Things in Print Thursday :: history and women

10 Mar

Namely, I found a list made by a well-meaning Girl Scout of 100 famous women in history.

I can honestly tell you that I have not heard of a good 50% of them.  I consider myself fairly knowledgeable of things.  I would also suggest that at 10% of the remainders, I learned not from school but from recreational sources (whether reading Wikipedia articles to satisfy my curiosity about the first woman ___, reading Dear America Royal Diaries, just being aware of Sappho because I’m on this planet and also a queer woman) and more of those I learned more about on my own than in school.

To quote the author of the webpage:

I can name so many men that I have been taught by my teachers, but I really can’t name all that many women.

Even the ones I did learn about in school, sometimes it was a sidenote.  Sometimes it was in a class that wasn’t just required history or English, like psychology or art history, meaning not everyone would be exposed.  I would also point out that the majority of women of color on this list are ones that I don’t recall being taught about, which is largely due to the American/Eurocentric history model in at least high schools local to me.

Our structure was: 20th century studies in freshman year, economics and government in sophomore year, US history in junior year, and European history – if we wanted to take it – in senior year.  My junior high was a bit better – sixth grade had units on ancient civilizations, seventh grade had units on emerging civilizations like Rome and feudal China and Japan and medieval Europe – but I also went to an unusual junior high, so I’m not sure what the standard was.  And in these classes, I remember discussing almost no women in any detail.  Queens in Europe, sometimes; somebody’s wife here and there.  I remember   doing presentations for the “US history hall of fame” in junior year and my group – all girls – picked Rosa Parks because we wanted to pick a woman since nobody else was doing, and we made it to the final eight, where we were representing the only woman, and one of the only people of color.  Art history was a tiny bit better; women artists were at least sometimes discussed.  Sometimes.

My point is, history is still taught from the POV of white men, and literature as well.  When POC/women/WOC are discussed, especially in literature, it’s often from a point of view that doesn’t treat them so much as humans with their own unique cultures and lives and stories but as ideas, not fully developed in the way men are allowed to be.  And I guess what I’m getting at here is that we should be telling more of these stories as stories because they are just as valid and important and honestly just as or possibly more badass.

–your fangirl heroine.



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