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What The Health?! A Brief History of the Women’s Health Movement

Last week we celebrated International Women’s Day! We’re all about recognizing women's vital role in American history. Because, boy, the ladies have always got the short end of the stick, am I right? Did you know unmarried women couldn’t even get their own credit card until 1974? Like, come on!

Although gender rights today are more equal than ever, the historical aspect of gender inequality erring heavily on benefitting men can’t be ignored—especially regarding women’s healthcare and reproductive rights.

Notable Dates for Women's History Month

Women’s History Month started as Women’s History Day in 1911, but even so, this newest declaration didn’t necessarily mean women had the same rights as men. In 1918 women could (finally) vote, but it took until the 1960s and the "modern" Women’s Health Movement, which focused on improving healthcare and reproductive rights for all women, that the gals gained a bit more equality. Next, came the passing of Roe v. Wade in 1973 and the founding of the National Women’s Health Network in 1975. It wasn’t until 1972 that the Supreme Court allowed legal and equal access to birth control contraceptives

Initially focused on women’s sexual and reproductive rights, the Women’s Health Movement rode on the coattails of the feminist movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The movement helped bring to light a lot of the gender biases women experience within the healthcare system, such as not taking women’s pain seriously, dismissing female health issues, and even delaying diagnosis. On March 22, 1972, the Equal Rights Amendment was passed, which helped women push a little further down the long road of inequality.  

What’s Next for the Women’s Health Movement?

The Women's Health Movement continues to help pave the way for women in healthcare. Non-profit organizations such as the Jacobs Institute of Health and Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues have helped make considerable progress in women’s health and policy, such as not having to pay for birth control (thanks to the Affordable Care Act), recognition of the impact of violence against women, and continued development of birth control options like the implant and IUD. 

Strides have been made in women’s healthcare, but it’s essential to continue to push forward and challenge the status quo. So, ladies, let’s get moving and keep on keepin' on.