February Dates in History

February might be the shortest month of the year, but it has many holidays and celebrations. Below are some of the major holidays and celebrations related to Diversity and Inclusion to take note of:

Starting February 1, National Freedom Day celebrates the signing of the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery in 1865. The day reminds us that the United States is a nation dedicated to the ideal of freedom. Former slave, Major Richard Robert Wright Jr, fought to have this day for all Americans to celebrate. To learn more about this day visit: http://www.americaslibrary.gov/es/pa/es_pa_free_1.html

February 11th, International Day of Women and Girls in Sciences reminds us that women are still underrepresented in science with less than 30% of researchers worldwide being women. Even onscreen, women are under-represented with only about 12% of onscreen characters possessing an identifiable STEM job. This UN-designated day hopes to achieve gender equality by celebrating women and girls who are leading innovations in science. To learn more about this UN observance, visit: https://www.un.org/en/observances/womenand-girls-in-science-day.

Following the 11th, Valentine’s Day is next on Feb 14. Valentine’s Day, while rooted in Western Christian beliefs, now is commonly a celebration of love in all its heart-shaped, stickysweet, candy-coated forms. Love it or hate it, this multi-billion dollar holiday in addition to keeping Hallmark in business, was expected to be more than 27 billion dollars in 2020! But before you want to reach for another heart-shaped candy, the history of this holiday’s origins are darker and much more muddled including stories of abuse, persecution of a doctor, and about a dozen St. Valentines. According to one legend, it is believed that it was the execution by Emperor Claudias of a Roman priest, named Valentine, for secretly marrying young people that led to his martyrdom. It is thought that the celebration of St. Valentine was later combined with the ancient Roman ritual of Lupercalia. The Christian church, intolerant of the pagan festival, sought to “Christianize” it and therefore combined it with the celebration of St. Valentine. Over the years it continued to evolve into the form that we now know. To learn more about this celebration’s evolution, visit: https://www.history.com/topics/valentines-day/history-of-valentines-day-2 or https://www.npr.org/2011/02/14/133693152/the-dark-origins-of-valentines-day.

After celebrating the signing of the 13th Amendment on Feb 1, it seems appropriate to recognize the integral role of Abraham Lincoln. Born Feb 12, Lincoln, elected President of the US in 1860, at his first inaugural address declared that “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.” Despite this declaration in 1861, Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 began the end of slavery in the US. The Gettysburg Address of 1863 infamously captures the moment as Lincoln began, “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” To learn more about Abraham Lincoln visit: https://www.britannica.com/summary/Abraham-LincolnsAchievements or about the abolishment of slavery, visit: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/slavery-abolished-in-america.

Next, Feb 15 is Susan B Anthony Day. Born on Feb 15, 1820, Susan B Anthony is known for her lifelong crusade for social justice. She began as an activist at an early age and has spoken out as an abolitionist, temperance campaigner, and suffragist. Rooted in her belief in equality for all, she was driven to speak out to end slavery after meeting William Lloyd Garrison and Federick Douglass. At the time, it was frowned upon for women to give speeches in public; however, Anthony traveled the country giving passionate speeches against slavery. After meeting Elizabeth Cady Stanton in 1848, Anthony turned her attention to the Suffrage movement. Putting her oratory and strategic skills to use, Anthony joined Stanton to fight for women’s right to vote after the 14th and 15th Amendments, which gave African American men the right to vote but did not include women. Anthony spent the remainder of her days passionately fighting for the right of women to vote. Unfortunately, she would die 14 years before the passage of the 19th Amendment, also known as the Susan B Anthony Amendment. To learn more about Susan B Anthony, visit: https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/susan-b-anthony or https://www.govinfo.gov/features/susan-b-anthony.

Also on Feb 15th is Presidents Day. As a federally recognized celebration, this holiday is now popularly viewed as a day to celebrate all US presidents, both past and present. Its roots, however, are based on the celebration of President George Washington’s birthday. In 1971, the Uniform Monday Holiday Act moved President’s Day to its current spot on the calendar to give American workers a 3 day holiday. To learn more about the history of President’s Day, visit https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/presidents-day or to learn more about Washington’s history related to diversity, equity and inclusion visit: https://www.whitehousehistory.org/the-enslaved-household-of-president-george-washington or https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/founding-fathers-and-slaveholders-72262393/.

Wrapping up the month is Asian-American Women’s Equal Pay Day on February 23. Since Asian-American/Pacific Islander women only earn 87 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men, this day aims to raise awareness of this pay gap. To learn more about this and the other pay gaps women experience, visit: http://www.equalpaytoday.org/aapiwomens-equal-pay-day-2021

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