Marking Womens History Month

Marking Women's History Month

Marking Womens History Month

Each year, March is designated by American presidential proclamation as Women’s History Month. The month has been set aside to honor the contributions of women throughout American history, culture and society. Learn about the short history of this celebration and remember its European heroines.

Although the Women’s History Month was proclaimed in the United States, we encourage you once more to explore the profiles of women who made important contributions to European history, culture, and society, who stood up to evil, saved others’ lives and sacrificed their own in the name of the highest values.

Doina Cornea, Ieva Lase, Milada Horáková, Juliana Zarchi, Mala Zimetnaum – these are the names of our heroines of the education campaign “Remember. August 23” , whose lives were marked by the struggle against oppressive systems.

▪️ Doina Cornea (1929–2018), was a linguist, professor, and human rights activist from Romania. She fearlessly defied the oppressive regime through her writings and translations of censored authors, becoming a symbol of resistance. In 1982, her opposition became public and internationally known thanks to the Radio Free Europe, were her ’Letter to those who have not ceased to think’ was broadcasted. Repeatedly being questioned and arrested, Cornea continued to write texts for youth, protesting letters and producing leaflets.
After the fall of the regime, as the most prominent symbol of Romanian dissent, Doina Cornea was invited, both in Romania and abroad, to numerous meetings and conferences to deliver talks or to receive honours for her fight.

▪️ Ieva Lase (1916–2002), was a Latvian translator, member of the national resistance movement, dissident and political prisoner. Recalling her experiences, Ieva Lase once said: ‘My father taught me that you should never harm a person, because that will always come back to you. I still stick to this teaching. And, life has shown that these principles are right. I have not deliberately wished harm on anyone, including on my interrogators and guards. Yes, this does not come on its own, but it requires great, conscious, spiritual work. I didn't try to accumulate hate in myself. I thought [to myself], let them do what they do, I'll stick to my own’.

▪️ Milada Horáková (1901–1950), was a Czech politician and advocate for justice and human rights. Despite facing persecution, she never backed down from her principles. Her fearless commitment to democratic principles and equal rights made her a vocal critic of the totalitarian regime.
On 8 June 1950, Horáková and three of her co-defendants were sentenced to death. Despite calls for clemency from such people as Winston Churchill and Albert Einstein, the Czechoslovak president Klement Gottwald confirmed their sentences.
To her husband. Written a couple of hours before her hanging:
‘Now we hold hands once more, firmly. The birds are waking up, it is becoming light. I go with my head held high. One falls in battle; what is life other than struggle? Be well. I am yours, only yours, Milada.’

▪️ Juliana Zarchi a Lithuanian of German-Jewish origin who experienced both totalitarianisms. As a half-Jew, barely at the age of three, Juliana was sent to the Kaunas ghetto and forced to stay there for several months. As the Soviet army re-entered Lithuania, Gerta hoped she would no longer have to fear for her daughter’s life. Instead, they were both deported to Tajikistan in Central Asia as part of a purge of ethnic Germans. They were stigmatized by the locals as ‘Fascists’ and forced to live and work in dire conditions.

▪️ Mala Zimetbaum prisoner in the Auschwitz concentration camp. Despite their great love with Edek Galiński, a Pole, and their attempt to escape, they did not cheat fate. They escaped from Auschwitz on 24 June 1944. Mala put on her work overalls and Edek put on the SS uniform she had received from Lubusch with a pistol. The lovers' escape ultimately failed. Caught by a German patrol, Edek and Mala were imprisoned in Block 11, the so-called Death Block. They were sentenced to death after a lengthy and brutal investigation that failed to extract information from them on those helping them in the escape.

Sofija Binkis, Lucienne de l’Elpine, Viorica Agarici, Gizella Csertán, Ellen Thomsen – the stories of their lives were marked by the struggle for human life. – the child recued from the ghetto. We remember them in our travelling exhibition “Between Life and Death. Stories of Rescue during the Holocaust” , whose lives were marked by the struggle against oppressive systems.

▪️ Sofija Binkis. A house of eminent Lithuanian intellectuals, surrounded by residences of the German invaders, may not seem to be the ideal hideout during the Second World War. And yet, a few dozen Jews passed through the home of the journalist Sofija Binkis and her husband, the well-known poet Kazys Binkis, right under their neighbours’ noses. Some stayed there until the end of the war. Sofija’s house remained open to escapees from the Kaunas ghetto even after her husband’s death, in 1942. Those who found shelter at the Binkises’ home remember an incredible atmosphere and the encouragement and psychological support that they received from the entire family.
Sofija and Kazys Binkis, together with their four children, were honoured with a tree in the Garden of the Righteous on the Mountain of Remembrance in Jerusalem.

▪️ Lucienne de l’Elpine, also known as Madame Clément, was a very busy lady. Apart from working as a seamstress and looking after her little son, Madame Clément was saving Jewish children from deportation and certain death. She provided them with false IDs and took them to the villages around Paris where she left them with foster families. Interrogated by the Germans, she pretended to be a private tutor on the way to her pupils. Despite the danger, she kept visiting her protégés to make sure that they were properly cared for, and took them back to their real families once the war was over. Lucienne de l’Epine was recognized as Righteous Among the Nations on this day in 1990.

▪️ Viorica Agarici, the President of the Red Cross in the city of Roman, Romania. In the night of 2nd of July 1941, Agarici was on late shift at the railway station. She was in charge of looking after soldiers going to the front, but she was disturbed by shouts and moans coming from two trains with sealed carriages, stationed far away from the platforms. When she ordered the cars to be opened, she discovered hundreds of Jews huddled together in overcrowded and overheated carriages. They were on the way to the internment camps, locked down for the last three days. Some were already dead; the others were on the verge of dying of thirst, exhaustion and hunger. Agarici and her team let the people outside, provided them with water and food, removed the dead bodies, and cleaned the cars. Thanks to their help many of them survived the murderous trip, like Andrei Călăraşu, the protagonist of our exhibition.

▪️ Gizella Csertán from the Szentpéterúr village in Hungary. The smiling young lady with a baby in her arms is Magdolna Forbát, a Jewish woman from Budapest. It is summer of 1944, and the deportations of the Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz are at their peak. Realising the danger, Gizella decides to take her acquaintance Magdolna, together with her baby girl, her mother and sister, to her native village. They leave behind the chicanes against Jews in forced labour brigades and “yellow star houses.” Gizella’s neighbours suspect who they are, but nobody betrays them. When a few months later the women decide to return to Budapest, Gizella gives them a little token of care – four baptism certificates from her own family members. The false Christian identity protects them until the end of the war.

▪️ Ellen Thomson. During the Second World War Ellen and Henry Thomsen were well respected inn-keepers in the Snekkersten village in Denmark. When, in the end of September 1943, the rumours of the planned deportation of the Danish Jews spread, the Thomsens, who were active members of the resistance movement, got involved in organizing their escape from the country.
Their inn became the contact point for fleeing Jews and for the fishermen willing to take them by boat to Sweden. Seeing the numbers of escapees increase every day, Henry Thomsen bought a fishing boat himself and also started transporting Jews to safety.
Thanks to the help and loyalty of people like Ellen and Henry Thomsen, in a matter of only a few weeks almost all of the approximately 8000 Danish Jews managed to escape to Sweden and survived the war. Unfortunately there wasn’t a happy ending for the Thomsen family. In 1944 Henry Thomsen was arrested by the Gestapo and was murdered in the Neuengamme concentration camp.

▪️ Elżbieta Ficowska (Elżunia). She was already 17 when she accidentally learned that everything she knew about herself was untrue. Elżbieta Ficowska’s mother, Henia Koppel, gave birth to her in the Warsaw ghetto. To save the child, she decided to move her to the Aryan side. The six-month-old baby was given medicine to sleep, placed in a wooden box with holes in it so she could breathe, hidden among the bricks and taken away from the Warsaw ghetto. The box also contained a silver spoon on which was engraved her name and her date of birth: ‘Elżunia, 5 I 1942’, the only trace of a surviving identity.
Read the article “In the name of her both mothers” , a touching story of the sacrifice and boundless love a women can give
▪️ Aleksandra Piłsudska (1882–1963) serves as another evidence of women’s approach to history is the life of. In the pages of Aleksandra Piłsudska’s biography, we have evidence of her participation in numerous committees and the honours she received for being a marshal’s wife. Her biography describes with historical accuracy the events in which she took part and reflects on the role she played in them. These are facts. But Aleksandra Piłsudska’s life is also a document of a woman’s participation in the public sphere in different political periods and successive stages of her life – as a young lover, as a single mother at the side of a politician concerned above all with the fate of the state, as a partner awaiting marriage, as a good and loyal wife and as a widow in exile and guardian of the first marshal of Poland’s memory.

These exceptional individuals remind us of the importance of standing up against tyranny and defending the values that unite us as a global community. Their stories serve as a testament to the resilience and unwavering commitment to freedom. And the Women’s History Month is a great opportunity to honor their unwavering commitment to human’s dignity and freedom.


The actual celebration of Women's History Month grew out of a week-long celebration of women's contributions to culture, history and society organised by the Sonoma, California school district in 1978. The organizers selected the week of March 8 to correspond with International Women’s Day. The movement spread across the country as other communities initiated their own Women’s History Week celebrations the following year. Presentations were given in dozens of schools, hundreds of students participated in a "Real Woman" essay contest, and a parade was held in downtown Santa Rosa.

A few years later, the idea caught on within communities, school districts and organizations across the country. In 1980, a consortium of women’s groups and historians—led by the National Women’s History Project (now the National Women's History Alliance)—successfully lobbied for national recognition. In February 1980, President Jimmy Carter issued the first Presidential Proclamation declaring the Week of March 8th 1980 as National Women’s History Week. The U.S. Congress followed suit the next year, passing a resolution establishing a national celebration. Six years later, the National Women’s History Project successfully petitioned Congress to expand the event to the entire month of March.

Subsequent Presidents continued to proclaim a National Women’s History Week in March until 1987, when Congress passed Public Law 100-9, designating March as “Women’s History Month”. Between 1988 and 1994, Congress passed additional resolutions requesting and authorizing the President to proclaim March of each year as Women’s History Month. Since 1995, each president has issued an annual proclamations designating the month of March as “Women’s History Month.”
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