(CNN Student News) -- March is Women's History Month, a federally recognized, nationwide celebration that encourages all Americans to reflect on the ways in which women have shaped U.S. history. But how did this celebration come to be, and why is it held in March?
"I long to hear that you have declared an independency, and by the way, in the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies..."
Abigail Adams, March 31, 1776
Almost two hundred years after Abigail Adams made this request to her husband, John, the passage of Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments meant no person could be denied the benefits of a federally funded educational program or activity on the basis of gender.
In 1977, to help school principals comply with Title IX regulations, an education task force in Sonoma County, California recommended a "Women's History Week" celebration for 1978. The task force believed that school and community events highlighting and celebrating the contributions of American women would help provide a foundation and rationale for Title IX changes.
The commission chose the week of March 8 to coincide with International Women's Day, which had been established in the early 1900s to honor the movement for women's rights.
Within a few years, dozens of California schools were participating in Women's History Week. In 1979, representatives from the Sonoma County Women's History Week group shared their experiences with national leaders of women's organizations at a Women's History Institute at Sarah Lawrence College, and word of the Women's History Week celebrations spread.
In March 1980, President Jimmy Carter issued a message encouraging Americans to recognize and celebrate women's historic accomplishments during the week of March 8th, Women's History Week. Later that year, Utah Senator Orrin Hatch and Maryland Representative Barbara Mikulski co-sponsored the first Joint Congressional Resolution declaring a "National Women's History Week" for the week of March 8, 1981. In 1987, Congress expanded the week to a month.
Since 1992, every U.S. president has issued a proclamation declaring March to be Women's History Month.
Facts and Figures on U.S. Women
Population: As of Oct. 1, 2008, there were 155 million females in the United States. That number exceeds the number of males by approximately four million.
Earnings: The median annual earnings of women 16 or older who worked year-round, full time in 2007 was $34,278. Women earned 77.5 cents for every $1 earned by men.
Education: Thirty-three percent of women 25 to 29 attained a bachelor's degree or higher in 2007, which exceeded that of men in this age range (26 percent).
Businesses: There were nearly 6.5 million women-owned businesses in 2002. Women owned 28 percent of all non-farm businesses.
Voting: Sixty-five percent of female citizens reported voting in the 2004 presidential election, higher than the 62 percent of their male counterparts who cast a ballot.
Jobs: Thirty-eight percent of women 16 or older work in management, professional and related occupations, compared with 32 percent of men.
Military: There were 198,400 active duty women in the military, comprising 14 percent of the armed forces, as of September 30, 2007. In 1950, women comprised less than 2 percent.
Sports and Recreation: Three million girls participated in high school athletic programs in the 2006-07 school year. In the 1979-80 school year, only 1.75 million girls were members of a high school athletic team.
Source: Facts and Figures on Women (U.S. Census)