How To Spend Women's History Month Productively, And Persist In Every Month That Follows

March is Women’s History Month, 31 days put aside every year to celebrate women’s historic achievements and recognize how their lives have shaped history and the present. There are a lot of ways that you can spend Women’s History Month productively, and extend the spirit of the month to last throughout the year. I’d argue that to be “productive” in this case means educating yourself, supporting other women, standing up for equality for all women, and celebrating the amazing lives they have lived. It means enriching you own life by learning about women’s history and honoring the women you love — while at the same time looking outside of yourself to support and fight for other women.

It may only be March, but 2017 is already shaping up to be a remarkable year for women. In January, millions of women and their allies gathered in marches all over the world to speak out for gender equality and advocate for marginalized communities. This month, people worldwide will celebrate International Women’s Day, and women across the United State will strike to show the impact that women have on the economy. It’s an important time to recognize the value of women’s history — and also for women to make history themselves.

Read on for 14 ways to participate productively in Women’s History Month and  to continue to celebrate and advocate for women — including yourself! — in the year ahead.

Check out the “Feminism” stream in the Bustle App throughout the month of March for more inspiring ways to celebrate Women's History Month.

1. Participate in International Women’s Day.

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International Women’s Day has been held on March 8 every year for more than a century, in order to celebrate women’s achievements and advocate for women’s equality around the world. This year’s theme for the holiday is #BeBoldForChange, a call “to help forge a better working world — a more inclusive, gender equal world.” Be bold and fight for equality and inclusivity by attending International Women’s Day events in your area; taking part in “A Day Without A Woman” (more on that in a sec); or volunteering for organizations that fight for women’s equality, safety, and freedom.

2. Participate in “A Day Without A Woman” on March 8.

Organizers for January’s Women’s March on Washington have launched a women’s strike — dubbed “A Day Without A Woman” — to coincide with International Women’s Day. The strike is intended to demonstrate the economic importance and power of women in the United States.

Taking part in the strike can take a number of forms: If you’re able, take the day off from work (whether that’s a paid job or unpaid labor at home). Refuse to spend money, except at businesses owned by women or minorities. Wear red in solidarity with other “Day Without A Woman” participants. If you’re able to take off work, consider joining a protest, volunteering, or attending International Women’s Day events. If you’re not able to take the day off work (which many women won’t be), you can still participate meaningfully by speaking with your wallet and not shopping, by wearing red, and by contacting your representatives to advocate for policies that further women’s equality.

3. Read some awesome nonfiction about women’s history.

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Spend this month and the months ahead reading excellent nonfiction about women’s lives and history. A few places to start include Hidden Figures, Margot Lee Shetterly’s account of black women’s essential contributions to America’s Space Race; Every Day Is A Good Day, an essay collection by Wilma Mankiller, late Cherokee Nation Chief, that includes reflections on life, spirituality, and sovereignty from 19 Native American women; and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot’s account of how a poor, black, female tobacco farmer’s cells became the basis for major scientific breakthroughs — without her or her family’s knowledge.

Find other suggestions for your nonfiction reading list here.

4. Practice intersectionality.

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Gender doesn’t exist in a bubble — women are also people of color, LGBT people, people with disabilities, immigrants, and people from across the class spectrum. Women’s history isn’t separate from the histories of these different axes of identity, nor is there a single, monolithic "women's history" that describes the lived, diverse experiences of all women.

In short: Make your Women’s History Month — and your whole year — intersectional and inclusive. Learn about the history of women of color, of immigrant women, of LGBT women. Be informed about the issues and policies affecting marginalized communities and advocate for equality and representation for all.

5. Call your representatives.

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Continue to call your legislators to promote policies that further equality for everyone — and protest those that cause harm. Speak out on women’s access to healthcare and reproductive rights, the need for family leave, crackdowns on immigration, and policies that put trans women and men at risk. Keep in touch with your representatives at both the federal and state level.

6. Read some kickass memoirs by women.

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Memoirs to consider adding to your reading list include Furiously Happy, Jenny Lawson’s comedic take on depression and anxiety; Reading Lolita In Tehran, Azar Nafisi’s account of the two years she spent leading a secret book club of women in Iran, reading banned works of Western literature; Thinking in Pictures: My Life with Autism, animal scientist Temple Grandin’s book of essays about living and working with autism; and Fun Home, Allison Bechdel’s graphic memoir about growing up, family dysfunction, and sexuality (among many other things). Bustle’s got more suggestions for you here.

7. Be a women’s history traveler.

On your next vacation, why not include a bit of women’s history in your itinerary? Visit the Women’s Rights National Historical Park in Seneca Falls, New York, the site of America’s first women’s rights convention. Or the Georgia O’Keefe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Or the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington D.C. Or the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center, set to open in Maryland in March 2017. The list goes on and on.

8. Put your money where your mouth is.

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If you’re able to, think about donating to charities and organizations that fight to improve women’s lives, both in the United States and around the world. There are countless routes you can take to help women of all kinds with your spare cash: You can support women’s health initiatives, back reproductive rights organizations, give money to help refugees, support girls’ education programs, donate to programs that help LGBT youth, and the list goes on and on. For starters, consider to donating to the Global Fund for Women, Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, the Girl Scouts of the USA, the Trevor Project, RAINN, the National Organization for Women, or the Women’s Refugee Commission.

(Check out Bustle’s advice for choosing reputable charities and organizations to which to donate here.)  

9. Delve into powerful women’s fiction.

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Amazing fiction by women is abundant and endlessly diverse, covering a huge swath of genres and perspectives. If you’re looking for a place to start, give a look to novels by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Jeanette Winterson, Barbara Kingsolver, Zadie Smith, Sandra Cisneros, Amy Tan, and Octavia Butler. Or go old-school and check out classics by Charlotte Brontë, Jane Austen, George Eliot, or Kate Chopin.

10. Volunteer for organizations that help girls and women.

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During Women’s History Month and throughout the year, apply to volunteer for organizations that help women and girls. You might look into mentoring or tutoring programs for girls, helping out at a women’s shelter or health clinic, or volunteering at a food bank. Or you might take a more political route and donate your time to a group that promotes women’s rights through public policy. VolunteerMatch, a database that lets you search for volunteer opportunities according to location, date, and areas of interest, is an easy way to get started.

11. Brush up on your women’s history with documentaries and podcasts.

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Make your downtime educational by delving into documentaries and podcasts about fascinating women throughout history. On Netflix, watch She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry, about the birth of the women’s liberation movement in the 1960s; What Happened, Miss Simone?, about legendary musician and civil rights activist Nina Simone; or Iris, about fashion icon Iris Apfel. If the Renaissance is more your style, check out PBS’s Secrets of the Six Wives, a series about the six wives of Henry VIII with a feminist twist.

If you like listening to podcasts during your commute or while you work out, give a listen to Stuff You Missed In History Class or The History Chicks (and check out Bustle's recs for lots more fun, feminist podcasts).

12. Shop at women-owned and women-run businesses.

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The theme for 2017's Women's History Month is “Honoring Trailblazing Women in Labor and Business.” Show your support by shopping at businesses that are owned or run by women.

13. Seek out women’s history month events in your area — or make your own!

There will be events held in honor of Women’s History Month throughout March, in cities all over the country. Look around for events or performances in your area. Good places to check would be local museums, universities, and women’s organizations.

If you don’t find any events nearby, why not hold your own Women’s History Month celebration? Invite friends to join in a book club of women’s literature. Or have a Women’s History-themed party! Create women’s history-themed cocktails, and make your friends dress up as their favorite badass women. And please invite me.

14. Honor the women in your life.

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One of the best ways to celebrate women’s history — in March and in every month — is simply to honor the women in your life — mothers, grandmothers, sisters, aunts, friends, girlfriends, teachers, and mentors who have inspired and empowered you. Set aside time to spend with them. Send them cards letting them know that you love and appreciate them. Do your best to show other women the love and support that the women in your life have shown to you.

Check out the “Feminism” stream in the Bustle App throughout the month of March for more inspiring ways to celebrate Women's History Month.