The city of Cortez is joining in on what has become a national tradition by proclaiming March as Women’s History Month.
The proclamation was signed at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting after a presentation by Terri Helm from the League of Women Voters on how the month came to be.
“Women’s history is a march toward full equality and responsibility as citizens and we believe each generation of daughters, granddaughters and nieces have fuller opportunities to develop to their fullest human potential,” the proclamation reads.
The first observation of International Women’s Day was March 1911 in New York City, Helm said. It was held to remember the 1909 strike of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, when thousands of garment workers went on strike to lobby for decent working conditions.
The day would later come to commemorate another, more sobering event: the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire of 1911. On March 25 that year, a fire broke out on the eighth floor at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, resulting in the deaths of 146 garment workers, most of them young immigrant women and girls. They died from the fire or after jumping to their deaths to escape the flames.
“They couldn’t escape because the doors were locked to prevent them from stealing or from taking an unauthorized break,” Helm said. “An unauthorized break meant you had to go to the restroom. And the restroom was eight flights down, and it was an outhouse in back of the factory.”
The daylong celebration expanded later in the 20th century. In 1980, U.S. President Jimmy Carter proclaimed the week of March 8 to be National Women’s History Week, and in 1987, after being petitioned by the National Women’s History Project, Congress passed a public law designating March to be Women’s History Month.
That designation has been reaffirmed in subsequent years by annual proclamations issued by Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump.
Cortez Mayor Karen Sheek thanked Helm for her presentation and said young women especially should take notice.
“You’ve been beneficiaries of what women who have gone before, have laid the foundation for,” Sheek said. “I know that there had been a lot of changes that had come into place before I got here and got into the marketplace, and I can tell you that there have been many, many more since I started that you now get to benefit from.
“It’s something we probably all need to be sure that we pay forward.”