March is Women’s History Month and March 8, specifically, is International Women’s Day. West Center was originally founded as WEST (Women’s Economic Self Sufficiency Training) and so with March upon us, it’s a good time to take a look at how we got to where we are today.

Did you know that Women’s History Month began in Santa Rosa? The Education Task Force of the Sonoma County Commission on the Status of Women planned and executed a “Women’s History Week†celebration in 1978. They selected the week of March 8 to correspond with International Women’s Day, which the United Nations began celebrating in 1975. The idea took off and was embraced by communities across the country with hundreds of Women’s History Week celebrations occurring the following year. 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 8, 1980 as National Women’s History Week. Seven years later, in 1987, Congress passed Pub. L. 100-9 (after being petitioned by the National Women’s History Project) that designated the month of March 1987 as “Women’s History Month.†For the first time, women and their achievements merited a national celebration and since 1995, each president has issued an annual proclamations designating the month of March as “Women’s History Month.â€

In 1988, in response to a James Irvine Foundation women’s development initiative, WEST was formed by the women of Mendocino County organized by the Community Foundation and became one of the first Women’s Business Centers in the country!

Each year, the National Women’s History Alliance chooses a theme for Women’s History Month and in the spirit of the challenging times we are living through, the 2021 theme is: “Valiant Women of the Vote: Refusing to Be Silenced.†International Women’s Day also has a theme and, appropriately, for 2021 it’s #ChooseToChallenge. Watch the video below with Rachel Britton, owner of the Mendocino Grain Project, as she talks about some of the challenges she faces as a small business owner!

Watch West Center’s social media channels throughout the month for posts about some of the challenges our women-owned businesses have faced and overcome. Check out the Mendocino Women’s Business Center page on our site to watch some of our favorite women business owners talk about their work.

And tune in to KZYX/Z (90.7FM, 91.5FM, 88.1FM) for the New Normal Radio Hour on Wednesdays at 7PM (March 3, 17 and 31) for a series of interviews hosted by West Center’s CEO Mary Anne Petrillo who will be speaking some women’s business movers and shakers about the challenges women face when opening businesses, staying in business, and a look at what lies ahead.

If you need help starting a business or are looking for advise for your established business, don’t hesitate to call West Center at 707-964-7571 to speak with an advisor!

West Business Development Center is a U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) funded non-profit business development center that provides reliable no-cost confidential counseling and relevant training programs to entrepreneurs throughout Mendocino and Lake County. West Center hosts the Mendocino Small Business Development Center and the Mendocino Women’s Business Center.