tell the story of the woman.
Have each person share the story of a famous woman they admire. The woman can be living or dead. If participants are stuck, you may want to have folders of women who have made contributions to different fields available. Give the group 5 minutes to explore resources and have them share the story of their woman.
Use empowering songs by and for women and have fun! Just in case you haven’t played in a while, set up the chairs back to back or in a circle (be creative and choose any shape!). There should be one less chair than participant. The participants move around the chairs as the music is played and must sit when the music stops. The person with out the chair gets to stop out and a chair is taken out. The people who move out are given a spirit handshake and are welcomed into the cheering squad area. (Be creative and create a space for them so no one really looses). The cheering squad grows as those competing for chairs decreases.
Winds are Blowing
Each participant is given a picture (out of a magazine) and description of a famous woman. They are to be that person for the duration of the game. The participants read about their famous woman, and then form a large circle. One person starts in the center of the circle and states “I am x (Julia Roberts, Tracy Chapman, Mother Theresa, Princess Di, Fergie, etc.) and winds are blowing for any one who (is famous, has green eyes, can dance well, is royalty, helps the poor, etc. (a single description of their person). Everyone who has similar characteristics or whose woman has those characteristics must move across the room to change chairs. Hopefully, participants learn a little more about women and their contributions while having a fun time.
Bulletin Boards/Passive programming Ideas
The following list contains ideas for bulletin boards or flyers. Some individuals learn through visual stimuli. Others do not have the time to attend an educational or social event, but they may stop to notice a creative bulletin board, flyer, or brochure. This list is just a start. Feel free to adapt and combine to reach the needs of your population.
Contributions of women who can write
You can use a poem by Maya Angelou or any great women poet for this. Put the poem in the center of the board in large letters and invite the residents to put the names of strong women all around it on the board. Have a pocket with the poem for people to take. There are many empowering poems you could use. Find one that you love and put it up for all to enjoy.
Contributions of women who can sing
Songs, or favorite phrases from songs, which are empowering or representative of the women’s voice or journey, could be placed on bright colored paper. Invite your floor to add the voices of some of their favorite women performers.
Contributions of women in comedy
If you are in need of comedy, women through out time have captured the issues facing women in very clever ways. Use the Internet to explore quotes from Lucille Ball, Rosie O’Donnell, Lily Tomlin, Woopie Goldberg, Joy (from the view), Debra Messing, Cheryl Underwood, Roseanne Barr, Joan Rivers, Erma Bombeck, Phyllis Dyller, etc. (this is not a representative sample, but it is a start!). Capture what they have to say about women, men, work, domestic stuff, sex, friendship, and about life. You could list the different headings and put different quotes under each heading.
Famous women and their accomplishments-with colorful string
List the names of ten famous women on one side of the board and use colorful string to move from her name to her contribution. If you like straight lines, make it orderly. If you don’t, have your string travel to unique locations on the board to the description.
Famous women quiz
Another way to raise awareness of the contributions of women is have many doors on a bulletin board that have questions on them. They would ask questions like “Did you know who (list their contribution)?” The door would open up to the name of the person and a picture of her. That way it could be interactive. The entire board could be called “How much do you know about women?
Cover a bulletin board in your favorite color. Invite your floor to join you in making a collage celebrating women. You may want to give them themes to focus on if they need boundaries or ideas. For example, we are coming together to build a collage that represents the women who have made a difference in your lives. Bring something that reminds you of that person and add it to the board. Everyone would share as they added their item to the board. You could suggest that everyone cut pictures that celebrate and empower women from their favorite magazine or ones you provide. (Talk to your Hall Director, Director of Res. Life, Dean, VP, and ask them to bring you magazines). Make sure you have magazines that represent diversity. Have the people bring their pictures at a set time and allow everyone to glue away. Photos, drawings, and words can be used too.
Ceremony of Thanks
Invite participants to share their favorite card, letter, photo, e-mail, poem from a friend, lover, mother, sister, teacher, etc. Come together and celebrate the women in their lives. Share a warm nurturing beverage and food afterward.
Coffee House celebrating artistic women
Cover tables with paper and set out markers. On each you can write a powerful quote by or about women and allow people to respond. Have female poets, singers, and comedians, share their talents through out the evening. In between have the music of empowering women playing in the background. Around the room have women artists show case their work (i.e. photographers, graphic artists, video artist, painters, etc.)
It sounds a little funny, but it could be great for the soul. Get together and share tea. Have all different kinds. Facilitate relaxed discussions. You could have a question of the day like “how have women impacted you?” “What do you do to take care of you?” “How can women have it all, or can they?” “Making it as a women in the new century-how to be financially savvy”. These could be great ones to bring visible faculty and staff to attend.
Lip-sync the music of women.
Loving Right – on healthy relationships
Bring in counseling center professionals to co-present so you can enjoy it too.
Sex and sexual health
In the boundaries of your particular campus, have your health center and counseling center join you for a fun interactive presentation. Slide in facts you want them to know and visual aids with questions they want to know. On some campuses, if you get all the women together alone, explaining breast examination techniques, the gynecological exam, healthy sexual intimacy, and other health issues helps to decrease the ignorance and fear so women are more confident with their own bodies and with taking care of them.
The fishbowl exercise is another one that students find engaging. The facilitator has all the students write down questions that they have always wanted to ask. You can gear it to whatever theme you desire. For sex/gender awareness, students can put down questions they have always wanted to know about the opposite gender. The facilitator can split them into the two groups with one group in a circle and the other group in a circle around them. The first group discusses the question with the other group observing and then they switch.
Bring in an outside speaker to talk about how to help a friend if they come to you as a victim of acquaintance rape.
Body Image-how to love your body now
Have everyone draw his or her body on a large role of paper. Have everyone decorate it with symbols of love, peace, balance, etc. Once everyone decorates their body with positive loving symbols, have them discuss how they feel about their body, what contributed to them loving/not loving their body, and what could they do to love themselves and their body more? What could they do to be more supportive of one another and each other’s bodies? It will be helpful to have a counselor present. If a counselor is not present, provide participants with contact information for your campus counseling center and/or health services, so participants can pursue follow-up after the program if it is needed. The images can be pasted up in the hall or lounge if people are interested.
Pre-break exercise, stress management healthy eating dialogues
Have coffee chats and talk about people’s plans for the breaks. Present five minutes worth of how to loose weight or monitor stress through healthy diet and exercise. Share a list of resources or favorite walking paths in the area. Then have each person fill out a personal goal sheet. Allow people to share if they are so inclined. You could invite people to walk with you at certain times. A bulletin board could tie it all together with everyone putting their spring break healthy lifestyle change goals on the board.
Other ideas. Get faculty and staff to help with these
- Women in politics, government, voting, etc.
- Women in media, entertainment, etc.
- Women in sports
- Women in science
- Women Leaders in business, higher education, education, etc.
- Developmental Theory of Women
- The F-word…Reclaiming Feminism
- Have a book club
- Auto mechanics
- Domestic Gods and Goddesses 101
- Visit “The Vagina Monologues” or other provocative theater about gender issues, or women’s journeys, and have follow up dinner and discussion
- Understanding women – Have a panel of all sorts of women students who share their journey, adapt it to a panel of women staff and faculty who share their journey
- Women’s Leadership Conference
- Women’s Dinner of Achievement – Celebrate the achievements of women in your community
Wow! What a start. Hopefully it will motivate you to create an eye-catching bulletin board and an entertaining program. Spread the message that WOMEN are PHENOMENAL. Their contributions should be celebrated this month, and every month. Enjoy.
Submitted by Cathy Raynis, formerly Director of Residential Life at Iona College
Category: Partying with ProgrammingTagged with: women's history month
A few years ago, American Libraries highlighted nearly two dozen programming ideas for Women’s History Month. This all-new roundup of special events, activities, movie nights, and meetings offers more ideas for honoring groundbreaking women and engaging your patrons.
Be inspired by the mothers of science. For Ada Lovelace Day in 2016, the libraries at Massachusetts Institute of Technology presented some holdings from the rare books collection by the founding mothers of the STEM fields. For youth who may not be interested in old books, have them conduct experiments at a “Mad Science” party. Highlight titles about Marie Curie and Rachel Carson that kids can check out as free party favors.
Netflix and chat. In 2014, the Los Angeles Public Library hosted a movie night and screened Feminist: Stories from Women’s Liberation, with director Jennifer Lee. Show a similar film (Miss Representation,Girl Rising) and pass the popcorn during a discussion afterward.
Meet in the clubhouse. The Mt. Pleasant branch of the D.C. Public Library invited area teens to come to a specially themed meeting of its book club in 2014. Students were asked to bring a book about women’s history and share their thoughts in a friendly chat. Consider opening a book group to all ages, or hosting a reading circle for moms who discuss parenting memoirs.
Host an open mic. Let the success of live-lit events like The Moth encourage the women and girls who visit your stacks to tell their stories. Hook up a sound system and invite community members to perform their poetry, fiction, and essays.
Paint a rainbow with books. Make a display in your space featuring books authored by women of color, or that feature minority characters. Join forces with Olaronke Akinmowo, who founded the Free Black Women’s Library, and Marley Dias, who set out to collect 1,000 books with black female protagonists. Both Dias and Akinmowo donate the books they collect to introduce African Americans voices to readers around the country.
Explore identity. Build a display of the popular Who Was? books, highlighting famous women such as Amelia Earhart, Rosa Parks, and Eleanor Roosevelt. Lead an activity session in which youth are asked to write miniature versions of their own Who Is? book. Guide them in describing themselves, listing proud achievements, and identifying goals they have. Premake paper booklets and encourage kids to attach a picture of themselves on the cover.
Tap into your local writers’ guild. Post a call for budding journalists to write reviews of their favorite books by and about influential women, and feature them on your library’s website. The sky’s the limit with this one: The elementary crowd could tell you why they love the Fancy Nancy series, teens could report on Malala Yousafzai’s effect on their lives, and their female mentors can chime in about what they thought of Tina Fey’s Bossypants.
Decorate your space. Cover your walls in images of Georgia O’Keefe’s evocative flowers or Faith Ringgold’s narrative quilts during March. Offer women and girls in the community a chance to display their original pieces throughout the month, and have patrons judge their favorite for a literary or artistic prize.
Say Yes to displays—and women in film and TV. Create a book display featuring the written work of some of Hollywood’s hottest creators. Put on a reading hour, sharing excerpts from Shonda Rhimes’s Year of Yes (Simon and Schuster, 2015) or Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) (Three Rivers Press, 2012).
Broadcast the history women are making today. It’s never too early—or late—to develop interviewing skills. Assemble your future Christiane Amanpours and have them talk to patrons about influential women in your community. San Diego State University did this in 2016 and posted the videos on their website. Doing so informed students about Women’s History Month and helped them reflect on women who are meaningful to them.
Mark 30 years on the calendar. This year marks the 30th anniversary of women’s history being celebrated nationwide for the month of March. To honor these most recent years in women’s history, construct an oversized wall calendar. Starting on March 1, add words and photographs to chronicle notable strides made for and by women in 1987. On March 2, walk your way through 1988, and so on, counting your way through the years. Ask community members to add their own experiences to the calendar (the birth of a daughter, the year a sister got a master’s degree). On March 31, ask people to write or draw what they’d like to see in coming years regarding women’s rights and achievements.
Make history with your imagination. Maybe your library doesn’t own Makey Makey kits or have an official space for crafting, but it is full of creative brainpower. Invite community kids to make crafts that celebrate famous women. Preprint images of famous women to be turned into paper bag puppets. Out-of-circulation magazines are great for creating collages, illustrating what it means to be a girl or woman. Finish things up with a puppet show or have participants explain the items in their collages.
Build a riveting photo booth. All you need is a digital camera and a simple backdrop or blank wall for this one, plus a few items from the dollar store or the back of your closet. Fill a chest with red Rosie the Riveter bandanas, Amelia Earhart aviator goggles, and the big glasses and lace collars of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and let the dressing up begin! Get the word out that people can bring their own items—sports equipment, musical instruments—to the photo booth, too. Ask your willing models to share the photos they snap on your library’s social media accounts, using a special Women’s History Month hashtag.
March through the stacks. Lead a march around the library. Plant READ posters along the way, and stop to discuss the women featured in them. Show your crowd where to find biographies of Helen Keller, Anne Frank, Rita Moreno, and Lady Gaga. Polish things off by sharing some fun facts about female authors in your collection—are J. K. Rowling’s books the most commonly checked out? How many library card holders are female? Digging up trivia should be fun, as you’re likely to learn something new yourself.
Engage an inspiring local speaker. The Malibu (Calif.) Library got ahead of the game by having famous civil rights attorney Gloria Allred speak on February 15. Follow its lead by asking accomplished women in your area to share highlights from their careers and lives—professors, city council members, writers, and medical professionals.
Honor sisterhood, then and now. In 2014, Kansas City (Mo.) Public Library explored the history of the Athenaeum, the city’s oldest women’s club, founded in 1894. The library found and organized old meeting minutes and photographs to share with the community. Invite local women’s groups, from unofficial book clubs to chapters of the Red Hat Society, to mingle. Ask sororities at the nearest college to talk about what sisterhood means to them.
Present a snapshot of women’s history. Harvard University’s Schlesinger Library, which documents US women’s history, opened an exhibit in November 2016 featuring photographs from the women’s liberation movement; the exhibit will conclude during Women’s History Month. Display photos from your own collection, and leave space for patrons to post photos of women who they call heroes.
Give a nod to fictional females. No doubt Sally Ride and Serena Williams have inspired countless women and girls, but we’d be in denial if we said Jo March hasn’t had an impact as well. Fill a bulletin board with images of Ramona, Matilda, Judy Moody, and Katniss, and have others print off pictures or create their own renderings of literary heroines to add to the fun.
BAILEY BREWER is a freelancer writer based in California.