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March 3, 2009
Women's History Month is an annual declared month worldwide that highlights the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society. It is celebrated during March in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia, corresponding with International Women's Day on March 8, and during October in Canada, corresponding with the celebration of Persons Day on October 18.
In the United States, Women's History Month traces its beginnings back to the first International Women's Day in 1911. In 1978, the school district of Sonoma, California, participated in Women's History Week, an event designed around the week of March 8 (International Women's Day).
In 1981, responding to the growing popularity of the event, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Rep. Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland) co-sponsored the first Joint Congressional Resolution proclaiming a "Women's History Week." This week was well received, and soon after, schools across the country began to have their own local celebrations. The next year, leaders from the California group shared their project at the Women's History Institute at Sarah Lawrence College. Other participants not only became determined to begin their own local Women's History Week projects, but also agreed to support an effort to have Congress declare a national Women's History Month.
In 1987 Congress expanded the focus to a whole month. Soon, other state departments of education began to encourage celebrations of National Women's History Month as a way to promote equality among the sexes in the classroom.
Maryland, Pennsylvania, Alaska, New York, Oregon and other states developed and distributed curriculum materials in all of their public schools, which prompted educational events such as essay contests. Within a few years, thousands of schools and communities got on the bandwagon of National Women's History Week. They planned engaging and stimulating programs about women's roles in history and society, with support and encouragement from governors, city councils, school boards, and the U.S. Congress.
In 2011, the Barack Obama administration released a report highlighting 50 years of progress.
The Women in Military Service for America Memorial is located at the Ceremonial Entrance to Arlington National Cemetery and honors all women who have served in the United States Armed Forces. New York architects Marion Weiss and Michael Manfredi, husband and wife, designed the memorial. Planning for the memorial began as early as 1985, with the groundbreaking occurring 10 years later on June 22, 1995. The Memorial was dedicated on October 18, 1997, and officially opened to the public on October 20, 1997.
The Women's Memorial is located in the ceremonial entrance known as the Arlington Hemicycle. A number of public improvements and memorials were planned for construction in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area for the bicentennial of the birth of George Washington, the first President of the United States and American Revolutionary War hero. Among these were Arlington Memorial Bridge and the Mount Vernon Memorial Parkway (now known as the George Washington Memorial Parkway). To link the Virginia landing of the bridge with Arlington National Cemetery, a wide avenue known as Memorial Drive was constructed and a new entrance to the cemetery constructed to replace the old entrance, the McClellan Gate. Due to expansion of the cemetery toward the Potomac River, the McClellan Gate was now deep inside Arlington, and no longer functional as a ceremonial gateway.
The South Stairs, with the view looking North.
A new ceremonial entry to Arlington, the Hemicycle, was constructed. Carved from the hillside that culminates in Arlington House, the Hemicycle is a Neoclassical semicircle 30 feet (9.1 m) high and 226 feet (69 m) in diameter. In the center is an apse 20 feet (6.1 m) across and 30 feet (9.1 m) high. In total, the Hemicycle covers 4.2 acres (1.7 ha). The Hemicycle was constructed of reinforced concrete, but faced with granite quarried at Mount Airy, Virginia. The walls range from 3 feet 6 inches (1.07 m) thick at the base to 2 feet 6 inches (0.76 m) at the top. The accent panels and coffers in the apse are inlaid with red granite from Texas. The Great Seal of the United States is carved in granite in the center of the apse arch, while on either side are seals of the United States Department of the Army (south) and the United States Department of the Navy (north). Along the facade of the Hemicycle were 10 false doors or niches—some up to 5 feet (1.5 m) deep, others just indentations in the wall—which were intended to house sculptures, memorial reliefs, and other artworks (which would act as memorials). The apse itself originally held a fountain, but the intention was to replace this with a major memorial in time.
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