Honoring Women’s History Month

graphic of women silhouettes

Women’s History Month originated as “Women’s History Week” in 1982, but as the years went on, the week was officially expanded to encompass the entirety of March in 1995 as a recurring time to celebrate women’s contributions and achievements to American society. 

In honor of Women’s History Month, The NAU Review spoke with the NAU Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). The Commission makes recommendations to the university President and leadership about women’s issues addressing concerns in university policies, practices and programs to enact constructive change as they envision NAU as a “welcoming, diverse and family friendly community that serves as a model of gender equity.” 

Some of the CSW’s accomplishments and contributions to NAU include:  

  • Installation of free period product vending machines in bathrooms around campus in conjunction with the PERIOD Club; 
  • Support for the Early Learning and Development Childcare Center opening in March; 
  • Film Screening of the documentary titled “Break the Silence: Sexual and Reproductive Health Stories” to raise awareness around reproductive health; 
  • Lactation rooms around campus in partnership with the Office of Equity and Access; 
  • White Paper to the President related to equitable work practices; 
  • Annual essay competition with the Women and Gender Studies Department for high school students; 
  • Annual Diversity Awards 

“Celebrating women is a vital endeavor for all educational institutions,” said Samantha Clifford, interim assistant vice provost of NAU Online and co-chair of CSW. “Often when we look at educational practices, our history can create a false story that women were not present or involved in major transformational events and decisions. Women’s history month provides a way to highlight past and present contributions of women to our society in celebration and can also shine a light on practices that perpetuate inequity.” 

Clifford added that CSW’s focus on inclusion occurs year-round as emphasizing the value of women’s voices and accomplishments, and elevating histories that previously have not been part of the common narrative cannot be completed in a single month.  

“NAU is working to increase intersectionality into the curriculum,” said Clifford. “I believe it could be a powerful and effective strategy to connect people across social categories, positionality and social identity. Bringing awareness to the wonderful accomplishments women have made throughout history and at present can inspire our students and raise awareness about discrimination and gender parity.”  

One way that CSW brings awareness to the incredible accomplishments of one woman at NAU is through the Martha Portree Commission on the Status of Women Scholarship. This scholarship honors the memory of Martha Jean Portree, a member of the NAU community from December 2000 to July 2007. She served as a reference services librarian at Cline Library and was known for her dedication and library expertise. Alongside academic programs librarian Tina Adams, Cline Library archivist Sean Evans and head of teaching, learning and research at Cline Library John Doherty, Portree co-wrote “Overcoming Transactional Distance: Instruction Intent in an E-mail Reference Service,” which was published in the Winter 2008 issue of Reference and User Services Quarterly; her coauthors dedicated the article to Portree after her passing on July 7, 2007. 

At NAU, Portree was a tireless advocate of the NAU Commission on the Status of Women’s mission and played an active and essential role in the work of CSW on behalf of women on the NAU campus. In 2003, she helped create an annual Commission on the Status of Women scholarship for single mothers who excel academically. CSW renamed the scholarship in her honor in 2007. 

To learn more about the scholarship or to donate to the fund, please visit the NAU Foundation’s website.  

To celebrate Women’s History Month, CSW is pleased to offer several events to the NAU and Flagstaff communities to help shift the narrative to a more inclusive perspective of women’s important contributions to society. 

See below for a schedule of events by CSW.  

March 8, 7 p.m. 

“Women in Leadership Distinguished Speaker Series: The Future Is Female” 

The NAU Honors Distinguished Speaker Series showcases inspired thinkers from all disciplines addressing issues of vital community interest. The presentations will engage and enlighten students and community members about critical issues facing the region, the nation and the world. 

Cline Library Auditorium 

March 22, 5:30 p.m. 

“How to launch your career: a discussion with women in leadership” 

Women in STEM event 

Engineering building, room 224 

March 23, 4:30 p.m. 

“Women, Work, and Welfare: A History of Gender and Precarious Labor,” with speaker Jennifer Klein, Durfee professor of history at Yale University.  

Liberal Arts, room 120. Parking passes available for this event.  

Sponsored by CSW in collaboration with the Department of History and Department of Social Work. 

March 29, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. 

“Living Library: A Storytelling Event of Community and Connection” 

International Pavilion 

NAU Communications