days and months

Days & Months of Observance

The Women’s Center’s ongoing educational programming efforts include numerous national and international commemorative, celebratory, and awareness-raising days, weeks and months of observance relating to issues that affect women on a daily basis. Look for special events and programs throughout the school year designed to raise awareness, promote equity, highlight women’s health, support diversity, and combat gender-based violence.

These special observance dates include:

Women’s Equality Day (August 26)
At the behest of Rep. Bella Abzug (D-NY), in 1971 the U.S. Congress designated August 26 as “Women’s Equality Day.” The date was selected to commemorate the 1920 passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, granting women the right to vote. This was the culmination of a prolonged, peaceful civil rights movement by women that had its formal beginnings in 1848 at the world’s first women’s rights convention, in Seneca Falls, New York. The observance of Women’s Equality Day not only commemorates the passage of the 19th Amendment, but also calls attention to women’s continuing efforts toward full equality. Workplaces, libraries, organizations, and public facilities now participate with Women’s Equality Day programs, displays, film showings, and other activities.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month (October)
An annual international health campaign organized by major breast cancer charities to increase awareness of the disease and to raise funds for research into its cause, prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure. The campaign also offers information and support to those affected by breast cancer, and is an opportunity to remind women to be breast aware for earlier detection. The campaign was founded in 1985 as a partnership between the American Cancer Society and the pharmaceutical division of Imperial Chemical Industries, makers of anti-breast cancer drugs.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month (October)
A national movement that works to bring domestic violence and its prevention to the forefront of public debate. Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM) evolved from the first Day of Unity observed in October 1981 by the National Coalition against Domestic Violence. The intent was to connect battered women's advocates across the nation working to end men’s violence against women and children. The Day of Unity soon became a special week when a range of activities was conducted at the local, state and national levels. These activities had a common theme: mourning those who have died because of men’s domestic violence, celebrating those who have survived, and connecting those who work to end men’s violence. In October 1987, the first Domestic Violence Awareness Month was held. In conjunction, that same year the first national toll-free hotline was begun. In 1989, the first Domestic Violence Awareness Month commemorative legislation was passed by the U.S. Congress -- such legislation has passed every year since. Now, every October, DVAM activities are planned across the country.

Love Your Body Day (October)
Launched in 1998 by the National Organization for Women (NOW) Foundation, the Love Your Body campaign counters the unrealistic beauty standards, gender stereotypes, and sometimes harmful images imposed by media and advertisers with a simple but powerful message to women and girls -- love your body! Love Your Body Day encourages people to speak out against demeaning images of women, and celebrate women in diverse sizes, shapes and hues. The campaign aims to educate and encourage us to reject negative and damaging stereotypes, and embrace awareness, health, and positive body image.

World AIDS Day (December)
This observance is dedicated to raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection. It is common to hold memorials to honor persons who have died from HIV/AIDS on this day. Government and health officials also observe the event, often with speeches or forums on the AIDS topics. Since 1995, the President of the United States has made an official proclamation on World AIDS Day. Governments of other nations have followed suit and issued similar announcements. World AIDS Day was first conceived in August 1987 by James W. Bunn and Thomas Netter, two public information officers for the Global Programme on AIDS at the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland. The red ribbon is the global symbol for solidarity with HIV-positive people and those living with AIDS.

National Mentoring Month (January)
Created in 2001 by the Harvard School of Public Health and MENTOR, National Mentoring Month (NMM) focuses national attention on the need for mentors, as well as how each of us—individuals, businesses, government agencies, schools, faith communities and nonprofits—can work together to increase the number of mentors, and assure brighter futures for our young people.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (January)
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a United States federal holiday marking the birthday of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It is observed on the third Monday of January each year, which is around the time of King's birthday, January 15. King was the chief spokesman for nonviolent activism in the civil rights movement, which successfully protested racial discrimination in federal and state law. The campaign for a federal holiday in King's honor began soon after his assassination in 1968. Ronald Reagan signed the holiday into law in 1983, and it was first observed on January 20, 1986.

National Wear Red Day (first Friday in February)
In 2002, the American Heart Association (AHA) created Go Red For Women – a social initiative designed to empower women to take charge of their heart health. Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of American women today. To dispel the myth that heart disease is an “older man’s disease” and to raise awareness of the importance of preventative health care in reducing personal risk, Go Red For Women promotes education around the issue of women and heart disease, and action to help save more lives. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) introduced the red dress as a national symbol for women and heart disease awareness, and people are encouraged to wear red on the first Friday in February in support of the fight against heart disease in women.

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (February)
NEDAwareness Week is a collective effort by eating disorder professionals, health care providers, students, educators, social workers, and committed individuals to raising awareness of the dangers surrounding eating disorders. The goal of NEDAwareness Week is to work towards prevention of eating disorders and body image issues while reducing the stigma surrounding eating disorders and improving access to treatment.

Women’s History Month (March)
In 1978, in California, the Education Task Force of the Sonoma County Commission on the Status of Women began a "Women's History Week" celebration. The week was chosen to coincide with International Women's Day, March 8. Schools soon began to host their own Women's History Week programs, and three years later, the United States Congress passed a resolution establishing National Women's History Week. In 1987, at the request of the National Women's History Project, Congress expanded the week to a month, and the U.S. Congress has issued a resolution every year since then, with wide support, for Women's History Month. The U.S. President has issued each year a proclamation of Women's History Month. The purpose of Women's History Month is to increase consciousness and knowledge of women's history: to take one month of the year to remember the contributions of notable and ordinary women, in hopes that the day will soon come when it's impossible to teach or learn history without remembering these contributions.

International Women’s Day (March 8)
A global day aimed at celebrating the economic, political, and social achievements of women past, present and future. International Women’s Day is celebrated worldwide on March 8. The idea of designating an annual date as International Women’s Day was originally proposed at the second International Conference of Working Women held in Copenhagen in 1910. The first observances of International Women’s Day took place in 1911, and were celebrated in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland. The University of Idaho has observed International Women’s Day every year since 2006.

National STD Awareness Month (March)
A national health observance sponsored by the American Social Health Association (ASHA) to help break the silence and alert the public to the growing crisis of STDs in America. National STD Awareness Month is intended to raise awareness about the impact of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and the importance of discussing sexual health with healthcare providers and partners.

Sexual Assault Awareness Month (April)
Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) is observed in the United States to raise public awareness about sexual violence and to educate communities and individuals on how to prevent sexual violence. During the month of April, sexual violence is highlighted as a major public health, human rights and social justice issue, reinforcing the need for prevention efforts. The idea for SAAM emerged in the late 1980s when the National Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NCASA) informally polled state sexual assault coalitions to determine when to have a national Sexual Assault Awareness Week. Advocates soon began focusing attention on sexual violence throughout the entire month of April, promoting an idea for a nationally recognized month for sexual violence awareness activities. Sexual Assault Awareness Month was first observed nationally in April 2001.

Equal Pay Day (April)
Equal Pay Day symbolizes how far into the current calendar year women must work to earn the same amount that men earned during the 12 months of the year before. Equal Pay Day was originated by the National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE) in 1996 as a public awareness event to illustrate the gap between men's and women's wages. Since Census statistics showing the latest wage figures are not be available until late August or September, NCPE leadership decided to select a Tuesday in April as Equal Pay Day. Tuesday was selected to represent how far into the work week women must work to earn what men earned the previous week.